Then I got a call from Becky Advertlets asking me if I am interested to join a test drive on the all new Honda Freed. I was also told Paul Tan will be there with his partner Harvinder (Harv). Then I was told there were prizes to win. And not forgetting those Honda Girls going to be standing around with umbrellas.
How to say no?
The meeting point was at Souled Out, Hartamas and the test drive will be taking us to Putrajaya Waterpark.
I got to the event about 15minutes earlier and used the time well to take photos before the crowds come in. Being a noob with car test drive, I just put what I want to see, as a consumer – a potential buyer (I paid up my car already what!) would look out for.
So, here it is, my review of the car, inside out, upside and downside and everything I found out that I would like to share…and perhaps help some of you looking for a Compact MPV to decide and weighs some pros and cons.
First look - Exterior
The All New Freed is peculiar in design. It looked feminine from the outside like the new face lifted Honda Jazz. But that doesn’t meant it would not appeal to the more masculine herd. The target segment is aiming at young families with discerning taste and demand. Freed was first launched in April 2010 and this is the first facelift that this model received. Classified as Premium Compact MPV, Honda Malaysia states that this is an untapped market/segment.
From a buyer point of view (without checking the price first), I would had placed Freed closer to Nissan Livina on the higher end or Perodua Alza on the mid-price segment. All three MPV shares similar dimension (though Livina is a tad shorter in height) and only differ in features.I noticed that the car comes with spoiler, door visor and fog light which I later found out that these are add-ons or Honda Modulo accessories. These I would say gives the car a pretty good “finished” look. Buyers are always looking for something “extra”. I would be if I am considering changing my current car.
The wheels are 15-incher shod with Dunlop tires. It did not look out of place as the Freed is pretty large. By comparison, my car is shod with 14-incher. Perhaps it’s a Malaysian thing where larger wheels are often related to “performance car”. I was a little worried if the 1.5l engine would be able to handle the car weight and move these larger wheels. I guess only a test drive could tell.
I found one of the car unlocked and did the first thing a Malaysian would do when they are checking cars out. Yeap, you guessed it right – open and close the door. The solid “thud” certainly sounded solid! OK. PASS! I then proceed to open the rear boot to check the space out and can’t help but notice that low tailgate height…mid-shin for a 5’7” average Malaysian. Back when my kids still relies (or rather me and wifey) on the baby stroller, and I am talking about the full sized pram or travel system, space was an issue. Then I have to ensure that the rear is huge enough for me to place my girlfriends in (read: bicycles). Am a bit suspicious if I could actually put the bike in AND still ferry the family to race venue (but do bear in mind this criteria is only limited to cyclist/triathlete). With the last row folded up (it folds up, literally, like those 4wd), I bet there will be sufficient cargo space. After all, Freed is conceptualized as a 4Seaters+Ideas and the last row is meant as an option should the grandparent needs to be moved together with the family for outings.
Next up was the rear door and I was surprised that it was an auto-sliding door usually only found in higher end Japanese MPV! The second row made up of two individual seats with armrest, which I later found out was called Captain Seats. The driver and second row passengers get armrest. Cool. It will certainly add to a more comfy seating on those long journeys.Impressive Interior
First thing I noticed as I sat in the front passenger seat was the dual-layer dash. It is a two tiered set up and there was ample space to place just about anything (within the depth of the dash, of course). I noticed that there were tidbits and drinks prepared by Honda Malaysia and it was a really nice touch!
When the last row was folded up, my initial thoughts were confirmed. There will not be able to ferry my girlfriends around. I still could, but I would have to remove the front wheels and slide it in, taking up the space of the second row as well. Or I could just remove both wheels and lay it down.
