Monday, July 25, 2011

Some information related to new models for Asia

With Honda recovering fast from the effects of the March earthquake in Japan and production and thus supply of units coming back to normal by next month, perhaps it is a good time to review what I -believe- is the status for the various models in the line-up for Asia.

Read more after the jump

Honda Civic
It is already well known that the new 9th generation Civic has been launched in the U.S. and very soon in Europe as well. For Asia, it is generally believed that the new Civic will debut next year. Apparently the earthquake did not have any significant impact on the schedule. This also suggests that the new Civic might possibly be shown in the next Bangkok Motor Show. As should be known by Honda fans by now, Honda's HQ for Asia operations is located in Thailand and all models specific for the asian region will be launched there first, usually.

If you are in the market for a new car and you are interested in the Civic, you will thus have to make a decision whether to buy now, or wait for the new generation. Unfortunately the decision may not be that straightforward.

The current 8th Gen Civic is powered by both the R18A SOHC i-VTEC and the K20A DOHC i-VTEC. However the K-series is now over a decade old and is being phased out by Honda. It may have difficulties meeting emission and fuel economy regulations a few more years into the future. So the ASIAN 9Gen Civic is expected to NOT have a KSeries variant anymore. In fact, the current belief is that it will NOT have a DOHC variant anymore and the two variants; 1.8l and 2.0l will be powered by an RSeries engine, i.e. the current R18A and the R20A from the CR-V/Accord. Power-wise, they are expected to deliver 140ps and 150ps or maybe up to 155ps for the R18A and R20A respectively. For the USDM 9Gen Civic, the R18A has been redeveloped to use a 12V/16V VTEC configuration instead of the current R18A on the outgoing 8Gen Civic. This is a similar implementation to the one used on the original L15A CTEC on the 1Gen Jazz. It is not known if this will be done with the Asian R18As but it will probably be so. The R20A should follow the same convention.

It is expect that the gearbox will continue to be the 5AT and there will be a 5MT for selected markets (depending on that market's office). The design is expected to follow along the lines of the USDM Civic, not the futuristic looking Euro version. Only 4-door SEDANS will be offered.

Honda Accord
The Honda Accord just received a mild facelift early this year and it is not expected to see any changes for the remainder of this year. It is also just past its half-way life-span so the new generation is not expected to come for a couple more years yet. If you are attracted by the current design, the end of this year is expected to see some aggressive marketing campaigns for the japanese manufacturers affected by the earthquake. And Honda is one of them. So hopefully there will be attractive offers in the last quarter of this year.

Honda CR-V
As is known, spy-shots of the new 4Gen CR-V has already appeared on our site's news and rumours section. This is for the USDM version. However, the CR-V is one of Honda's world-wide 'global model' so the Asian version is expected to be similar. As the new 4Gen CR-V is expected to be launched later in the US as a 2012 model, thus for Asia, it should debut around early 2013.

It is again expected that Asian versions will be powered by only the R20A without the 2.4l option. This is further reinforced by the fact that the KSeries is being phased out so it doesn't make sense to debut a new generation CR-V with the K24. Asian CR-Vs should continue to be available only with the 5AT and only in RT-4WD mode. Hopefully a sequential shifting mode will finally be available though it is still unlikely.

There have been some rumours about a possible '3rd row' of seats for the new CR-V, similar to the old Mitsubishi Pajero or the Honda Freed approach for e.g. But the spy-shots do not support this rumour so it is advisable to not be hopeful.

If you are attracted to the CR-V in its current form, an EXCELLENT vehicle in its own right, and want to upgrade your car now, it is worthwhile to consider it seriously instead of waiting for up to 2 years for the new model.

The 'Sports Car'
The FD2 Civic Type-R has been discontinued in Japan for some time now, with production having ended last year. It is however still listed in the Honda Malaysia website. Apparently there are still a few units available, allocated to dealers located OUTSIDE the Klang Valley. It is not known if these dealers have already taken their allocation and the units are in their premises, or still in Honda's PDI site.

Potential buyers of special models such as the FD2 Civic Type-R are EXTREMELY fussy and careful with showroom units. Because of the exclusive nature of the car, we DO NOT LIKE even a tiniest idea of someone having sat in our precious new car, or worse still, it having been subjected to rough treatment in test-drives and such. Therefore, if the remaining units are to be sold, this question will be VERY important (and which I have no idea of the answer). But generally, it is expected that Honda dealers in the Klang Valley and major town/cities like Georgetown, Ipoh, etc, will not be able to sell you an FD2 Civic Type-R by now.

