On the move
Honda’s next car could come from Indonesia, writes Mark Hinchliffe in Thailand
THE next addition to the Honda Australia family could come from Indonesia. The Japanese brand already brings cars to Australia from Thailand and Britain — in addition to its home base — but Indonesia could open the door to a low-priced, Jazz-based seven-seater called the Freed.
The Freed is a top-10 seller in Japan, where boxy people movers — led by the Nissan Cube — are king, and is now under active consideration for Down Under delivery.
Honda Australia boss Satoshi Matsuzawa says the company is ‘‘always considering’’ other models for their eight-strong local line-up. And he can see potential for the Freed.
‘‘It seems to be different to others in Australia. Customers may have some need for this. We will study it,’’ he says.
The Freed is about three years old in Japan and has been made in Indonesia for the past year. If it comes, Honda’s local sales and marketing chief Takuya Tsumura says there are several factors that will decide where it is built for Australia.
‘‘The exchange rate and other factors will determine whether it comes from Japan or Indonesia,’’ he says. ‘‘ But both would be the same quality standard. It’s another indication of
The huge tailgate extends from the roof almost to the bottom of the car, providing an enormous practical loading area with a low, knee-high cargo floor.
But though it is big, the tailgate doesn’t feel heavy and doesn’t lift higher than most people can reach to pull back down.
As with many Honda models, the cabin has an open and airy feeling with a sense of space.
However, though the cargo area and headroom give it a barn feeling, the leg room is deceptively shy.
Also, the dashboard juts out at the front passenger, encroaching on knee space and the side doors feature awkwardly intrusive knee-height ledges for the electric window switches.
Upholstery is hire-car standard and the seats have little support.
The dashboard and door sills have hard plastics, but the fit is very good.
Unfortunately, the carpet joins have exposed staples.
The seat packaging and nifty hidey holes are very clever, as expected from Honda.
However, there is no outside arm rest in the second row because of the sliding doors.
If it comes to Australia, it would have to include stability control as standard and have six airbags, as all Honda models will from next year.
However, it’s not known whether the side curtain bags would extend to the third row because the seats fold out sideways like a Toyota Prado, potentially obstructing the deployment of the airbags.
The rear row only has a lap seatbelt for the centre occupant, but a lap-sash arrangement with the sash mounted on the roof could be arranged. Honda’s global standards. Potentially we could get other cars from Indonesia in the future.’’
But the Freed might not survive as the Freed, with a name change possible for Australia.
‘‘Perhaps City Plus or City Max, since it’s based on the City platform,’’ Tsumura says.
The Freed — or whatever it’s called — would be likely to have a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range. Tsumura says it would be ‘‘a little bit higher than the City VTi’’, a range which would take it up against the Kia Rondo and a much cheaper choice than the sexy people-moving Odyssey.
It would be difficult for Honda to charge a premium if it was made in Indonesia. However, Thai-made Hondas already use automatic transmissions supplied from Indonesia and manual gearboxes from the Philippines.
Honda also points out it has stringent global quality controls and standards.
Freed is powered by the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine from the Jazz VTi. Its mild maximum output is 87kW of power at 6600 revs and 146Nm of torque at 4800.
The 1497cc engine is married to a five-speed automatic transmission with a shift lever mounted on the dashboard, as in the Odyssey and CR-V.
It’s available overseas in four models S,E,E Sport and E Navi Sport — all with electric sliding side doors.
The top-line models come with satnav and a roof-mounted DVD player for the second and third row that doesn’t obstruct the driver’s rear view.
It’s a relatively sleek machine for a people mover, looking a little like the Mercedes B-Class.
It has bug eyes, a wide mouth and a funky rear tailgate spoiler.
All that Jazz: The Honda Freed offers plenty of room and style for a
people mover. The seven-seater Honda Freed could soon be on our roads