The big attraction at the Honda stand this year is the all-new Honda Odyssey, making its appearance in Malaysia just two weeks after going on sale in Japan. Now in its fifth generation, the midsized MPV builds on the original design concept and uses a completely new platform and powertrain.

Notably, it now has two sliding side doors and an ultra-low-floor platform, with a higher ceiling and a lower floor. In contrast to the low roofline of the previous generations (which was to cater for the Japanese market), the new Odyssey is a bit taller. The suspension has switched from double wishbones to the front strut/rear torsion beam arrangement.

The 2.4 L DOHC i-VTEC engine is a new one from the ‘Earth Dreams’ family and features direct fuel injection. Honda says there are no problems with Malaysian RON95 petrol for the engine which produces 175 ps/225 Nm which flows through a CVT.

Imported from Japan in two versions, EXV and EX, the Odyssey is priced at RM248,000 and RM228,000 (prices inclusive of insurance), respectively, with the EXV having individual ‘captain’s’ seats for the second row and a separate rear air-conditioning blower. As we’ve seen on the new Accord, safety is provided in generous doses and with the EXV version, there’s even a multi-view camera.

Honda is also displaying the Accord Plug-In Hybrid, a variant of the latest Accord which has been making the news in America with its impressive fuel efficiency. Plug-in capability extends the range of the car by ‘filling’ up the lithium-ion battery pack more fully from an external recharging source, rather than being charged as the car is driven. However, the charger needs to be a more powerful type in order to recharge at a brisk rate.

The Accord Plug-In Hybrid will probably not be made available in Malaysia as it’s too advanced but Honda also has another Accord variant with a conventional (and lower-priced) hybrid system like that used in the Insight but with a bigger petrol engine displacement.

It is likely that this variant could offered in Malaysia – perhaps even assembled locally since there is already the precedent of the Jazz Hybrid – but it will depend on the incentives offered by the government in the next automotive policy.

The problem here is that the government doesn’t understand that carmakers need time for planning for local production as factory lines have to be set up, and parts supplies planned. It’s not as straightforward as providing incentives today and Honda can start making Accord Hybrids at its Melaka plant next month. So providing earlier and longer-range policy announcements is more practical but it never happens here.

The CR-Z has achieved its goal of creating more interest for hybrid cars by being presented as a sporty coupe model. In standard form, it already looks quick but since its launch, tuners have been improving its performance and turning it into a racing car… so much for hybrids being intended to promote fuel-saving!

At KLIMS13, visitors can view one example of these ‘hot’ CR-Zs in the form of the CR-Z Mugen RR. This particular version made its first appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England in 2011. Fitted with aerodynamic parts and weight reduction through carbonfibre materials, the CR-Z Mugen RR sports a full-length carbonfibre underbody, twin central-exit exhaust, vented front bumpers and race-developed suspension.

Under the bonnet, a supercharger has been added to the 1.5-litre petrol engine which boosts output to a claimed 193 bhp with 225 Nm of torque. Items like the brakes have been appropriate uprated to ensure there’s better stopping power, which is what a responsible tuner would do in the interests of safety. No word on whether there will be such a version offered in Malaysia.

The third highlight at the Honda stand gives a preview of a possible future model – the EV-STER. It’s a compact roadster which suggests a 21st century Beat and it is rumoured that Honda is studying the possibility of producing a model something like the EV-STER.

Apart from having an all-electric powerplant, the notable thing about the EV-STER is that it has rear-wheel drive which should delight enthusiasts who have been lamenting that sporty rear-wheel drive cars are going the way of the dinosaurs. In the concept car, the driver can adjust output and suspension settings to suit driving preferences or road conditions – and all the while enjoying a spirited drive without any exhaust emissions.

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[Chips Yap]

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