2012 Honda Freed Review
2012 Honda Freed at a glance
The 2012 Honda Freed is not quite the premium MPV it is claimed to be despite the marketing hype. While it handles surprisingly well and boasts a well-packaged cabin, the 2012 Honda Freed ultimately proves too average to justify its premium pricing.
2012 Honda Freed quick specs
2012 Honda Freed ratings (overall rating : 3.5/5.0)
Some call the 2012 Honda Freed different; how it looks like nothing else out there. Some others call it futuristic; exactly how a 21st century mini-MPV should look. But there is simply no running away from how boxy—and weird—the Honda Freed looks. Kudos to Honda for designing a car that looks unique and well-differentiated from the Honda Jazz and City on which it is based, but the 2012 Honda Freed remains a car that you buy and hope that it will eventually grow on you. Surely, then, the Honda Freed's success in Japan is not down to its appearance?
The 2012 Honda Freed is one of the easiest to maneuver in city traffic thanks to its compact dimensions, excellent all-round visibility and light steering. Based on the platform that underpins the Honda Jazz and City, the Honda Freed handles in a similar well-mannered, predictable fashion, exhibiting minimal body roll and good grip across winding roads. It even displays a liking to corners, tracking a chosen cornering line with surprising composure and accuracy. What take the shine off driving involvement are the higher-than-usual seating position and the electric power steering that could offer more feedback.
The suspension, tuned to handle a full load of seven, produces a slightly firm ride when the 2012 Honda Freed only has one or two on board. While most road scars are dealt with competently, the ride may get bouncy over highway undulation for occupants in the third row, which is located directly above the rear torsion beam setup. Wind noise is well kept-out at the highway speed limit, and the clear-to-read instruments and easy-to-navigate controls make driving the 2012 Honda Freed a breeze. However, the lack of steering reach adjustments could be an issue for some drivers, and the lack of rear air vents means cooling down the entire interior could take some time; not good news for third-row occupants in a climate like Malaysia's.
Quality + Reliability
The 2012 Honda Freed may be marketed as a premium compact MPV, but its cabin surely conveys little of that. The futuristic two-tier dashboard appears appealing at first sight, but closer inspection reveals plastic quality of the hard and brittle variety—a rare sight in a Honda. To banish the premium billing once and for all, the steering wheel is bare and unwrapped and the door trims feel flimsy. The saving grace? The switchgear that operates precisely and the consistent panel gaps, inside and outside, that we are used to seeing in a Honda. The proven engine and transmission should also weather the test of time and prolonged use.
The 2012 Honda Freed shares a drivetrain with the Honda Jazz and City, which means a 117 bhp, 146 Nm 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The engine performance, aided by a fifth gear ratio, may be more than adequate in the Jazz/City. But the not inconsiderable 1355 kg strains the engine, which has not been tweaked for more torque or a lower peak torque rpm (still 4800 rpm). The 2012 Honda Freed's acceleration is at best respectable—much like a sluggish Jazz/City's, and pushing the engine too hard brings out a vocal engine note. The performance becomes more responsive at higher speeds, however, while the gearbox shifts in a seamless, smooth manner.
The seven-seater Honda Freed has been marketed as a “4 Seater + Ideas”, which effectively says that it is designed for four occupants, but with a third row that can ferry three more occupants or be folded up for extra storage space if the need arises. Front- and middle-row occupants enjoy plenty of head- and leg-room, but those at the back will have to depend on the charity of middle-row occupants for adequate legroom. The tall roof, low floor, unobstructed “walk-through” layout and electrically-powered rear sliding doors improve rear access. There is however a lack of upper grab handles, arm rests and hooks for an MPV. Like for similar rivals, with the third row in place, luggage space becomes severely compromised.
Fuel economy is good, achieving between 12-13 km/litre on our test drive, thanks to Honda's fuel-efficient 1.5-litre engine and the use of a five-speed gearbox instead of a four-speed gearbox that is the class norm. However, that figure quickly becomes sub-10 km/litre with a heavy-footed driver at the helm. Repair and maintenance costs should be affordable to Honda Freed owners. As it is the case for the majority of Honda models, the Freed would easily be the class-leader when it comes to resale values, depreciating the least in percentage terms. As resale market trends go, the Honda badge commands a premium.
Value for Money
Marketed as a premium compact seven-seater, the 2012 Honda Freed costs RM 12K and RM 36K more than the most expensive Nissan Grand Livina and Toyota Avanza variants, respectively. Hence, the 2012 Honda Freed must prove itself to be class-leading in most, if not all, aspects of consideration, which however is not quite the case as it turns out. We can live with the borrowed engine and mechanicals, because the Honda Freed does handle and go sufficiently well for an MPV. It also has a couple of novel features and a well-packaged cabin, but there are glaring quality deficiencies, surprising ergonomical issues and an unimpressive equipment list—all of which are uncharacteristic of any self-professing premium car.
The 2012 Honda Freed comes with retractable power side mirrors with turn light, remote control power rear sliding doors with anti-pinch function, automatic climate control, 4-speaker 2-Din audio system with USB connectivity, fabric upholstery, dual front SRS airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Neck Shock Mitigation seats.
Like its fuel economy, the 2012 Honda Freed's carbon dioxide emissions level is competitively low, once again credit to the clean engine and one more gear ratio. The 2012 Honda Freed is an environmentally-friendly car to drive not only because of its relatively low fuel consumption and minimal emissions, but also because of its capacity for seven occupants, which lowers the carbon footprint per occupant. Keep in mind, however, that no amount of brilliant engineering can save the environment if you choose to drive F1-style all the time!
Live Life Drive Verdict
Well-packaged, seven-seater cabin
Low running costs
Disappointing cabin materials
Some ergonomical issues