This New Honda N-ONE Is All The (Kei) Car You’ll Ever Need

This is perhaps the most interesting Honda to launch in 2020, and its sadly going to be leaving its home market of Japan. 

Honda has recently announced that the second-generation of its N-ONE kei car has gone on sale in Japan. 

Initially making its debut in two months ago, ordinarily an announcement like this isn’t really worth its time in the news. Reading through the full spec list however, one might just (rightly) wonder why Honda isn’t selling this pretty cool JDM hatchback anywhere else in the world. 

What is it?

Replacing the original N-ONE that makes up one half of Honda’s current kei car lineup in Japan, this new model isn’t exactly a revolution over its predecessor debut in 2012. In fact, the exterior and interior changes made to the new model is the sort that would require some careful detective work to distinguish it over the outgoing one. 

Second Generation Updates

Starting from the outside, a new lighting signature is courtesy of redesigned front and rear LED lights. New front and rear bumpers are also present to give it a chunkier stance, with the rear especially featuring a black bar that runs across its length. That however pretty much wraps up the exterior updates over its cutesy predecessor. 

On the interior meanwhile, the changes are slightly more drastic. A totally new dashboard design is featured in this second generation N-ONE. Bringing along with it a new steering wheel and redesigned instrument cluster, not to mention an upgraded central touchscreen infotainment system. 

Why should I get one?

So far though, there is nothing thus far that has probably convinced most to ditch their current SUVs or sedans for this tiny little N-ONE. The cute design might have swayed some to wanting one here, but aside from that most may still be unconvinced at this point. Moreover, considering the fact that individual front seats have been given pride of place in the press brief, many might start to wonder why this car should ever leave its crazy homeland of Japan. 

Well, the simple reason is that this cutesy car perfectly encapsulates all the things many would want in a car in a tiny easy-to-park package. After all, this little Honda is practical, safe and most importantly for enthusiasts at least, fantastically good fun. 


Starting with the practicality aspect, being a kei car, the exterior dimensions of the N-ONE is no larger than the Axia sold here. Like any other kei car however, it is unsurprising to discover that the interior volume of this tiny five-door Honda is cavernous. With easily enough room for four adults to ride within it in comfort, and a reasonable amount of cargo capacity out back to boot. 

The N-ONE’s tall roof might already give an indication as to how roomy it is inside. A low floor with a centrally mounted fuel tank, ala Honda Jazz, goes on to further make full use of its diminutive size. There are also plenty of practical touches within the N-ONE, coming standard with Honda’s nifty fold-up Ultra seats in the rear. USB ports aplenty within the cabin too, as in most modern era mobility tools. 


Much like any modern Honda, the N-ONE is also well catered for with both active and passive safety aids. Despite it being at lower end of the automaker’s hierarchy, this second generation kei-car comes equipped with Honda Sensing across its model range. Thereby adding active driver aids not even found on the current top-end Accord sold locally. Honda Japan is also proud to announce that a rear seat reminder will be standard on the N-ONE. 


Moving onto the topic of fun that can be had with the N-ONE, two flavours of fun are to be offered by this little Honda. Coming in the form of powertrain options and personalisation options. 

Focusing on the former first, enthusiasts may turn their noses up on its 58 PS/65 Nm 660 cc three cylinder (an engine size mandated by Japanese kei car regulations). However with so little power on tap, this also means that one wring its little heart out to your hearts content and you’ll still be within the legal limit. Such is the slow car fast philosophy. 

What more is that one could indeed really wring this FF platform out, especially if optioned with the six-speed manual transmission available on the RS model. Speaking of which, the RS is also one of two variants available with a cheeky little turbocharger. Thereby boosting the power output to 64 PS and 104 Nm, for even more fun. 

Besides, if rallying was more your thing, there is even a four wheel drive option available on every variant. Saying that, the only transmission option aside from the front wheel drive RS is a CVT. 

More FUN

Touching on these various trim levels, the vast amount personalisation on offer would perhaps attract the people who might not necessarily be interested in the fun driving characteristics of the N-ONE. Unlike larger more sedate cars that are usually offered in the boring array of greys, blacks and occasional blues, the N-ONE on the other hand is available in a blinding variety of cheerful colours, most of which are available in two tone and other exterior accessories too for added pop. 

