Among all the flashing lights and flamboyant unveilings of new cars, no vehicle attracted any greater curiosity at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show than the Honda P-NUT. The acronym stands for Personal-Neo Urban Transport (P-NUT). It’s a vehicle design Honda touts as: “A futuristic concept for an ultra-compact and sophisticated city coupe.”
Conceived around a small “footprint” for maximum convenience in tight urban settings, the packaging concept integrates a center driving position configuration and a rear powertrain layout.
The exterior styling leverages crisp angles with dynamic flowing lines that originate from the front of the vehicle and span outward toward the rear. The end result is a sleek and aggressive exterior that also allows for a spacious and open interior with excellent visibility.
“A new generation is discovering the benefits of living in urban centers that provide convenient access to business, entertainment and social opportunities,” said Dave Marek, director of advanced design for Honda R&D Americas, Inc. “The Personal-Neo Urban Transport concept explores the packaging and design potential for a vehicle conceived exclusively around the city lifestyle.”
The exterior styling is intended to capture a future direction for premium sophistication while balancing the need for maximum interior space and an aerodynamic appearance. The interior layout, in conjunction with the rear powertrain design, contributes prominently to the exterior’s overall shape.
The layout of the interior space, with its center driving position flanked by two rear seats, provides generous legroom for all occupants, roughly the equivalent of a mid-sized sedan in a vehicle that has an exterior footprint similar to a micro car. Interior functionality is increased by rear seating areas that fold up and out of the way to increase storage capacity. The windshield serves as a heads-up display for the navigation system and the back-up camera.
The modular rear engine bay, depicted on the exterior by blue composite material, is designed to accommodate a wide variety of potential propulsion technologies including a conventional small displacement internal combustion engine, a hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain, or a battery-electric powertrain.
“The objective of the exterior and interior designers was to explore the potential for a new type of small-segment-category vehicle that overcomes many of the objections for existing micro-car designs,” said Marek. “While the Honda P-NUT concept introduces function-oriented concepts, it also shows that small cars don’t have to compromise on style or amenities.”
The Advanced Design Studio of Honda R&D Americas, Inc. in Los Angeles developed the P-NUT design study model. Honda R&D Americas began its operations in California in 1975 with local market research activities and has steadily grown its capabilities over the past 33 years to include all aspects of new vehicle research, design and development.
The three-seat PNUT is not currently being considered for consumer production.
Article Last Updated: December 9, 2009.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.