Happy FREEDom - Honda Freed 1.5 Hybrid
With greater focus placed onto passenger comfort and optimisation of space, small cars are really not that small like before.
The previous Honda Freed had proven that even with Jazz underpinnings, a slightly lengthened and taller car could cater to those who needed to seat more than five, while not looking too utilitarian, albeit a little boxy.
The 2016 Freed follows a similar formula. Just like the previous car, a box shape gives the most when it comes to space. But Honda has definitely raised the bar with more dynamic styling cues, and length-wise, the car has grown 50mm longer, meaning more interior space.
Noticeable effort has been put into the exterior of the car. Front headlamps carry more contouring, while the two piece grille brings with it a feel of texture and chrome accenting to the front. Wing mirrors go get neat indicator repeater inserts.
Ah yes there is that sculpted roof, which also dips into the windscreen, which is a nice touch. While there are limitations to how you can style the side of a box, Honda has done quite a good job with some snazzy forming of sheet metal and side glass, and the Freed is certainly a joy to look at. Also, gone is that quirky horizontal break in the D pillar that the previous generation Freed possessed. Like the previous car, rear passenger doors are electric sliding units.
Framing for the back door is hidden behind the rear windshield, reducing the number of visible shut lines, and are visually supported by the red tail lamp covers.
Interior styling is typical Japanese in design and quality, which is a good thing. The automatic climate controlled air conditioning controls lie in the same pod as the gear shift lever, with clear and easy-to-use functionality. There are a number of useful cubby holes and trays which can carry all sorts of odds and ends. Think tissue boxes, bottles of water or even a nice cold drink to bring along for the drive.
What is an MPV without any space? The Freed delivers well here, featuring a 2:3:2 seating configuration, the middle row features a pair of 60:40 slide and fold/recline units, which gives flexibility to users. ISOFIX mounts ensure that child seats can be installed. The fact that they can also recline, would also mean that minor adjustments to help ensure that the child seat is mounted firmly, can also be done. Back row passengers also benefit from the raised under-profile of the middle row, where they can slot their feet under the middle seats, and a small indentation in the middle seat backs to create more knee room. The low floor of the Freed also makes entry or loading of cargo easier.
Stowing away the rear seats to create more cargo space involves lifting them upward and towards their hinge, and hooking them into the side of the cargo bay, essentially giving you station wagon-like utility. If more room is needed, the middle row too can be lifted forward to free up more space, and the Freed would be able to take on loads like a small van.
While we would not expect sporty handling from the compact sized MPV, we did appreciate the all-round visibility due to the large amount of glass, and the clear and easy to read instrument cluster.
Apart from now standard driver aids like ABS and the like, the Freed also features the “Honda SENSING” Advanced Driver-Assistive System, which features lane keeping systems, Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control. Most importantly, the Freed also features Forward Collison Warning, which would alert drivers if a possible collision is going to happen, and would alert the driver. In worst case scenarios, the system would also automatically begin braking. Such systems are usually reserved for more expensive premium makes of cars. Increasing the number of active safety features helps provide peace of mind when you drive your family.
Suspension travel for the compact MPV is long, and it does soak up the bumps decently well. Cabin noise is low, with just a little bit of engine drone penetrating.
The Freed Hybrid uses a 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine, and an electric motor which is integrated to an efficient 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, which is good for 131bhp and 134Nm of torque. This is unique, as most hybrids run on CVT transmissions.
The petrol engine Freed utilises a more conventional 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine which produces 128bhp and 155Nm of torque, driving the front wheels via a CVT transmission.
Within its compact 4,265mm x 1,695mm x 1,710mm footprint, the FREED makes the most of that space. The slide and fold middle row ensures that optimum flexibility is delivered.
There are bigger compact MPVs out there which fall into the next segment, the FREED shines with its technologically advanced active safety features. The twin electrically operated sliding doors, which house electric windows add to its appeal.