From the outside, it looks – as you’d imagine – like it has been built to a set of tight dimensional rules. The end result is odd, quirky, charming or a combination of the three. Whatever your opinion, you can’t argue at the veracity of the name, as it’s certainly boxy.
Unsurprisingly, Honda has tried to make the most of the kei car dimension regulations. The N Box is 3395mm long, 1475mm wide and and 1770mm high. The engine and ancillaries are contained under a tightly packed bonnet, ensuring the cabin is as long as possible.
Inside, the cabin is decent, but clearly built to a price. The dash and its layout are intuitive and suitably modern, but the hard plastics are unremitting. The seats, however, are comfortable and supportive.
The rear is surprisingly spacious, thanks to the flat floor and a rear bench that slides. At its most spacious, the rear cabin space rivals that available in many luxury cars, although this limits space in the boot. Practicality has also been given a priority, with the rear doors sliding open and shut at the touch of a button, and the cabin majoring on storage cubbies.
Biggest surprise, though, is the performance available. The 57bhp 658cc engine may only deliver peak torque of 48lb ft, and then only from 3500rpm, but it is enough to get the 930kg N Box around town with more than enough verve to keep up with the flow. Inevitably, it becomes strained and noisy up the rev range, but there are very few occasions when you actually need to stretch the car in an urban environment, meaning you are usually accompanied by nothing more than a slight and appealing thrum.
Fuel economy and emissions are decent, despite the obvious aero drawbacks and the standard CVT gearshift. On the Japanese official cycle the car records 68.2mpg and 95g/km, with stop-start helping keep the figures on the right side of impressive.
While the steering is never anything but remote, the N Box does ride and handle with a suppleness that suits its urban brief. Even the worst potholes are well damped. The turning circle is almost noteworthy. Although Honda couldn't provide a specific figure, suffice to say that it puts you in mind of a Black Cab.
It’s easy to imagine the Honda N Box could quickly acquire a cult following if it was sold here, and it is comfortably more practical and appealing than the Nissan Cube, which made a shortlived and little loved attempt at European sales a few years ago.
For now, exchange rates preclude any export plans, but we live in hope that the kei car doesn’t remain the preserve of Japan, especially with the prospect of a rear-drive roadster in the works.