Is Honda’s Urban EV the worst translation from concept car to production vehicle?

After the excitement comes the crushing disappointment

Concept Lead Jpg

WE ALL got rather excited about the Honda Urban EV Concept when it was first revealed in Frankfurt in 2017.

Finally, here was the non-dorky electric city scoot that would be exactly the sort of breakout vehicle that would kickstart the urban EV revolution. It looked great, with big wheels, bold surfacing, a spectacular interior and deft detailing. We tempered the enthusiasm a little by reminding ourselves that it would change for production, but when the productionised car appeared this week, few were prepared for how insidiously the design influence of a potato had crept into the stylists’ work. It’s far from the first time this has happened, so to try to contextualise the Urban EV’s position in this pantheon, we round up the more egregious concept to production failures.

Honda Urban EV

Had we just been presented with the production version of the Urban EV, we might have been mildly impressed. Compared to what went before, however, it’s a huge disappointment. Much of the tension has gone from its shape, the wheels look feebly meagre and the body rubbing strips and sweep of the camera mirrors have been excised. In short, it looks like almost any other supermini that’s been given a facelift rather than something that looked genuinely genre-defining. Shame.

Alfa Romeo Brera

There’s no subtle way to say this. The Alfa Romeo Brera Concept was pure sex. Low, with long doors and a rakish cab-back silhouette, it was everything Alfa owners had demanded after the gooby-eyed front-wheel drive Type 916 GTV (1992-2004). The Italdesign Brera was unveiled at Geneva in 2002 and promised a return to classically beautiful proportions. Of course, the upward opening doors and carbon fibre body wouldn’t make production, but this, remember, was a car with a front-mid mounted 4.0-litre Maserati V8 that drove the rear wheels. The reality, when it appeared at the same show three years later was notably fatter and frumpier. More unforgiveably, it was front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive offered for upper-spec models. Nowadays, the Brera is becoming one of the forgotten Alfas, the original show car’s mantle having been taken up by the limited run 8C Competizione in 2007.

Dodge Avenger Concept

We all know the 2007 Dodge Avenger. What, you don’t? It was that thing that looked all mean and moody but which had a plastic dungeon interior and was shipped to most world markets with a gonad-deficient four that hawked up 115kW. It was a genuine one or two star car with crummy electronics, a ghastly four-speed auto and dreadful fit and finish. It could all have been so different. The original concept, which debuted at the 2006 Paris Show, was cut from very different cloth. The Neon replacement ditched the three-box design, and instead offered a mean crossover look and feel on chunky wheels, the design channelling Dodge Truck at the front and a little Bauhaus in the sweeping curves. Okay, so perhaps today we’re suffering a little crossover and SUV overload, but back in 2003, it was absolutely the right shape at the right time.

Pontiac Sunfire

We’re really not sure where to go with this one, as barely a single detail carried over from the concept. Based on the ancient J-body platform, which was already 13 years old when the production Sunfire appeared in 1994, the car ‘enjoyed’ two facelifts in its 11 year production run. The 1990 concept featured a head-up display, mini suicide rear doors and touch sensitive panels to access the vehicle. It looked great, with its slinky coke-bottle flanks and floating glasshouse. We can only imagine the frustrations of its designers as it was gradually metamorphosed into a top heavy carbuncle for production.

Citroen C3

Here’s another car with suicide rear doors where the concept design team must have felt like topping themselves. The Citroen C3 concept car appeared at the 1998 Mondial Automobile and offered a bulbous, fresh and cheeky update on the utilitarian French hatchback. It was full of clever details like a double-jointed hatch, seats with interchangeable cushions and squabs mounted on modular rails and a glass-slatted sunroof. When the production version arrived in 2002, everything clever had been excised. Rather curiously, the designer of the C3 – and that of possibly the worst car of the early 21st Century, the C3 Pluriel – was also the man responsible for the achingly beautiful Ferrari 458. Donato Coco, give yourself a slap/take a bow.


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