Honda’s electric future revealed while Opel guns for the Qashqai

Frankfurt Motor Show: Honda’s 2019 urban electric car, Opel’s Grandland X and its plugin hybrid, and Hyundai’s sleeker i30 Fastback

Opel’s new Grandland: aiming to win favour with current Nissan Qashqai customers

Opel’s new Grandland: aiming to win favour with current Nissan Qashqai customers


Opel has launched both its Grandland X rival to the all-conquering Nissan Qashqai, and its first plugin hybrid model in Frankfurt. Frankfurt is Opel’s home-town show, and the brand is obviously keen to put on a strong performance as it’s now under the management of Groupe PSA, which also owns Peugeot and Citroen.

New chief executive officer Michael Lohscheller launched the new Grandland X, and showed off the plugin hybrid model of the same car, saying “our new Grandland X as plug-in hybrid is the next big example of the opportunities that await us as a member of the PSA group. We will follow this path closely.” The Grandland X uses the same platform and engines as the Peugeot 3008 and the forthcoming Citroen C5 Aircross.

Opel also showed off sporty GSI and off-road-y Country Tourer version of the recently-launched Insignia. We are continuing the biggest model offensive in Opel’s history with these three world premieres. We have made decisive additions to our portfolio this year with the electric range champion, the Ampera-e, the Crossland X crossover, the Vivaro Life recreational vehicle and the Grandland X SUV,” explained Lohscheller in Frankfurt. “We at Opel are proud to be part of the PSA Group now. Together we will create a European champion. We will do so by continuing to make technology ‘made in Germany’ available to as many customers as possible, thus staying true to our brand credo the future is everyone’s.”

Honda has finally turned its attention to fully-electric cars, in the wake of an admission, made to Reuters last week, that the company had for too long lost its way and fallen behind rival car makers when it came to innovation.

The new Urban EV Concept doesn’t quite fix that at a stroke, but it’s certainly the most exciting Honda concept we’ve seen for a while, taking obvious design cues from the original, tiny, seventies Civic and placing them on top of a state-of-the-art new electric powertrain.

Sadly, Honda isn’t giving away many details of that powertrain as yet, but the EV Concept is said to be close to production ready, and Honda is going to launch something very similar in 2019. Honda’s president, Takahiro Hachigo, said that “this is not some vision of the distant future; a production version of this car will be here in Europe in 2019.”

100mm shorter than the Honda Jazz, the EV Concept is a four-seater (production models will likely be a five-seater) with a startling interior. As with the Tesla Model 3, all of the dashboard instrumentation and infotainment is taken care of by one massive ultra-wide screen, with further screens mounted in the door panels that also include the video feed from the door-mounted rear-view cameras. Presumably, by 2019, this will all have been toned down quite a bit, but as interior design goes, it’s a striking statement by Honda.

There’s also an artificially intelligent on-board system called Honda Automated Network Assistant, which Honda says is an electronic concierge, learning your driving habits and other daily routines and able to offer helpful suggestions when necessary.

The EV Concept will sit alongside the new CR-V Hybrid concept on the Honda stand (a car which will apparently signal the end of the diesel-engined CR-V in Europe) but Honda had another surprise for us — the Honda Power Manager. This is a smart wallbox, ostensibly for charging your electric or plugin hybrid car, but also capable of managing the power demands of your house. Designed to be connected to your house’s solar panels, it can feed energy into the national grid from those, as well as spare battery energy from your car when it’s plugged in at peak demand times. Philip Ross, senior vice president of Honda Motor Europe, said: “We will incorporate electrified drivelines in two thirds of cars sold in the region by 2025. The introduction of our Power Manager system supports and reinforces our commitment. It uses advanced technology to intelligently integrate the electric vehicle into the wider power network, so it is no longer just a consumer but also a contributor to the grid. It underlines our pledge to develop a more sustainable mobility model.”

Hyundai’s hot new i30 leads its model upgrade
Hyundai’s hot new i30 leads its model upgrade

Across the hall, Hyundai is sticking to rather more conventional models for Frankfurt, bringing along the 250hp (optionally 275hp) i30 N hot hatch, the new Kona compact crossover (think of it as Hyundai’s Renault Captur rival) and the intriguing i30 Fastback, an i30 hatch with an elongated, shallow, almost coupe-like (yes, I said it) fastback shape. Spiritual successor to the 1980s Toyota Corolla Liftback anyone? Hyundai reckons it gives the i30 a classier, more premium-style option.

The Korean car maker is also showing off its new ‘Smart Stream’ powertrain, a 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol turbo engine and a new eight-speed dual-clutch semi-automatic transmission. It’s the first of a whole range of fuel-saving, low-emissions ‘Smart Stream’ engine and gearbox setups to follow.