Honda shrinks the family car with the N Box
By Mike Hanlon
January 13, 2012
Honda's new N Box platform was purpose built for Japanese domestic market Kei car regulations - the idea was to create a comfortable, spacious passenger environment for four adults using the available real estate of a minicar platform. The whole N Box package is designed to be customised and the Wa Concept, which took a bow today in Tokyo, has patent leather seats and a traditional Japanese lacquerware exterior. It's gorgeous!
While the Wa is a beautiful example of what can be done with the blank N Box canvas, the minicar-sized microvan is extraordinary by design.
Honda has been able to create a primary vehicle that can carry four people in comfort, even over a long distance, at vastly reduced cost in comparison to a traditional vehicle. The base US$16,000 micro passenger van which went on sale last month in Japan, uses a 660cc CVT drive train to return 52 mpg.
Considering the lengths Chrysler and Fiat have gone to in achieving 40 mpg - it's not quite as spacious but it costs the same price as the Dodge Dart and achieves 25% better mileage.
The N Box was designed to take maximum advantage of Japan's Kei car regs (from "kei-jidosha" - 'light automobile'), a uniquely Japanese phenomena which began as a tax and insurance break stimulus for the local car industry post WWII and has been maintained with a wise eye on the future.
Japan manages the most congested roads in the world far better than any other country. Japan's thinktanks have known for a long time that all societies attempting to base themselves around personal transportation will need to significantly downsize the size of that transportation. Japan is the centre of the world for bonsai transport design because of this.
Given the growing congestion in urban environments around the world, the space-optimised microvan might well be the shape of things to come beyond the Land of the Rising Sun.
So when other societies finally realise that they need to micro manage every aspect of personal transportation, the Kei car is certain to be one of the logical category definitions. Japanese Kei cars are an entire article in themselves, with regs restricting physical size (3.4 m long, 1.48 m wide and 2 m tall), engine displacement (660cc) and power (47kW), so manufacturers have used every square centimetre and stacked it with as many advanced technologies as possible in order to differentiate their vehicles.
In many ways, Honda is returning to its roots with the N Box. In 1967, Honda's then new N360 minicar attracted enough domestic buyers to help establish the automotive brand locally and it has gone on to become one of Japan's big three auto manufacturers and seventh largest automaker in the world.
Now the microvan has been fashioned as a blank canvas for the imagination of the Japanese public. Honda showed four different N Box creations based on the N Box chassis in Tokyo, and not surprisingly the concept commanded a large percentage of the space in Honda's booth at the Tokyo Motor Show last month.
Today is the opening of the Tokyo Auto Salon at the Tokyo Motor Show's old venue at Makuhari Messe in Chiba and the focus is once more on the customizable microvan platform which squeezes more cubic metres into its diminutive dimensions than ... well, anything else on four wheels.
For Tokyo Auto Salon, Honda has produced the Wa concept - with patent leather seats and a traditional Japanese lacquerware exterior. It's gorgeous!
Honda's N Box has a length of 3.395 m, a width of 1.475 m and a height of 1.77 meters, and just about all of that three dimensional space is available as cabin space. The third goal was to make the automobile as safe and secure as possible, allowing The FLASH BOX features a special body color, reflective decal sheets and LEDs used as a decorative element in both the exterior and interior designs. The Freed Wa is based on the Freed Hybrid compact minivan, and the Japanese word wa refers to traditional Japanese culture. Its exterior features the ancient Japanese art of lacquering, while flowers representing the four seasons are the theme of the interior design.