Honda has not announced whether there will be a new generation Civic Type-R or not. Even if there is one, Honda Malaysia has said that Honda HQ in Japan has indicated that NO PERMISSION will be given to market that variant here. It seems Honda continues to be adamant to keep any future Type-Rs away from non-japanese Honda fans, eventhough they know the repercussions of the decision.

Honda Malaysia firmly believes that they must continue to have a 'sports car' or at least a 'sporty model' in their line-up. I believe it is the same with most other countries. At one time the FN2 Euro Civic Type-R was considered but it being slated for replacement soon, wasn't worth the effort to bring in for sale.

According to what I have been told, Honda Malaysia is seriously looking at bringing the Honda CR-Z IMA sports coupe for sale here in Malaysia. The variant will be whatever is available, which means the current 120+ps 1.5l IMA version. The decision of whether it is 'good enough' to be a symbol of Honda's 'sports car prowness' is best left to the individual Honda fan. Owners of the CR-Z in U.S. have vouched for it as owning the famous 'Honda driving DNA' in full. But less favourable comments about the engine and its power rating continues to come in, even from owners.

There have been rumours of a 'hot version' of the CR-Z, with wild speculations about even K20A circulated by a number of mainstream motoring media (Autoweek for e.g.) I have heard no such thing from Honda, eventhough I have read articles claiming Honda R&D chief had confirmed that such a variant is coming soon. I do know of some 'very nice' experimental versions of the CR-Z being tested in research state but this is pretty normal for Honda (i.e. existence of many different kind of configurations for all models are always being tested in their R&D facility). One of our (TOV) forumers seems to be confident a high-ish powered CR-Z variant, others says that possibly a turbocharged version (?), will be launched soon. At least in the U.S. But lately rumours seems to have died down.

If Honda Malaysia is to be successful in launching the CR-Z in its current form here in Malaysia, I think Honda fans should be fair and judge it according to its actual competitors. Bear in mind models such as the Mini Cooper base version, or the Volkswagon Beetle also works with a 120ps engine only though it is true there are also models like the wild Cooper-S.

To buy or not to buy ? THAT would be a question only answerable by the actual person considering it.

Honda City
This superb model is expected to continue in its current form for now. It is actually so well done that it doesn't make sense for Honda to do any changes as it will rock the boat and might create unwanted problems. The only change I personally would want is for the addition of a manual version but unfortunately this don't seem to be in the works.

Honda Jazz
This superb model has been lamenting with slowish sales ever since the launch of the current 2Gen. The main issue is price and it seems that a combination of two factors are contributing to the excellent Jazz from being the runaway success the original 1Gen version was.

Firstly is the fact that the Jazz is priced quite high in Thailand, from where Malaysian units are imported from. Honda Thailand's line of the Honda Jazz comprises several version with affordable base versions to fully equipped top of the range versions. Unfortunately Honda Malaysia's very high standard means that 'normal' version of the Jazz for Malaysia equals to 'top' or near top of the range version in Thailand. And those carries a hefty price tag.

The other problem relates to the fact that despite all its promise, AFTA does not work out to be what car fans have expected it to be. Consequently, the high cost and high excise duties have combined to make the Honda Jazz priced almost as much as the R18A Civic. So except for diehard Jazz fans, the buyer will almost certainly choose a higher-end Civic, than the compact class Jazz. Perhaps when the new 9Gen Civic is launched, with its expected higher price range, then the Jazz might look more worthwhile price-wise.

From my personal point of view, a manual version, especially something like the Honda Fit RS 6MT sold in Japan would move the Honda Jazz from being a mainstream model to a more specialized sports model. This will then change its target market segment, allowing it to take on competitors like the 125ps 1.6 Suzuki Swift Sport, and so forth on more equal terms. Sales might improve with this move. Unfortunately again Honda Malaysia do not have any plans for a manual Jazz and Honda Thailand do not have the Jazz RS in the first place.

It is sad to see a superb model like the Honda Jazz suffering in popularity here in Asia, especially when the situation should be rectified with some simple repackaging moves.

