Sunday, August 01, 2010

The All New Honda FREED

I just paid up my soccer mum car fully. It now belongs to the family. Not the bank anymore. Being a young parent with two kids running about, the thoughts of getting a larger car do come into mind. We have weighed all options from a 12 seater to a pickup truck and at long last, we decided to not consider it for now.
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!
The glove box is big and there were at least three cup holders just at the front dash! There were apparently seven in total in this car. One each for the passengers! I then noticed that the gear shifter was placed on the dash, fully utilizing what seems to be just a small footprint on the dash. Moving the shifter away allowed the flat-floor to exist. The handbrake too became foot-brake. It is now placed next to the brake pedal on the driver side. This feature usually is only available in a more expensive MPV. I must say Freed is living up to the name of premium MPV!
He seats are cushy and offers enough support. The headroom is expected for a car in this segment. Leg room was sufficient too so as long as you are not exceeding 6’2”. Just like the tailgate height, the side entrance is set low too circa 400mm or shin-height. This greatly helps with the elderly getting up into the car and for kids to go enter and exit. There was a grip-assist to further ensure good accessibilities.
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 brochures was a bit misleading too, as it shows two MTB to be able to go into the car…but the image was missing the folded third row. Does that mean the last row could be removed?
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.
The excited four were given extra task too. As planned, there was a competition for the best Polaroid to express the “Ideas” portion of the Freed tagline. The convoy of 8 Freed was lead by Harv himself (at this point, I can’t help but to think just how quiet Paul Tan is…maybe it is a different persona online and offline?) Harv offers good point on the car’s points and constantly pointed out to all of us via walkies on things to look out or feel.
The car we drove clocked about 2000km. It’s brand new and as expected, everything was functioning. I would cringe if it was otherwise.
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.
My test drive ended when I swapped place with Leonard. He brought us back to base safely and this time, I sat behind. I must say it was rather enjoyable. The climate control only has vents in the front and second + third row passengers might not be able to get the full air movement. However, this was later clarified by Honda Malaysia that there was air vents under the front seats of which would move air behind. This is similar to my current ride, though I seldom use 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. Unfortunately I did not win a thing but I am glad Becky did. She attributed it to team effort, I say it was because of the 4Seater+Ideas FREED! I was told today that Team 3 won prizes for being the best overall team. We each recieved one 500GB Western Digital Passport HDD with eLabel. Not too shabby for having sharp eyes and able to come out with nonsensical taglines for the photos. Thank you Team 3 and many many thanks Honda Malaysia!
Freed is available at Honda Malaysia for the price of RM112,980.00 OTR and RM115,118.00 for the Modulo version (similar to the one I test driven). It comes with a Honda Malaysia 3 Years warranty or 100K-km plus the first 6months or 10k-km service free. They even give a 2years or 40k-km warranty on the battery!
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!






6 comments:

  1. 1.5l??? Should have tested it with a full load of 6 adults.

    Any idea what is the after sales service like now? Too little service centres to support the amount of cars sold. Service centres are small and limited seatings. That was 2 years ago. Could be better now.

    As usual, great photos (getting better by the day).

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  2. So fast!
    Nice review. And I could actually understand it though I'm not a car person.
    Wahhaa - I did test the BRAKES very welll hor!! ;p

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  3. 1.5l with that price... MAHAL!!!!

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  4. Whoa, so fast review out! *laughs*

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  5. Terence - the tagline was 4 seaters+Idea. So, it is very much for the 4 person to see what else they can do in the car, legally.

    I heard about the services too. I did not know about this until i read your comment and confirming with friends driving Honda. I will include this in the post-test drive comments.

    Becky - Can't sleep after running mah...and while it's still fresh...better kau tim :D

    Kam - yeap. If one were to look at it that way. It shares the same City engine and City minus the space and auto sliding doors..i think about right la.

    Leo - :D kids sleep liao and not invited to your bday bash...so free to kau tim la.

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  6. Stupe,
    *laughs* I was wasted even before the place closed wei. Had to be carried home. Harvinder was there with my other friend Jacob, who carried me out of the club. =P
    In reply to your comment on my blog,
    ermm, well, it's a long story. *laughs* but yes, I tinker with a lot of exotics. =P

    ReplyDelete

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