Honda Stepwgn G

Honda Stepwgn Review: “It doesn’t feel like I’m using a turbo engine as it is easy to manage” by Hiroaki Iemura

Honda announced the order status of this model in the beginning of June, a month after it was released. It surpassed 15,000 orders by the end of May, three times higher than their domestic sales plan (5,000 units per month). As a new model, this is favorably high.

As I test drove the new Stepwgn, I thought that its rear gate was its highlight because its structure was unique for a vehicle; it contains a main gate and a sub-gate at the same time. (The manufacturer calls it the Waku Waku Gate.) Then I thought its second highlight is its new engine concept: 1,500cc + turbo engine. Customers who purchased this car also said that these two highlights were their main reasons why they bought this model.

I think the Waku Waku Gate has a great concept. You can open its rear gate by either pulling it up entirely or pulling the subdoor sidewards like a normal door. Whichever you choose, this innovation will surely blow your mind. When you have to make a decision, fazed and confused, and each choice has its own merits… Then you must get both! From such faint concept, the new Honda Stepwgn makes this seemingly bizarre idea into reality. I can say that this very versatile concept and the engineering that materialized it is brought about by the initiative of Honda.

According to the development group, it was fairly difficult for the engineers to establish two concepts for one movable object as they usually design with the “one movable object equals one function” concept. In this case, the “one concept” refers to the flip-up gate, which is commonly used in many cars. Then, a side-opening door where one can pass is also designed as part of that gate. This car incorporates this combination.

I certainly did not expect that there can be two movable functions equipped as one in a car. Perhaps, most car manufacturers could neither create another movable part on top of a movable part nor create a part with dual functions.

But even though this rear gate with “two doors” is a favorable concept and it is more interesting due to its user-friendliness, there is one problem about this feature: its entire weight has increased. Opening the flip-up part of the rear gate required much effort because it was heavy.

Compared to a rear gate not equipped with a small door opening sideways, they say that it is heavier by 9kg. “How necessary is ‘the other door’?” “To what extent is it convenient?” These are questions from the customers.

Aside from this rear gate, there is another great concept in this car. In the interior, there are 16 cup holders. This amazed me in that they were consistent in materializing the things that they decided to do. Subsequently, it also has 10 spots for the so-called “convenient hook”.

This consistent nature can also be found in the engine. It is added with a turbo engine, and even if the 1,500cc turbo engine has an advantage considering the tax system, it is better to use a flat torque when equipping the engine in a minivan. Perhaps through this judgment, we can say that it has an engine that is both equipped with a “mountain” of power and torque that would not let you feel that it has a turbo engine.

It accurately has 1,540 rotations but as for the specifications of this engine, it generates a maximum torque with 1,600 rotations and it maintains that condition even though its rotation rises. The manufacturers set an average of 2,400cc engine, but it outputs enough torque at its limit. For example, the engine feels stress-free even when you drive on mountain roads. This Stepwgn proposed one way of using the downsized & turbo engines.

Well then, where do we find the “life” in the Spada’s wheels? The new Stepwgn has two systems: the standard type series and the Spada that exudes a sporty feel. Both kinds have different suspension specifications and the Spada seems to have a stronger suspension that corresponds with its outer appearance.

When I test drove this car on winding roads, that difference was clear. As for the Spada’s wheels, it firmly stops with the driver’s input and it can rush into a cornering without unnecessary rolling. On the contrary, the standard type causes rolling, and it includes a mechanism where you corner and roll at the same time.

It’s apt to think that the Spada is great as a “cornering machine,” but I also felt that it is necessary to drive fast in order to actually enliven the wheels of the Spada. For example, there are continuous small corners that you often encounter on winding roads, and with the small radius of those corners, the “firmness” of the Spada’s wheels do not match well with this. In order to splendidly drive on winding roads with the Spada, it is most necessary to have a road where you can turn with an appropriate high speed. At the same time, it is also necessary to have a very skillful driver who can do high-speed cornering.

They said that the Spada achieved 70% sales in one month since its market release, and that this is also attributable to the impact of its styling. I myself understand why they selected this model. Then again, I simply commented here about the difficulty in keeping the standard model’s wheels consistent. Furthermore, regarding its riding feel when driving the town areas, there was no big difference between the two models, and this does not mean that the riding feel of the Spada is inadequate.

â–  5 Star Rating
Packaging: ★★★★★
Interior / Comfort: ★★★★
Power Source: ★★★★★
Footwork: ★★★★★
Recommendation: ★★★★

Hiroaki Iemura | Writer & Automotive Journalist

Born in 1947 in Nagasaki. With his profound theory that vehicles are “the mirror that reflects the generation”, his interests are in history, new vehicles, and motor sports is all around. He has put a lot of attention on the change of “packaging” in recent years for vehicles put on market. In regards to the vehicles made for daily use by Japanese automakers, he is proposing a new way for the world to understand their shape, the connection between humans and vehicles, and the “setting for contact.” His published works include “Vehicle Column Encyclopedia 1984~1989”, “Saisoku GT-R Monogatari”, “Prius to iu Yume” (Futabasha) “Les Mans e” and more.

(Translated by Claire Marie Sausora)