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The Autoblog office is a caldron of ideas, and Honda's small Urban EV concept was the subject of much debate this morning. In this exchange, several of our editors hash out and flesh out an idea over coverage. As you can see, some of us really like the Honda concept, some of us are more skeptical. Here's the replay, as it transpired over our inter-office messaging system.

Joel Stocksdale
I think I'm starting to brew up a second-hit idea for the Honda EV. Something about it being the right way to create a dedicated EV, unlike the unappealing Clarity EV.

"The Honda Urban EV gets EV design right where the Clarity EV went wrong"

James Riswick
Isn't the Clarity EV's problem just that it goes like eight miles before needing to recharge?

Jeremy Korzeniewski
"Why the Honda Urban EV succeeds where the Clarity fails."

Joel Stocksdale
I like that Jeremy.
And yeah, the range is a big part of it, but the Clarity EV's also not really appealing in any other way. Like I said, the little Urban EV has a look that isn't just trying to say "LOOK AT ME, I'M FUTURISTIC AND STUFF" and then underdelivering. This is a design that would stand on its own as a gas-powered car. And even though the range has yet to be announced, a shorter range wouldn't be as prominent if it didn't have identically styled cars that are more usable, and the small size could forgive some of the range shortness

James Riswick
Counterpoint: No one in the United States buys two-door compact cars not called "Mini Cooper" and everyone buys Honda Accords, which is pretty much what the Clarity is.

Jeremy Korzeniewski
Is the Clarity EV selling in reasonable numbers? If so, your counterpoint is on the money.

Joel Stocksdale
I don't think any Clarities are selling well.

Jeremy Korzeniewski
Thing is, the Cooper proves design-led hatches can work.

  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda
  • Image Credit: Honda


Joel Stocksdale
The Fiat 500 hasn't been hugely successful, but it also lacks the quality and dynamics of the Mini. So add back those features, you could have an actual Mini competitor.

Jeremy Korzeniewski
JR's point is valid, though ... maybe the right angle doesn't compare it to the Clarity since they are so different in design and execution.

Joel Stocksdale
Aiming it as a premium car could help, too, another thing the Fiat missed out on, and would be important for low numbers.

James Riswick
I don't know, I see a pretty blah compact Honda through that retro-y concept car stuff. I struggle to see how Honda Design manages to pull it off given their usual transitions from concept to production. And Honda could say it's premium all day, but it would still be a two-door Honda hatchback.

Joel Stocksdale
Well they could pull off the design at least: see Honda N-One.

Wikipedia
Honda N-One
The Honda N-One (corporately styled "Honda N-ONE") is a kei car produced by Honda for the Japanese market. It was previewed at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show and went on sale on November 1, 2012. With the Honda N-Box, it is part of a renewed lineup of Kei class city cars. The use of the letter "N" in the name was used by Honda for the late 1960s and 1970s Honda N360. (125kB)


Jeremy Korzeniewski
This:


James Riswick
Really, the Urban EV is for Europe Only. No chance for the United States.

Greg Rasa
Exactly. Throwback.

Joel Stocksdale
It is, and there aren't plans to bring it to the U.S. But also part of the reason I think it's more compelling as a Honda EV is because it is a bespoke car. The Clarity EV will always live in the shadow of the more practical, longer-range PHEV and Fuel Cell versions. This doesn't have internal competition

Greg Rasa
I'm not sure what this car would give me that a Nissan Leaf wouldn't, except two fewer doors.

James Riswick
^^Yup.

Jeremy Korzeniewski
And a sense of style. ^

Joel Stocksdale
And I appreciate that it seems like one of the few electric cars out there that isn't trying to look like a nerdy future car.

Greg Rasa
But you're right, the Clarity EV's comparison with its PHEV twin just slays it.

Joel Stocksdale
It's just looking like a nice car.

Jeremy Korzeniewski
I quite like it, fwiw.

James Riswick
Does the population at large fondly remember two-door Honda hatchbacks? Do they even remember them at all?



Jeremy Korzeniewski
CRX

Joel Stocksdale
Civic Sis. Del Sols (I know journos like to hate on it, but I think there are people that liked them).

James Riswick
There are people who like cuttlefish too.

Joel Stocksdale
The Japanese Nostalgic Car movement has been steadily growing too.

James Riswick
There aren't enough people who want a Nissan Pao to use that as a viable case for U.S. Urban EV production. My greater point would be: The Clarity's problem is its pathetic range. It's otherwise a large, useful, well-equipped and nicely finished sedan. When it comes to arguing body style, "Why isn't it an SUV?" would be better than "Why isn't it a two-door subcompact hatchback?" Having said that, I absolutely encourage calls for the Urban EV or something like it to come here. I don't think anyone would buy it, but if Honda could indeed pull off an actually cute and desirable little EV, that would be in keeping with their brand and could also be something that jump-started EVs. Someone needs to do it.

Gregory Migliore
What if we ran a post with this conversation ...

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