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Honda e Prototype: Near production-ready electric city car unveiled

  • Honda's e Protoype electric car is 98% of the final product
  • All-new platform, 124-mile range and rear-wheel drive
  • Pricing - and its final name - are still under wraps

First shown as the Urban EV concept in 2017, Honda’s electrically powered city car is almost upon us – and there’s been a name change.

Now dubbed e Prototype, the car you see in the pictures is 98% of what you can expect from the finished production version, with the name set to change again before the car goes on sale at the end of 2019.

Honda e Prototype side-on

The concept car’s retro design has been carried over to the prototype largely unchanged, with the addition of two extra doors being the biggest departure. Built on a dedicated platform, the e Prototype also features a rear-wheel drive configuration, charging ports in the bonnet and an all-electric range of up to 124 miles. 

Honda e Prototype: lovable styling is carried over from the concept

The good news is that many of the concept’s visual delights, that made the Urban EV the star of the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, are present and correct on the version you’ll be able to buy. 

Honda’s been building cars long enough now to have curated a back catalogue of distinctive models, and it’s one of these – the Honda N – which has inspired the e Prototype’s looks.

Honda e Prototype rear light clusters

The key word here is ‘inspired’, because the e Prototype is unashamedly modern, not a retro-pastiche in the manner of the Fiat 500.

Although the near-production version’s stance isn’t quite as dramatic – given that it’s a tad curvier, taller and with smaller, less dramatic wheels (16-inch standard, 17-inch optional), it does have broadly the same silhouette that was so well received on the original concept. 

Honda e Prototype: focus on technology

This may only be a city car, but Honda hasn’t held back with the amount of tech laden upon the e Prototype. Sitting in place of regular door mirrors is a camera monitoring system that displays images of what’s behind the vehicle on monitors located around the forward pillars. According to Honda, the system not only improves usability but also reduces overall wind resistance, thus helping to improve efficiency – as do the door handles that sit flush to the bodywork of the car – just like on the Range Rover Evoque.

Honda e Prototype virtual wing mirrors

Complementing the camera monitoring system is a display replacing the rear-view mirror, while a large infotainment screen and digital dashboard dominate the rest of the cabin. This is effectively split into three screens, with the digital dash in front of the driver, and the two main screens placed in the middle and in front of the passenger. 

Using an all-new media system (that could make its way onto other Hondas), passengers can carry out tasks such as setting the sat-nav on their screen, then swipe the information over to the driver’s side. It looks to be a reasonably intuitive system, and a big improvement over what we’ve seen in previous Hondas.

Honda e Prototype interior

Other interior highlights include a plastic film that does a convincing job of mimicking wood on the dashboard, and a clear space in the floor between the driver and passenger’s feet, thanks to the absence of a transmission tunnel.

Honda e Prototype: 124-mile range and quick charging

The e Prototype promises a WLTP range of at least 124 miles, although Parkers understands that this could be increased by the time the car launches in the UK. The Panasonic batteries stowed under the floor can be topped up to 80% capacity in 30 minutes using a rapid charger.

Honda e Prototype charging points in bonnet

Placing the charging port in the bonnet (instead of on the side) also means that the e Prototype doesn’t have to be manufactured differently depending on left- and right-hand drive markets.

Honda e Prototype: just enough room for four passengers

The e Prototype benefits from an airy, uncluttered cabin in the front, with the absence of a transmission tunnel giving ample legroom to both passengers. It’s a slightly different story in the back, however, where the four-seat e Prototype feels far tighter on space.

You should be able to get two adults in, but how comfortable they’ll be remains to be seen. For example, space under the seats (where the passengers’ feet would usually go) is restricted, and limits how far those in the back can extend their legs.

How much will the Honda e Prototype cost?

No definitive news on this yet, but we do understand that pricing will be at the premium end of the scale with upwards of £20,000 likely. Would-be buyers can already register their interest on Honda’s website ahead of the production car’s unveiling later in 2019 – customer deliveries begin in 2020.

Honda e Prototype rear three-quarter

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