Having previewed the car in September, Honda has officially launched the new second-generation N-One in Japan. It looks practically identical to the last one on the outside, but the company promises that this latest kei car is smarter and safer than ever before.

Just the different front and rear fascias appear to separate new from the retro-chic old. The trademark blacked-out front panel hugs tighter around the circular headlights for an even more cutesy look, while the single bumper air intake is broader to accentuate the car’s scant width. Designers repeated the same design at the rear with the black bumper appliqué, which also carries the reflectors.

The exterior lighting is also revised. The headlights are set further into the body and come with round positioning lights that double as the indicators. Meanwhile, the rectangular taillights look more modern, with a slimmer red outline and full LED technology.

With the redesign, Honda is cutting down on the number of changes between variants, with all cars sharing the same front bumper. The differences are in the details – both the Premium and RS models get a larger grille (slatted on the former, a honeycomb mesh for the latter), LED front fog lights, clear taillights, a rear spoiler and chrome front and rear bumper garnishes. The window strip, door handles and additional door mouldings are also finished in chrome for the Premium and gloss black for the RS.

That’s not all – the wheels get a two-tone finish for the Premium and matte black for the RS; the Premium Tourer and RS variants get the same fetching 15-inch Y-spoke alloys. Oh, and Honda has now reserved the black A-pillar wrap for the two-tone paint options, which is a shame.

But the real changes are found on the inside, where the N-One benefits from a brand new, pared-back dashboard design. The highlights include a large upright decorative panel and differing shapes for the air vents – circular for the driver, rectangular for the passenger. There’s also a floating head unit slot, a dedicated climate control panel and a revamped twin-meter instrument cluster with a colour digital display.

The front seats are also now individual buckets, freeing up space for centre stowage compartments, cupholders and no less than three USB ports for the front passengers alone. An electronic parking brake replaces the previous foot-operated system and comes with an automatic brake hold function. As before, the N-One utilises the Jazz‘s unique centre fuel tank location and eminently practical rear Ultra Seats.

Speaking of which, the car is offered with a new Rear Seat Reminder that detects the rear occupants and alerts the driver lest they forget; this feature is said to be the first in the kei car market. It also now comes with auto high beam and reverse pedal misapplication control, joining the rest of the standard Honda Sensing features that also include autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane keeping assist, lane centring assist and traffic sign recognition.

Power comes from the same S07A 658 cc three-cylinder engine in accordance with kei car regulations. Original and Premium models come with a naturally-aspirated version that makes 58 PS at 7,300 rpm and 65 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm. The turbocharged mill in the Premium Tourer and RS, on the other hand, produce 64 PS at 6,000 rpm and 104 Nm at 2,600 rpm.

Both powertrains are mated to a CVT with the option of either front- or all-wheel drive. For the first time, the RS is available with a six-speed manual gearbox and is front-drive only, making it the only car in the segment to be offered in such a configuration. Notably, it is also the only manual kei car to come with adaptive cruise control and lane centring assist.

Prices for the new N-One start from 1,599,400 yen (RM63,100) for the naturally-aspirated, two-wheel-drive Original, rising up to 2,022,900 yen (RM79,800) for the all-wheel-drive turbo Premium Tourer. The one you really want, the RS manual, retails at 1,999,800 yen (RM78,900).