Still not convinced?

Now, some at this point may still be questioning whether or not this cutesy kei car has clouded my reasonable judgement. Like am I serious in suggesting that a brightly coloured Axia-sized Honda would be the car everyone should buy, instead of the large SUVs everyone is currently scrambling to purchase?

Think about it though, on the practicality front, when does the all the space in these large SUVs ever get filled up on the daily commute? The N-ONE on the other hand is easy to drive, easy to park and cheap to run thanks to its diminutive dimensions and tiny engine. Costing pennies on the dollar compared to running any normal crossover that is all the rage these days. 

Speaking of the cost, the initial purchase price may be slightly on the steep side. Costing from ¥1,599,400 (RM 63,000) for the basic, before topping out at ¥2,022,900 (RM 80,000) for the top-spec Premium Tourer 4WD grade. 

Then again, this Honda kei car however should be more refined than the Axia. Making it more appealing transportation solution than the bargain-basement Perodua, even for longer journeys. Moreover, it is also packed with all the kit one needs for daily driving duties, especially the all-important safety kit. 

Furthermore, with its cheerful look and dazzling exterior colours, this cutesy kei car does go someway into brightening up everyones’ day. Especially with grinning driver behind the wheel of this fun little car. 

So Honda Malaysia, there is no time like the present for a fleet of brightly coloured N-ONEs to bring some colour to the dull grey streets of Malaysia. 

PRESS RELEASE: Honda Motor Co., Ltd. will begin sales of the all-new N-ONE mini-vehicle on November 20, 2020, at dealerships across Japan.

Based on the underlying concept of the Honda N Series, which is to offer “enjoyable lives with N*,” the development team for the all-new N-ONE focused on people’s daily lives and the concept of time in Japan, striving to make N-ONE a vehicle which will be a part of people’s daily lives and that can sustain the enjoyment of customers for a long time.

  • The “N” represents Norimono which means “vehicle” in Japanese.

The exterior design of the all-new N-ONE was refined to further highlight the unique characteristics of N-ONE in the motif of “circle, square and trapezoid” which is identified as a combination of basic shapes that constitute the uniqueness of N-ONE.

The interior was designed in the pursuit of a cozy cabin space with a minimalist design. To achieve this goal, non-essential elements were pared away boldly. Honda’s original center-tank layout that places the fuel tank underneath the front seats, also contributes to the minimalist yet cozy interior design of the all-new N-ONE. This is the embodiment of Honda’s M/M concept inherited from the N360, the starting point of Honda’s passenger cars.

The Honda SENSING® advanced safety and driver-assistive system is standard equipment of the all-new N-ONE. The 6-speed manual transmission (6MT) version of the all-new N-ONE will be the first among all 6MT mini-vehicles in the market to feature Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), which support the driver while recognizing the vehicle’s surroundings.

An individual seat with excellent hold is adopted for the driver’s seat. For the RS type, the combination of front engine/front-wheel drive (FF) turbo engine and 6MT was made available for the first time among all mini-vehicles in the market. Driving performance also was further refined so that the drivers can feel the fun and joy of driving as they use this vehicle on a daily basis for their in-town driving such as commuting to work and school and for shopping as well as long-distance driving.

<Key features of the all-new N-ONE>

◼ Design


The first-generation N-ONE inherited its exterior design from the N360, which consisted of circle, square and trapezoid shapes. With the same basic shapes, and based on the N-ONE’s timeless design, an exterior design which conveys an image of the “fun of driving” and “outstanding safety” was pursued for the all-new N-ONE.

While featuring an upright bumper and grille, the lower part of the bumper is designed to give a look of “standing firm” on the ground. The chiseled headlights create the impression of forward momentum. The rear end is characterized by a horizontal line which extends toward the right and left corners of the rear bumper and features horizontally-long reflectors on both ends. This rearview design emphasizes the wide look of the body and projects an image of stability.


