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Honda’s eight-seater to be made in Indonesia

Eight seats: The Honda Freed mini-people-mover is a top seller in Japan.

Honda mini MPV to be made close by, but there are no plans to import it... yet

13 Mar 2009

HONDA’S mini-people-mover, the Freed, will go into production in June on Australia’s doorstep, in Indonesia, for South-East Asian markets.

Honda Australia has no plans to import it, despite the recent signing of a free-trade agreement with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Indonesia.

Honda Australia spokesman Mark Higgins said the company had enough on its plate with the releases of seven new models in the 18 months to April 2009.

He said people-movers had not been a growth sector in recent times and that the company was pleased with the performance of its Odyssey, which is due to be replaced in April 2009.

A Japanese-made version of the 1.5-litre four-door Freed was launched in May last year as a replacement for the boxy Honda Mobilo, becoming the first eight-seater in its class.

Based on a stretched version of Honda’s Global Small Car Platform that also spawned the Jazz and City, it was an instant hit in Japan, becoming the top-selling minivan in the second half of last year.

Production of the Freed has now been extended to the Indonesian PT Honda Prospect Motor factory, in Karawang, Java. The joint venture between Honda and Indonesia’s PT Prospect Motor also builds a version of the Jazz and CR-V.

Honda Australia imports its Jazz and CR-V from the highly regarded Thailand factory, along with several other models including the Accord and City.

The Freed is powered by Honda’s 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine mated with a CVT transmission. It uses just 6.1L/100km, according to Japanese testing.

It features a flat floor to improve its utility, and would be a serious competitor in the small MPV class in Australia, where the Kia Rondo 7 sets the price standard with an entry level model pitched at $24,990.

With the 1.5-litre Jazz starting at $19,200 it appears an Indonesian-sourced Freed would be able to match the Kia’s price level.

The Freed has a combination of normal front doors and sliding rear doors to give access to the interior, which can be specified with five, seven or eight seats.

Honda says the sliding doors mean that, in the seven-seat configuration, passengers can gain access to any of the seats without having to use a seat adjuster.

The rear sliding doors are also handy in tight parking situations, and the turning circle of just 5.2 metres is handy in tight spots, too.

The third row is split 50/50, and in the eight-seat configuration, the second row is a bench seat with a 60/40 split.

The Odyssey is priced from $39,300. It sold about 1700 units last year to place third behind the Kia Carnival (3152) and the Toyota Tarago (2949).

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