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Auto Show:  2011 Tokyo Auto Show

Honda N Box - Tokyo Auto Show

author photo by Nick Palermo December 2011
  • A production-ready mini-vehicle
  • New 660cc engine and CVT
  • Space-maximizing architecture fits four

Minivans are not so "mini" these days. Today's people-movers are considerably larger than the early-eighties Dodge Caravan that started it all. Americans have space for larger vehicles, so we buy accordingly. In Japan, the market for tiny cars is much stronger as space for both parking and driving are far more limited. Honda's N Box, a "mini-minivan" that made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, will find likely find a receptive audience when it goes on sale there later this month.

The N Box has the styling of the Scion xB, but is even smaller. And it's more minivan-like, thanks to sliding rear doors. The tiny four-seater uses architecture similar to that of Honda's Fit, which has the fuel tank situated in the center of the vehicle to increase interior space. The tall, narrow N Box accommodates four adults in relative comfort thanks to Honda's "man maximum, machine minimum" concept, which squeezes mechanical components for more passenger space.

Efficient use of energy is as important to Honda as efficient use of space. To that end, the N Box gets a newly-developed 660cc engine and continuously-variable transmission, along with a start-stop feature. Fuel economy in the N Box is expected to be an excellent 52 mpg. A turbo will be available, as will all-wheel drive.

A new production process results in a lighter, stronger body. An inner frame is used, with body side and roof panels welded to the inside structure. Further safety equipment includes driver front and side airbags, impact-mitigating head restraints, standard stability control and available side curtain airbags.

The N Box also includes a low-tech but clever mirror system that stands in for backup and parking cameras. Mirrors on the side of the vehicle provide views of the curb, while a mirror at the top of the rear window shows the area immediately behind the car.

The Honda N Box may not find too many admirers here in the wide-open spaces of the US, but for some crowded geographies like Honda's home country of Japan, the small but voluminous and appropriately named little minivan may be the perfect vehicle to efficiently move people in unique style.

What it means to you:

Honda's N Box is a production-ready vehicle launching soon in Japan. Although America's appetite for smaller vehicles is growing, Honda will not yet be bringing the tiny minivan to the US.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Honda N Box - Tokyo Auto Show - Autotrader