To further enhance a pleasant sense of openness, a minimalist cabin space design was pursued. Striving to offer the fun of driving for the driver and a minimalist yet relaxing space for the front passenger, the instrument panel was pared away daringly and extended all the way from the edge of the meter to the outer edge of the passenger seat area.

In order to enable the driver to obtain information and control the equipment smoothly and accurately, a combination meter consisting of two different-shaped meters was adopted for the information system, and various switches are located around the steering wheel to enhance visibility and ease of use.

◼ Convenience

Cabin space designed to take advantage of the low-floor platform

  • The low-floor and cozy cabin space of the all-new N-ONE was made possible by the center-tank layout, Honda’s patented technology for the platform the all-new N-ONE shares with N-BOX.
  • Individual seats were adopted for the driver and front passenger, featuring a console box in between. Along with the redesigned instrument panel, utility features such as cup holders, USB charging ports and storage pockets are laid out within easy reach of the driver’s and front passenger’s seats.

The first mini-vehicle equipped with a Rear Seat Reminder

The all-new N-ONE will be the first mini-vehicle in the market to feature a Rear Seat Reminder system that uses the history of the rear doors being opened and closed and alerts the driver to the possible presence of personal belongings or any other objects left in the rear seats via a reminder displayed on the meter.

◼ Driver-assistive functions

All N-ONE types feature Honda SENSING as standard equipment

The Honda SENSING advanced safety and driver-assistive system for the all-new N-ONE features False Backward Start Prevention and Auto High Beam Headlights in addition to the eight standard functions. For the first time for any 6MT mini-vehicle in the market, the 6MT version of the all-new N-ONE will feature Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), which represents Honda’s pursuit of safety performance that enables customers to use their vehicles comfortably in all driving situations.

Functions included in Honda SENSING for the all-new N-ONE

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS)
  • False Start Prevention
  • Pedestrian Collision Mitigation Steering System
  • Lead Car Departure Notification System
  • Traffic Sign Recognition
  • Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) System
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow
  • Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)
  • False Backward Start Prevention
  • Auto High Beam Headlights

Functions to enhance driver’s sense of reassurance

·Parking Sensor System:

The system detects obstacles approaching in the back of the vehicle via four sonar sensors mounted on the rear bumper and alerts the driver with a sound and meter display.

·Automatic Brake Hold function:

When the driver activates the system by pressing a switch while stopping on a hill or for a traffic light, the system automatically holds the vehicle in position without the driver stepping on the brake pedal, and the system automatically releases the brake when the driver steps on the accelerator pedal.

·Electronic Parking Brake:

The driver can activate the parking brake with an easy pull of the switch, and it releases automatically when the driver steps on the accelerator pedal. 

◼ Manufacturer’s suggested retail price:

Type Engine Drive Transmission Price including 10%

consumption tax

Price excluding

consumption tax

Original 660cc


FF CVT 1,599,400 yen 1,454,000 yen
4WD 1,732,500 yen 1,575,000 yen
Premium FF 1,779,800 yen 1,618,000 yen
4WD 1,912,900 yen 1,739,000 yen
Premium Tourer 660cc



FF 1,889,800 yen 1,718,000 yen
4WD 2,022,900 yen 1,839,000 yen
RS FF 1,999,800 yen 1,818,000 yen

◼Body colors

【N-ONE Original】

·Flame Red

·Platinum White Pearl

·Surf Blue

·Premium Ivory Pearl II

·Luna Silver Metallic

·Crystal Black Pearl

<Two-tone colors>

·Flame Red & White

·Platinum White Pearl & Black

·Surf Blue & White

·Premium Ivory Pearl II & White

【N-ONE Premium/Premium Tourer】

·Platinum White Pearl

·Midnight Blue Beam Metallic

·British Green Pearl

·Premium Ivory Pearl II

·Shining Gray Metallic

·Crystal Black Pearl

<Two-tone colors>

·Platinum White Pearl & Black

·Midnight Blue Beam Metallic & Silver

·British Green Pearl & Silver

·Premium Ivory Pearl II & Black


·Crystal Black Pearl

<Two-tone colors>

·Platinum White Pearl & Black

·British Green Pearl & White

·Premium Yellow Pearl II & Black

·Sunset Orange II & Black

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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