TOKYO — Japan's boxy minicars are hardly known as sporty or high-tech.
But Honda Motor Co. wants to change their dowdy image on both counts with its next-generation N-Box, the best-selling nameplate in that uniquely Japanese niche segment.
The redesign, which hit the market Sept. 1, gets a revamped engine that prioritizes acceleration over fuel economy. It also gets the company's latest advanced safety system, Honda Sensing, which includes such features as emergency automatic braking and lane-keep assist.
The flourishes are rarities in the world of Japanese minicars.
But Honda's deployment underscores the proficiency of Japanese automakers in migrating higer-end features into down-market, downsized vehicles.
Honda hopes such upgrades will help the N-Box keep its title as Japan's best-selling minicar for a third straight year, despite sluggish demand in the segment.
On the performance side, the N-Box sheds about 176 pounds by employing a new platform. Engineers also re- evaluated about 90 percent of the outgoing car's components to find new opportunities for light-weighting.
Its naturally aspirated engine features variable valve timing and lift electronic control system, while the turbo version gets an electric wastegate for better turbo boost. Both are firsts for a Japanese minicar, Honda says.
The N-Box also goes high-tech with Honda Sensing coming standard on all grades.