What sort of value do today’s Japanese consumers demand in a mini-vehicle? Cars are used in various applications, including leisure activities, shopping, and raising children, but nursing care has also emerged as an important social issue.
Nursing care has ceased being exceptional and become a normal stage of life. If only consumers could continue to use their car when they begin to use a wheelchair, instead of being forced to purchase an expensive, specially designed vehicle. If only there were a reasonably priced vehicle that could serve those nursing care needs while also doing double duty for shopping and hobby-related activities. Honda’s answer to the expectations of customers with these needs is the N Box+.
The N Box+ was developed based on wheelchair-accessible vehicle specifications so that nursing care could become a more familiar part of customers’ lives. We used a vehicle body designed specifically to accommodate wheelchair-accessible vehicle specifications—one that is normally used for special models only—as the base for all series vehicles. In this way, the Multiuse Body was created based on Honda’s uniquely unconventional approach.
The most striking feature of the N Box+, which was developed based on an unconventional approach that draws on wheelchair-accessible vehicle specifications, is its sloped floor, a feature that to date has only been used in wheelchair-accessible vehicles. By sloping the low floor and combining with an aluminum slope, the vehicle delivers a new level of convenience for not only nursing care, but also normal use and leisure activities.
This sloped floor was made possible by the N Box+’s center-tank layout, which moves the fuel tank from underneath the rear seats and cargo area to a new position underneath the front seats. Engineers also drew on the design of the sloped floor used in wheelchair-accessible versions of the Zest and Freed. This approach allowed layout issues in the form of questions about where to position various components to be clarified quickly and resolved through an intensive focus on the design process.
Adopting this sloped floor in all series models eliminated the need to design a special body for wheelchair-accessible models, dramatically lowering costs. As a result, we are able to offer a wheelchair-accessible vehicle to customers who require it at a reasonable price.
Honda’s M/M concept has been inherited as part of an uninterrupted legacy that began during the era of the N360. This basic concept of maximizing space for people and minimizing space for mechanical components underlies Honda’s overall approach to automobile manufacturing, and it lives on in the N Box+.
Even when used as a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, the N Box+ features a high ceiling in the passenger space, while the rear seats can be stowed flat in the floor so that there is no feeling of crowding. A detachable handrail ensures occupants’ time in the vehicle is a pleasant one.
Additionally, a bed large enough to accommodate a 190-centimeter person can be made by folding the rear seats down and reclining the front seat backs. We worked to achieve the optimum shape for the seats to support the body while driving and to provide a flat feel when used as a bed. The result is a contour that fits the shape of the back naturally and smoothly.
In this way, the N Box+ was born of an unconventional approach that led to a multiuse body instead of a special body engineered specifically for wheelchair-accessible models. The result not only makes nursing care a more familiar part of customers’ lives, but also dramatically expands the potential ways in which the car can be used.