The Sunday News
WE are looking at some of the best cars to look out for coming out of Japan as used cars. Cars that are reliable and will take you miles with minimal issues under normal usage.
I know for sure that most people who know their cars well must be thinking of the 2001 Honda Stepwagon and thinking why I would even bother writing about it. Relax, we are looking at the 2005 model. It’s not as hideous as the older brother. The older model must have been designed by a Ford guy, it somewhat looks like an LDV. The 2005 model Honda Step Wagon is definitely a Minivan to look out for. It has the space, the looks and an engine that will take you to Mars and back.
From a distance you’d think that it is a Nissan Serena but it isn’t. It has a sharp nose, crystal lights up front, sagging lights at the back. I say sagging because it seems they were positioned rather low. It didn’t so much lose that Honda feel because somewhere in its design you will see a Honda Fit, a Stream and a Honda Elysion.
This model was completely redesigned from its previous form to compete with the likes of the Nissan Serena. It is quite apparent that these two cars are in competition and not sure who copied whose design as they look very similar. I should say that the previous Stepwagon model probably had no market because of its unsightly looks. It had a sliding door on one side and that was changed with the new model. The new model has power rear doors, meaning you just press the button and they slide open for members of your royal family to embark.
It has become standard for Hondas to have the gear lever up on the dashboard and that is the trend with the Stepwagon. It has a rather weird dashboard styling. The dashboard was made out to be a shelf with storage compartments on top. The all digital instrument cluster is hidden upfront almost diving into the windscreen. It’s all clad in pretty plastic with some modern designs, no fake wooden trim, no funny colours . . . what you see is what you get.
Satnav comes standard with reverse camera to help you manoeuvre without getting in the way of other objects. You get Abs breaking system as standard. By design this van is a front-wheel drive as it is with most Hondas anyway. Some were then made into 4wd but with a transversely set up engine.
The Stepwagon is powered by a 2000cc K20a engine, well enough to power you to Mars and back as I said earlier. All I’m trying to say is that it’s an engine that is reliable enough to see you into the apocalypse. The K20A is a 4 cylinder naturally aspirated engine with 4 valves per cylinder. It has the I-vtec system which increases power output and makes for a very fuel efficient yet powerful engine.
It’s a light weight engine with an aluminium block and aluminium head. This engine is quite famous as it is found in many other Honda variants like the civic, Stream, CRV just to mention a few. Since they are so many, you won’t have a hard time finding spares for them since the biggest challenge we face with some of these ex-Japanese cars is the availability of spares to suit them.
When it’s going through the city streets the K20a is quiet and well behaved but when you call it to come to play it roars like a lion. The floor of the Stepwagon was lowered to improve on the handling, you’d notice the older model was taller and didn’t make much of a stable car with all the body roll, however, all that was fixed in this newer model.
The engine drives a 4-speed automatic transmission which drives the front wheels and 5-speed automatic for the 4WD model. Some select models have the dreaded CVT transmission with front wheel drive only. Don’t shy away from it, it gives driving a minivan some pleasure and most people are beginning to understand that it isn’t that bad as long as you take good care of it with the right service.
It is therefore well worth looking out for the Honda Stepwagon as it is one of the cars that’s likely to take over the show in the minivan segment. Other similar models like the Serena and the Liberty have given people a hard time and not so good a run for their money but Honda has a reputation of building cars that will definitely drive you to the end of the world!