Automotive Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_drive

Published on November 25th, 2020 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Honda N-ONE 2021 Sales Start In Japan

Malaysia Gets Used Units Two Years Later

Making its debut in two months ago, this is Honda’s compact ‘kei car’ which in theory competes closely with the Perodua Axia if Malaysia had a fair taxation system for all cars sold in the country. Kei Car’s are ultra-mini vehicles sold by Japanese car manufacturers to cater for buyers looking for small cars that can easily park in tight spaces and take up little room in crowded urban cities. 

These little cars are fitted with mid sized car features and safety equipment and sometimes offer fun driving. We have driven a few kei cars over the years in Japan and we have always come away impressed with its drive dynamics, power delivery (most have small turbo 660cc engines) and cabin features. Our lower priced Malaysian made cars may have bigger engines, but these kei cars are ‘bags of fun’ to drive. 

Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_red

What is it?

Replacing the original N-ONE which was launched in November 2012, this car makes up one half of Honda’s current kei car line-up 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. 

BHP diesel

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. 


Starting with the practicality aspect, 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 kai-car comes equipped with Honda Sensing across the 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. 


Under the hood is a 58PS and 65Nm 660cc three cylinder (an engine size mandated by Japanese kei car regulations). You can also buy it with a six-speed manual transmission with the RS model that comes with a 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. 

How Much

The initial purchase price may be slightly on the steep side. Costing from ¥1,599,400 (RM63,000) for the basic, before topping out at ¥2,022,900 (RM80,000) for the top-spec Premium Tourer four-wheel drive grade. 

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. Meanwhile, some adventurous car importers will import and sell a few used units at a high asking price in Malaysia. 

Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_top view
Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_side view
Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_front view
Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_rear view
Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_cockpit
Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_RS variant
Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_cabin space
Honda N-ONE Kei Car_2021_Ultra Swat

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.


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.

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.

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. 

  • 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 

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