“This year Honda has decided to go back to its roots”, declares Nobuki Ebisawa, senior chief engineer at the Honda R&D Centre in Wako, Japan. “In 1964 we made our market debut with the S600, a thoroughbred sports car that was both compact and innovative, and with a light truck. In the very different environment of today, two of our concept models are focused on the same objective”.

One undeniable break with the Honda tradition is the Dualnote, the sports concept showcased in Tokyo in 2001. Who would have imagined two years ago that Honda would come up with a 4-door sports model with a hybrid power-transmission system comprising a central 3.5 litre V6 engine, an electric motor and rear wheel drive ?

By contrast Honda’s Unibox offers a literal interpretation of the transparency concept which, according to Ebisawa, “is a way of expressing versatility. We wanted to demonstrate our fundamental conceptual approach in a space utility format”.

The essence of the Unibox is the optimum exploitation of the available space to the point where there is even room for a small scooter between the two rows of aluminium tubing that form the vehicle’s side structure. In true corporate spirit, Honda which also produces power generator equipment, has supplied the vehicle’s generator.

The Unibox’s high tech environment is highlighted by its parquet flooring. Honda has even reinvented the joystick to incorporate an ingenious multifunctional handrest. Ebisawe was not exaggerating when he claimed that Honda has gone back to its roots.In its show car format, the Honda Unibox may appear no more than an eccentricity, but over the long term, it may prove to be the bearer of real innovation.

The article continues in Auto & Design no. 131

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