We’ve written about concept cars many times, be they from Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, BMW or Jaguar, but often it’s the Japanese manufacturers who create interesting and quirky concepts like none other. So today we’re taking a deep dive into the world of Honda concept cars, old and relatively new, some that never made it anywhere near production and some you’ve seen almost unchanged on the road.
The eleven best Honda concept cars
Honda HPX – 1984
We’ll start with the oldest car on the list, the Honda HPX Concept. Designed by Pininfarina for the ‘Take a Trip into Tomorrow’ display at the 1984 London Motor Show, the HPX is totally mad but utterly enchanting. HPX stood for ‘Honda Pininfarina Experimental’, and it was Honda’s first mid-engined concept car (keep in mind that Honda didn’t start building cars at all until 1963). A two-seater, anyone wishing to climb inside had to quite literally climb inside, as there were no doors but instead a wrap-over screen that could be raised and lowered. Was it a fantasy car? Well not entirely, because although the bodywork was destined for motor show halls only, underneath sat a very early prototype Honda NSX, complete with its 3.0-litre naturally aspirated V6 engine. Just imagine if this had gone on to become the NSX.
Honda SSM – 1995
A five-cylinder Honda S2000? Can you imagine? Well in many respects that’s exactly what the Honda SSM Concept was. The ‘Sport Study Model’ was revealed to the world at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, and although the headlights are set down into the bottom of the front bumper rather than at the top and there are two distinctly separate spaces for the driver and passenger, you have to admit there is quite the S2000 resemblance. Where the S2000 and SSM are very different, however, is in their respective powertrains. The production S2000 had a bonkers 9,000rpm redline, 2.0-litre VTEC engine and a six-speed manual ‘box. The SSM on the other hand had a 2.0-litre five-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic. The redline was a hearty 8,000rpm, but still, the car had an auto… It’s a fun looking creation, but, all things considered, we’re quite happy with how the S2000 turned out.
Honda J-VX – 1997
We’ve written about the J-VX before on our list of nine quirky Japanese concept cars we wish were built, and our opinion on it hasn’t changed: we love it. It looks like the product of a love affair between a Lamborghini and a Honda, with those superb scissor doors and bright green paint. It was the world’s first hybrid sportscar too, with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine paired with a supercapacitor. The J-VX never made it to production, but the concept it morphed into, the VV, became the Honda Insight. Now we’re trying to imagine a Honda Insight with scissor doors.
Honda Fuya-jo – 1999
No, we have not lost our minds entirely. Honest. The Honda Fuya-jo Concept might not be low or wide but it wouldn’t look at all out of place in a Star Wars movie, and for that reason alone it has to be given a mention. Shown at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show, ‘Fuya-jo’ means ‘sleepless city’, and as such it was designed to transport young party animals from club to club. And while it may look small it’s actually big enough to seat four adults. It also had more than a dozen speakers dotted around the cabin, perfect for an extended night out in Tokyo.
Honda Dualnote – 2001
A mid-engined, four-door, four-seat hybrid with nearly 400PS? That’s what was promised with the Honda Dualnote at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, as well as an economy figure of 50mpg. Behind the rear seats sat a 3.5-litre V6 engine, which was paired to three electric motors for a combined output of 400PS (298kW). Power went to all four wheels, too, as two of the motors were hooked up at the front axle, and the car used a funky six-speed clutchless manual gearbox. It isn’t the most out there concept Honda has made, but it is a curious little creation.
If you’re a VTEC mega-fan, why not read our list of the eight best Honda road cars ever.
Honda HSC – 2003
Now this is cool. Seriously, just look at it. From the front at least it looks like a perfect stepping stone from the original NSX to the current NSX, with a whiff of the Noble M15 about it. Crikey.
Another Tokyo Motor Show debutant, this time in 2003, the Honda HSC, or ‘Honda Sports Concept’, was an unapologetic sportscar. Mid-engined and rear-wheel-drive, it was powered by a 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6, with carbon-fibre panels draped over an aluminium chassis. Nothing ever came of the car, but it did at least give NSX fans, who were well aware the model was nearing the end of its life, some hope that mid-engined supercars were still on the radar of Honda’s management.
