Sadly not, just a perished rubber seal…
Now that my company’s premises have finally moved (after 27 years of failed attempts…) memories swiftly return to the family run garage, directly across from the old plot. Dealing mainly in the average, everyday eurobox, pleasant surprises could often appear, sitting forlornly outside, awaiting attention.
The last such surprise before the move was no less than a Honda Stepwgn Spada – sadly not a misprint, but Honda’s way of saying Step Wagon. As for Spada, well, what were they imbibing in Hiroshima? Had swords been this slab-sided, the weapon would have an altogether different history. But drop your nomenclature concerns and seek further depth!
The example witnessed by your author was a third-generation model from 2010, imported into the UK just two years ago. The friendly mechanics informed me of the reason for this Sword’s presence – a fuel pump failure. The local customer explained how, as one might expect, the car was pristine on arrival. Developing the fault, he limped the Sword to the garage and parked up. Problem sourced, the new part was then ordered from Japan (no exact date of arrival).
Having since moved away, the outcome remains unknown but my interest was nevertheless piqued. First revealed at the 1995 Tokyo motor show, Honda gave this Civic based, cab-over engine minivan the uninspiring moniker of FM-X. Brought to the JDM market the following year with its new name and lasting four before facelifts, options were as sparse as the car itself; a solitary 2.0 litre, 125bhp, four-cylinder B-series petrol mated to a four-speed CVT.
Measuring 4,705mm long, 1,695mm wide and 1,815mm high, the 2,855mm wheelbase held the car’s 1,400 kilogram weight. Conventionally opening front driver and passenger doors, the rear travellers made do with a passenger side only sliding door making for a six window DLO. The rear door hinged upwards, making for a fine shelter should it rain on your picnic. A mild facelift for ‘99 gave way to the second generation in April 2001.
Unchanged dimensionally, major changes were found both inside and regarding powertrains. Now utilising K-series mills of either 2.0 litre 160 PS or a 2.4 litre 162 PS flavour, these were seen at improving on the original’s somewhat lacklustre forward motion. That larger engine also came with a five-speed box.
If the first Wgn comprised just seating, the cabin space now became themed around the family. Play Mode for sitting opposite with interaction, and Food Mode with easily made tables. The latter two being practically the same – Sleep and Cargo Modes. 2003 saw another Wgn facelift as it introduced the Spada name as model line. Popularity gained momentum with 24,000 sold in the first six months of 2004 whereas the third generation arrived in May 2005.
Maintaining the wheelbase and weight, a trend buck occurred as this version became shorter and lower. The Wgn sported powered sliding doors on both sides, which compared with fellow homegrown rivals. Those sides now possessed a tapering diagonal slash, breaking up the plainness of its predecessor which also introduced the eight-side DLO. Spadas now had their own unique front end.
Powering the fourth, 2009 generation of the Wgn was the R-series, a 2.0-litre, 150 PS engine only available with the five speed CVT. A complete redesign saw the Wgn grow to a length of 4,690mm with height another 50mm. Those diagonals deleted for a recess following the sliding doors. Three years on the facelift brought with it some new wheel rims, rear parking camera and front end highlights.
The fifth Wgn arrived April 2015 heralding yet more awkward naming. In attempts to lure yet more families into Stepwgn use and ownership, Honda introduced an asymmetric door to the rear. Named Waku Waku gate (Japanese for exciting), this 60/40 split door came with three opening angles to allow either in and egress in those perennially tight parking spaces or the ability to toss in the school bags or shopping without unlocking the whole car. The third row of pews could magically disappear into the floor space. Wiggling hips and stooping, one could then attempt the fabled Waku Waku, the rear glass aping the Land Rover Discovery’s angle of incidence.
Those sides now offered a minimal wheel arch blister whilst keeping the eight windows. Wheelbase measured 2,890mm with a length of 4,690mm for standard models, Spadas gaining an extra 50mm. The engine line-up comprised a 1.5 or 2-litre hybrid, with middle aged spread tottering the scales around 1,700kgs. Two years later, the facelift heightened the Wgn’s aggression for its DRG; more chrome and the featured car positing a (possibly aftermarket) chromed license plate area.
Honda had given the Wgn an odd air of entitlement by fusing beauty and utility, “often found in the Northern European design stable” with Beautility Living. This insipid blunder apparently included relaxing shapes, colours and materials, visibly comfy seating along with “casual and smart” storage areas. Honda also revealed the standard Wgn was designed from the Waku Waku forward with its Spada brethren from its bling grille, backward.
But that exciting gate had been expensive to design and build and its weight put paid to future plans. Thus, the new for ‘22 Stepwgn became more upright, boxy even. Keeping the eight lights, this almost Minecraft-esque looking vehicle appears a 21st century version of the original. Laced with usual forms of technology, the model lines are named Air, Spada and Spada Premium Line. The plain Jane yet powered tailgate itself now sensitive to opening angles.
Also sensitive being Honda, losing ground to rivals over recent times, the admittedly novel Waku Waku gate clearly not enticing enough choosers into the buying channels. And aside from those brave, or possibly foolish importers we may not know the fate of this or any future incarnations.
Returning to the old premises a few weeks later to collect forgotten items, the Stepwgn remained, no fuel pump had yet arrived, hampering this Sword being released from the garage scabbard.
Data Sources: Motor1.com, Honda Global
 Internet rumours abound of this set-up’s underpowered nature; poor fuel economy, woeful acceleration along with poor quality materials both inside and out as well as uncomfortable seating. This hardly puts a positive case forward as a family moving machine.