The Test Drive
The bloggers (all 32 of us) were then shown a PowerPoint presentation on all the Freed’s unique selling points or USPs. I’ve actually already listed most of it above. But to reiterate and to share the points in the presentation, they are:
- Automatic sliding doors with remote control (which also stops if there are obstruction or possible pinching)
- Easy access and low tailgate opening
- Flat floor and flat roof
- Walkthrough cabin
- One step low floor with grip assist
- High rigidity structure and Macpherson struts (front) and torsion beam (back)
- Small 5.2m turning radius
- 5speed (WOW!) Auto transmission, drive by wire
- Dual layer dash with multilayered (blue) display
- Foot parking brakes and dash gear shifter
- Double DIN sound system with USB and Aux-in
- 6Stars JNCAP rating with dual front airbags
- Antilock Braking System, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist (ABS, EBD and BA)
- G-Con+ACE rated safety body
- Lost count of how many places to store many things
We were reminded by Harv many times that this is a MPV and not a sports car. I think he is right. But being the typical Malaysian male (and female), I believe many would wish they are behind wheels of some really awesome machine.
For me, I know very well that this is a people mover. It brings you from point A to point B and then some. I have my expectation set and if I were to compared, it is really to the “less than” premium MPV I am driving now.
I was grouped (or rather, self appoint) with Becky and two other chaps which I found out their names later (Hello Jason Chan and Leonard!). The route will be an 80km route from Souled Out to Putrajaya Waterpark. Experience tells me that this is but 80km (remember, I cycle on MEX, and it is 50km one way if I were to ride till the Wetland in Dengkil). Nevertheless, the test drive started with Jason driving. Mix town-highway for the first portion.
As the car pulls into the highway, the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) was really good. It was cruising at 90km/h and a decent conversation at a very audible level with the radio humming in the background was actually possible. Wind noise was almost non-existence (maybe I am too used to white noise) and the suspension soaks up the (typical) Malaysian road. As a passenger, I noticed that the body roll was minimal (rigid body and new-ness of the Freed perhaps?) and that everyone could actually, without drama, continues to tweet and update their social network on the test drive without feeling nauseated (motion sickness). Infact, I am not someone that could be driven and I find the whole experience manageable.
At the first stop, Becky took over and she handled the car pretty well. She tested the brake (ABS, EBD and BA) and I must say (never mind the drama) the car halted within a short distance. Freed did not behaved any wilder than a goldfish in a tank with the braking maneuver. Well done Becky!
We stopped at Putrajaya Waterpark for about 30minutes and that was when the bloggers took the car for more photography sessions. We were set to win prizes!
It was then my turn to drive and I took Freed from the Waterpark to the R&R KL Bound. This is my first experience driving a Honda with i-VTEC. I brought the car to 6000rpm (evil grin) and went from 0-100 in time faster than when I last a mean 5liter machine (heavy clutch la!) I must say this car is responsive. It should gives adequate real-life torque (I say real-life as a lot of numbers are on paper only) to get out of sticky situation like coming head on with a pothole (swerve and speed to avoid traffic on left or right) or to quickly overtake a car moving 80km/h on a 110km/h highway (middle lane) with a Singaporean driver flashing from 1 miles away on the fast lane (rightest lane) – you know, those situation where you want to maintain a sane speed and at the same time having to move away fast enough from traffic coming right at you from behind (judgment needed of course, remember to drive safe).That short 15km drive with 5km worth of highway was pretty good for me to judge and compare with the two compacts (Koreans). Freed lies equal, if not better than the current car I am driving in terms of engine perkiness, bearing in mind my current car has 100cc more than Freed.
I also did (on a clear road – have to qualify this) a “pothole evasion maneuver” and I was not aware that Becky was applying mascara behind! Jason was in-time to take a pic and prove it.
At Souled Out, we had a debrief and a Q&A session with Honda Malaysia, of which some nitty questions (from consumer point of view) were addressed and answered.
It was lunch and then the competition where the Polaroid with the most votes will win something.
Freed is available in three colors of Brilliant White Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic and Crystal Black Pearl. Personally, I like the white, just like the car I test driven!