At a glance the all-new Honda N-WGN might look like any number of kei vans zipping along the streets of Japan, but the design is actually much more clever. It’s never explicitly mentioned in Honda’s 1800-word press release, but Hondaheads will instantly recognize the shape as a throwback to the 1972 StepVan.
Perhaps the biggest resemblance comes from the “eyebrow” turn signals located above the round headlamps. A closer look reveals modern interpretations of the eggcrate grille and the distinctive character line that extends downward from the A-pillar.
Inside, the kinship is less clear, but if you squint the bi-level dashboard can hearken back to the StepVan’s stepped dash. In the original, the flat surface on the passenger side could double as a desk, since the StepVan was intended for tradesmen. Another potential reference seems to be the red parking brake on the StepVan mimicked by the red Start button on the N-WGN.
From the rear, the housing for the license plate light share a similar shape, as does the rear window. Even the N-WGN’s hubcaps look like they were inspired by the white-line tires and square-holed steelies of the original. As for the powertrain, there’s not much to speak about, as it is built strictly to kei car specs, which limit displacement to 660cc and power to 67 horses.
We liked it immediately, but also asked Hot Wheels designer and die-hard Honda lifer Ryu Asada for his far more educated opinion on the N-WGN’s design. “These modern retro designs (not literal ones like Subaru Bistro) seem like a very clever way to appeal to both young and old timers,” he responded.
Alluding to other retro superminis like the N-One, he continued. “The new Honda kei cars are super nice. The proportion, the details, must’ve been tough to design due to tight limitations, but they nailed it. And If you look at the N-WGN’s face, the whole grille shape looks like a big ‘H’ like the T360.”
“I want one,” Ryu told us, “But I’d add the old school ‘HONDA’ letters to the the grille and remove the H badge!” We can’t argue with that, and if it’s good enough for Ryu it’s good enough for us.
Images courtesy of Honda.