Honda EV-N – 2009
If you’re a car enthusiast, and if you’re reading this then you more than likely are, you’ll have heard the term ‘Kei car’. For those of you who haven’t, Kei cars are the smallest and least powerful cars available to buy in Japan. Originally created a few years after the end of the Second World War when many cars were too expensive and too large, and motorcycles, therefore, were the personal transport solution of choice, Kei cars had to adhere to strict maximum size and maximum power and displacement rules. As a result they could be bought, parked and driven in places that normal cars could not and for a lot less money.
If you were looking for a modern-ish interpretation of one of Honda’s earliest cars, the 1967 N360 Kei car, then the Honda EV-N was it. Measuring just under 2.8m long (a Ford Fiesta, for reference, is more than 4m long) the EV-N, Honda claimed, could comfortably fit four adults, two of whom could whiz off on Honda U3-X, self-balancing, single-wheeled ‘personal mobility devices’, with one attached to the inside of each of the doors. An EV designed for the city, the roof was plastered with solar panels to give a free energy boost when the car was parked. An odd-ball, yes, but we quite like it.
Honda Type R Concept – 2014
Where would we be without some kind of Type R mention in a list relating to Honda? As exciting as Honda Civic Type R engines were, revving out past 9,000rpm in the EK9, EP3 and FN2, the FN2 fell a little flat. With one extra horse under the bonnet compared to the EP3, and more than 100kg of extra weight, the spaceship styling could only keep so many people happy. Honda’s engineers knew that the next Type R, then, would have to be turbocharged, but with more power would come more speed, and with more speed you’d need a car that was stable. Enter the 2014 Type R Concept, a bewinged lunatic with four exhausts, a big wing, a huge rear diffuser, vents everywhere and big, flared arches. And what’s bonkers is that it changed very little morphing from concept to production reality, a good thing, really, when this front-wheel-drive hatch would have to deal with 310PS (228kW) from its turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine and could crack 168mph.
Project 2+4 Concept – 2014
Sorry, what? A single-seater Honda road car with the engine from a motorcycle? You’ve got to be kidding? Funnily enough, no. As a motorcycle and car manufacturer, there’s an awful lot of potential for road-going hilarity, so we shouldn’t be surprised that a machine like the Honda 2+4 exists. But we are, even years after it was first shown at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The 2+4 was a collaboration celebrates Honda’s motorsports, motorcycle and automotive success, and was the winning entry in Honda’s ‘Global Design Project’. It had the engine from a RC213V MotoGP bike (a 1,000cc, four-cylinder powerhouse that could rev to more than 17,000rpm) sat just a few inches away from the driver’s head. It also featured a six-speed double-clutch gearbox, an Alcantara-clad ‘floating seat’, Öhlins coilovers, 17-inch, 20-spoke wheels clad with Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R tyres, and a complicated projector and two-way mirror contraption that comprised the instrument cluster. Oh, and it weighed 405kg. So much want. Bonkers doesn't cover it.
Honda Urban EV Concept – 2017
If the EV-N was a good retro-styled EV, the Urban EV concept was truly excellent. Unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, this is the car that went on to become the glorious Honda e. As a concept, however, the car’s designers could do things that wouldn’t be possible when it came to finally make the production version – the pillars were thin, the wheels ginormous, the arches flared.
What’s brilliant, though, is that so many elements of the Urban EV made it to the Honda E. The dashboard of screens, the side-mirror cameras, the boxy shape and the frameless windows, all elements that would have been so easy to discard going from concept to reality. But it wasn’t the only EV that Honda unveiled in 2017.
Sports EV – 2017
What do you get if you take many of the Urban EV’s styling cues and apply them to a two-seater sportscar? The Honda Sports EV. Revealed just a month after the Urban EV, at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, the Sports EV was another opportunity for Honda’s designers to let their hair down. What they created was a simple but actually very pretty two-seat, electric, rear-wheel-drive sportscar.
The good news? This a Honda EV sportscar might actually happen one day, as only in 2019 Honda filed new design patents for a revised Sports EV concept. Please build it Honda, please.
Which is your favourite Honda concept?
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