Honda’s new home market compact minivan may have a strange name–“Freed,” which is short for “freedom”–but it features a low-floor/low-center of gravity concept to make it both roomy and easy to maneuver in crowded city streets. Despite an overall length of just 166 in. on a 103-in. wheelbase, the Freed can carry up to eight passengers in the three-row version. Honda also offers “mobility assistive” variants that offer side lift-up or front passenger-lift seats, as well as a wheelchair-accessible model to “share the freedom and fun of mobility.” It’s an important addition to Honda’s home market lineup where the company is leading the market in sales of minivans and MPVs. Honda’s car sales, on the other hand, are declining as stalwarts like the Civic sell below expectations.
Passengers in the Freed benefit from theater seating which gives each row of seats a higher H-point than the previous one. Honda claims this increases the sense of spaciousness by allowing rear seat passengers to see over anyone seated in front of them. This staggered elevation also reduces the likelihood of motion sickness by keeping passengers in visual touch with their surroundings, a process that also is helped by the available Skyroof panoramic sunroof. Entry to the second and third rows is through sliding side doors that create a 24-in. opening, and the second row seats flip and fold to ease access into the rear of the compartment. The interior measures nearly 50 in. from floor to ceiling, nearly 57 in. across, and Honda interior designers placed the feet of each successive row of passengers under the seats in front of them. This is made possible by placing the seat tracks at the far outer edge of the pedestal-style seats.
The powertrain for the Freed mates a 1.5-liter inline i-VTEC four-cylinder to a torque converter-equipped CVT transmission or conventional 5-speed automatic. Available in either front- or all-wheel-drive, the driveshaft of the AWD version has an unimpeded path to the rear wheels as the fuel tank on all models is biased to one side of the vehicle under the second-row seats, making its layout similar to that of the Honda Fit. The Freed is similar to the Fit in other respects, as well. For example, the front suspension is by MacPherson struts, while the rear uses an elongated H-shaped torsion beam. High-strength steel and larger cross-section structural members combine with Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure to give the Freed both its structural rigidity and crashworthiness. This similarity also means Honda can slip the Freed into the assembly facilities dedicated to producing that model to meet demand, or expand distribution to include markets like the U.S. as fuel economy regulations tighten.