On the move

Honda’s next car could come from In­done­sia, writes Mark Hinch­liffe in Thai­land

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

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

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