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Sales of the all-new Honda Freed has begun in Japan, with three different versions being made available to customers there – Freed, Freed+ and a special-needs vehicle. In total, Honda says there are 16 different variants to meet the diverse needs of Japanese customers.

The standard Freed offers three-row seating for six or seven people, while the Freed+ sacrifices the third-row seats in favour of cargo capacity, and thus, allows for a maximum of just five occupants. The special-needs version of the Freed meanwhile, is available with wheelchair access, a passenger lift-up seat or side lift-up seat.

In terms of dimensions, the new Freed measures 4,265 mm in length, while selected variants of the Freed+ are a further 30 mm longer. Similarly, front-wheel drive Freeds stand at 1,710 mm tall, while those with a four-wheel drive powertrain are 25 mm taller. The width for all Freeds however, is constant at 1,695 mm, as is the wheelbase at 2,740 mm.

The new look here is part of a design theme Honda calls “Dynamism and Functionality.” A new front-end, rear-end and lighting units are just some of the obvious changes here. Less-known items include the new windshield form that improves the driver’s field of vision, and the increased width of the rear sliding doors that now open to 665 mm (+20 mm) for better ingress and egress.

The latter is supplemented by a lower ground height of the step-in by 15 mm to 390 mm, as well as an increase in the width of the walk-through by 50 mm in the first row and 25 mm in the second row, making it easier for occupants to walk through inside the vehicle.

Once inside, occupants will discover a more spacious cabin, which sees the distance between the hip point of the first-row and third-row passengers increased by 90 mm compared to the first-gen Freed. On models with captain seats (three-row, six-seat), the sliding distance of said seats has been increased by 360 mm (+120 mm).

Aside from the spacious cabin, the Freed also gets a new dashboard layout that gets a more streamlined look than before, part of what Honda calls a “Natural Modern Interior” concept, or “Wonder Pack Interior” on the Freed+. A total of three interior colours – beige, black and mocha – accompanied by either monotone or two-tone fabric seats, and different trim finishes.

A new multi-function steering wheel, instrument, binnacle, switchgear and gear lever are just some of the big changes here. Other bits include six light colour options for both the meters and the climate control which work together. The latter sees the lights turn red when the temperature of the climate control is turned up, and blue when the temperature is turned down.

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Only two powertrains (available in front- and all-wheel drive guises) will be fitted to the Freed, beginning with a 1.5 litre direct-injection four-cylinder DOHC i-VTEC petrol engine mated to a CVT. The other option is a hybrid powertrain dubbed i-DCD, which has a 1.5 litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder DOHC i-VTEC engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and an electric motor.

Fuel consumption figures under the JC08 testing method is dependent on powertrain choice, and ranges from 16.4 km per litre up to 27.2 km per litre. As promised, the Freed utilises a new hot deformed neodymium magnet containing no heavy rare earth metals for the drive motor in its hybrid powertrain. Honda adds that the Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) on hybrid models have been downsized and repositioned beneath the first-row seats instead of the third-row seats before.

The move allows for extra space in the cabin, and also makes it possible to include a wheelchair-accessible vehicle to the line-up. Not only that, by designing an IPU exclusively for the model, Honda says that hybrid types equipped with an all-wheel drive system were made possible for the first time among other compact minivan models in the Japanese market.

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Safety-wise, Honda says the Freed uses more high-tensile strength steel for the body frame to enhance rigidity. The vehicle also gets the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver assistance systems (variant dependant), which includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and collision mitigation braking system just to name a few.

In terms or pricing, the new Freed starts at 1,880,000 yen (RM76,055), and goes all the way up to 2,748,200 yen (RM111,178). Exterior body colours include two new choices – Blue Horizon Metallic, and Citron Drop – along with Cobalt Blue Pearl, Premium Deep Ross Pearl, Mandarin Gold Metallic, White Orchid Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic and Crystal Black Pearl.

The previous Freed made its way into the Malaysian market in 2010. In 2013, two variants of the facelifted version were launched, priced at RM99,800 and RM113,500. Poor demand for the MPV saw Honda Malaysia discontinue sales of it here. Do you think the new Freed should be offered here as an alternative to the Toyota Sienta?