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Tokyo 2015: Honda Step WGN – The Ultimate In MPV Practicality?

Hans November 2, 2015 14:08

At the recent 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, we had a chance to take a closer look at the all-new Honda Step WGN – a three-row seats MPV that features a revolutionary ‘Waku Waku’ tailgate and ‘Magic’ third row seats that ‘magically’ disappears into the floor.

As good as the Step WGN sounds, it’s a bit of a forbidden fruit from Japan– very tempting but you can’t have it. The Step WGN is aimed only at the Japanese market but a small number of them are also exported to Hong Kong.

That’s a shame because the 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo powered Step WGN probably one of the most practical MPVs in the world. The versatility accorded by the ‘Waku Waku’ tailgate and ‘Magic Seats’ is very impressive!

Prices in Japan starts from 2.28 million Yen, about 17 percent cheaper than a Honda Odyssey there. The Step WGN can be ordered with either a six (captain seats on the second row), seven or eight seater configuration. It competes with the Toyota Noax/Voxy and Nissan Serena.

Not satisfied with having the biggest cabin in its class, Honda has fitted the Step WGN with a unique ‘Waku Waku’ (Japanese for exciting) tailgate that can not only be opened upwards like a conventional MPV’s tailgate, but also has a smaller sub-door can be opened sideways – perfect for situations where there isn’t enough space to swing the tailgate upwards.

The ‘Waku Waku’ tailgate’s innovation doesn’t just stop there – the tailgate is designed to allow passengers to enter/exit the cabin via the tailgate’s opening, so the third row seats are designed to be tucked away flat into the boot floor, and the tailgate can be opened from the inside of the car, allowing you to step in and out of the car as if the tailgate is a conventional door.

Despite the complicated construction, there are no visible hinges sticking out of the the tailgate assembly. At a glance, everything is finished to appear as a one-piece unit, and the sub-door's hinge is brilliantly designed to be small enough to be hidden away. 

Tug the release strap on one of the two 60:40 split folding third row seats, and you will be in awe at how easy it is to fold the seat into the boot floor by using just one hand. The straps are within easy reach by passengers standing outside the tailgate’s opening as well as those sitting inside the car. The tailgate’s inside door handle is also within easy reach of those sitting in the third row.

Driving the Step WGN’s front wheels via the CVT is an all-new 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo engine that produces 150 PS of power at 5,500 rpm and 203 Nm of torque, sustained from 1,600 rpm to 5,000 rpm. In comparison, the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre Accord produces 155 PS at 6,500 rpm and 190 Nm at 4,300 rpm.

Turning circle is a pretty decent 5.4 metre.

There’s also a disabled persons friendly variant that comes with a retractable aluminium wheel chair access ramp with an electric winch, additional grip handles in the second and third row seats, and swivelling seats.

Why Is It Not Sold In Malaysia?

As mentioned earlier, the Step WGN is designed mainly for Japanese families, to be operated in Japanese driving conditions (i.e. very smooth roads, gentle climate, low average driving speeds). Honda’s global MPV is the Odyssey.

That would also imply that homologating the model for sale in Malaysia will be very costly. The model will need to be acclimatised for our local driving conditions, and Honda Malaysia will need to shoulder cost of sending between two to three Step WGNs for crash testing at independent testing facilities in Japan to obtain the necessary certification papers proving that the car meets JPJ’s (UNECE) regulations.

In Japan, documentations provided by the vehicle manufacturer is good enough, thus the company won’t be able to provide certification papers from an independent third party without incurring more cost.

Honda Malaysia also don’t see much prospect in the Serena-class MPV segment, as most the majority of MPV sales are concentrated in the Alza- and Avanza-class segment, where Honda Malaysia is likely to be making a grand entry next year with its 2016 Honda BR-V.

2015 Honda Step WGN Gallery

Tokyo 2015: Honda Step WGN Gallery

About Hans

As someone who appreciates cars not just for their horsepower value but also for their cultural significance, he is interested in the art of manufacturing and selling cars just as much as driving them. Prior to swapping spread sheets for a word processor, he spent his previous life in product planning and market research.


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