With concept cars like the Citroën Ami One and the Honda Tomo coming to the fore, the auto industry finally seems to have embraced the beauty of a functional, futuristic-looking car. But let us not forget about Honda’s 2001 Unibox concept, which might just be the forefather of the latest tiny car trend.
The Unibox was released at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, the intention of which I have not discovered but seems to be a multi-use vehicle designed for literally every single purpose you could ever possibly imagine. It’s as severe and boxy as you’d imagine an early-2000s office building to be, except this one is on wheels.
Honda described the Unibox as a “Multi Life Terminal”. Basically, it’s supposed to encourage more than just transportation—it’s supposed to be designed for life. The owner would be in charge of the design and is features, which seem to be pretty similar to stuff you’d find in an apartment.
The interior was quite literally a living room. Unlike most cars whose floors are rounded to account for things like, y’know, tires, the Unibox’s was totally flat, and the seats inside could be easily moved for the best possible positioning. The driver controls were simple: it was quite simply one single solitary joystick.
If you think that’s wild, then just you wait. The Unibox had its own built in telephone and entertainment modules. Remember, this is 2001. Not everyone has a smart phone or an infotainment system that also provides navigation. Honda was ahead of the game here.
That’s not all, though. It had milliwave radar located around the car, which was intended to link up with traffic management and accident avoidance databases to provide an all-around safer experience. And it had an LCD Rearview Monitor instead of a conventional rearview mirror. This was basically a giant screen that could show you everything going on behind you.
If you think your mind can’t get any more blown, then you’re going to need to sit down. The doors of the Unibox housed electric scooters and foldable electric-powered shopping cars that would be lowered to the ground—also electronically—so you wouldn’t ever have to lift a finger. A generator in the car kept them charged and ready for use.
Those features were all optional, of course, depending on user preference. But even most of the body of the car was customizable, too. The car had an aluminum truss frame and a 4-cylinder hybrid system, which was just about the only things standard on all the cars. The bodywork was composed of removable plastic modules. You could pick and choose which modules you wanted to decorate your car, or you could just forego them altogether. And, since they were screw-on, you could do it at home. Ikea, but for cars.
Was it aerodynamic? No. Was it particularly viable as anything but a concept? Hell no. This is one instance of automakers basically just having a hell of a good time imagining all the cool things that are possible in the modern car. I want more of this, stat!