Honda Insight
Honda Malaysia really did a superb job with the Honda Insight here. Priced at RM98,000 OTR, the Insight was the cheapest CBU from Japan car ever sold here. I understand the price has been increased slightly since but it still remains cheapest by far. The Malaysian versions are the revised versions with subtle improvements to the ECU, interior and other things so all the complaints in the internet should be evaluated carefully and personally by the potential buyer himself or herself, to see if it applies to them personally or not.

If you are in the market for a hybrid, now is a good time to take the plunge. My own plans was put into disarray by the March earthquake and consequently I have to replan for my Jazz upgrade. I was originally firm on the Insight and was about to put my booking down earlier this year. But now, being the stereotype Honda fanatic, my decision is wavering between the Insight and the forthcoming new Honda Civic Hybrid. But this is because I can wait and I have been servicing my Jazz and keeping it in excellent condition mechanically so there is no real reason for change, except for an upgrade itch.

If you need to upgrade your car for any reason very soon, I strongly encourage you to consider the Honda Insight.

Honda Stream 
This model is expected to continue in its current form for some time. Malaysia is one of the countries to exclusively get the Stream RS-Z, the sporty variant of the regular 1.8 (which is the on approved for worldwide use). The RS-Z was actually meant again for domestic only usage in Japan so it was again excellent work by Honda Malaysia to get the variant for sale here. With the Honda Odyssey no longer being sold here, the Honda Sream represents Honda Malaysia's main MPV offering here and is an excellent choice and superb value for money. A Honda enthusiast who has to move from a regular Honda sedan like the City or Civic, to an MPV for family reasons can do no wrong by getting the Stream RS-Z as it will offer a driving feel quite similar to the sedans, with ample sporty DNA.

Honda Freed
When news of the Honda Freed being offered for sale here in Malaysia first went out to the Honda fan community, there were lots of excitement. The Honda Stream RS-Z, extremely attractive it is, is also quite pricey. A Honda MPV selling for around the RM100k mark would be a great alternative. In fact, many Honda fans with family requirements for an MPV were dreaming about being able to keep their Civic SiRs and getting a Freed instead of a Stream. Then they literally would have the best of both worlds.

Unfortunately this did not work out. The problam is simply that the Freed is being marketing as a 'high-end' MPV in Indonesia, where Malaysian units are imported from. So the Freed gets features like a motorized sliding door, something exclusive to high-end MPVs like the Toyota Estima or the Honda Elyssion. While a nice option to have, Honda fans in the Freed's price range will happily do without this feature for a more affordable price. This kind of packaging simply means that the Feed carries a hefty price tag in Indonesia and while that is acceptable there, when translated to Malaysian pricing, the Freed costs as much as a Honda Civic here in Malaysia.

So again, like the Jazz, the Freed is lamenting from sluggish response here in Malaysia. I have seen a number on the road and having tested it, it is really an excellent little MPV, roomy inside and nice to drive. It is also very intelligently design with a number of very unique features. But sadly its pricing takes it out of contention for being a viable alternative to cars like the Nissan Grand Livina, or the Peugeot 3008. In fact, it sits rather in a price range of its own, too expensive to take on the mainstream MPVs and not luxury enough to go into the segment of the Stream, Wish, etc.

Discerning Honda fans will continue to be the main buyers of this model, an excellent design but let down by packaging and pricing issues.


Bertzz said...

Hi, any idea if its true tat CRZ to make its way on Malaysian road by November this year? Quite a hot and resurfacing rumour lately

WongKN said...

Possible but I have not gotten any hints about the possible introduction of the CR-Z for Malaysia. I was told there will be some 'exciting' developments towards the end of this year as Honda moves forward to try to recover from the earthquake. But to be honest, I have not heard of this november timeframe rumour before this.

Bertzz said...

Was hoping its going to be true. Initially planned to get Insight this month but delay it till October. If its real by Nov then CR-Z will be my take

WongKN said...

It could be true because Honda by nature is secretive but they were hinting of some very 'interesting' events towards the end of this year, including product launch. And as far as I know, there is no model that is due to either MMC or FMC. I would suggest it is worth waiting that extra month or two.

lee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WongKN said...

I removed lee's original comment and listed them as a proper post so that all readers will benefit from the info he gave. This post can be read from the main page. Many thanks to lee for the info.

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