Practical ambitions

Proton has just come out with a turbo Exora. Can the updated Honda Freed cope?

WHAT'S NEW?

After being on the market for three years, Honda has given its Freed mini-MPV a facelift, including a tweaked front end.

Although there are no technical changes, the EL package sees additional features.

Separating it from the basic SE are a rear spoiler, leather seats, remote switches on the steering wheel, DVD player, rear parking camera and Bluetooth.

Prices remain the highest in-class at 949,000 baht for the EL - a good 110,000 baht more than the SE.

Honda probably doesn't want to regard the Toyota Avanza as a credible, modern-day rival, despite the two being powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine.

Also, the Freed has electric sliding doors, in contrast to the conventionally hinged ones in the Avanza.

Because of that, the Freed is 180,000-250,000 baht dearer than the Avanza - a lot, many might say.

But it's the Proton Exora - despite the regular portals - that begs to stand out with a recent facelift and an addition of a 1.6-litre petrol-turbo costing 879,000 baht - 70,000 baht less than the similarly specified Freed.

WHAT'S COOL?

The Freed's sliding doors are greatly useful in tight road space around the city. In spite of its high production costs, such doors make sense in an MPV.

Actually, the Freed's bigger brother, the Step WGN Spada (imported from Japan at slightly over 2 million baht) also has such practical features.

The tweaked appearance helps freshen an already modern, if not exactly appealing, design if you compare it with the more conventional Avanza and Exora.

Then there's the topic of interior practicality. The dashboard is designed with function in mind and there's walk-through access between the first and second row of seats. The chairs themselves are nice to sit in.

WHAT'S NOT?

Ever since the Freed was launched, its weakest point was the 118hp 1.5-litre motor. It remains today and is simply no match for the Exora's 138hp turbo 1.6-litre.

With 205Nm of torque (the Freed has only 144Nm), the Exora has that kind of passing power to shame the sluggish Freed.

Chassis still leans rightly on comfort.

The Freed is generally practical, but the rear-most seats need to drape sideways when not in use. Very old-fashioned, you could say.

And while Honda may offer a thousand reasons of why the Freed needs to cost this much, you really can't help thinking about the savings to be made with its intended rivals.

BUY OR BYE?

There are clearly two things you cannot expect in the Freed: value for money and performance, the former going to the Avanza and the latter to the Exora (which also gains with crisper handling and a more controlled ride).

You'd only fall for the Freed for its highly liveable package and interior, something you won't necessarily find in either of its rivals.

And over the Proton, the Freed is backed up by reputable brand, service and residuals.

Whatever, the Freed remains an annoying bag of virtues and flaws.

The average Somchai might think that had the Freed come with, say, the Civic's 1.8-litre engine, then proper performance and 900,000 baht would definitely not be a problem.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor