The original 1st Generation Honda Stream was a great success when it was launched back at the turn of the new millenium. At that time, it was a great new concept in 'people mover'. It spawned a new generation of people mover models from Japan. Unfortunately as they often do, Honda left the Stream alone for many years and its competitiveness was gradually eroded as competitors came out with alternate models, some of them actually better designed. The strongest of these competitors was the Toyota Wish and for a while, it outsold the Stream here in Malaysia. However all these looks set to change with the launch of the new 2nd Generation Honda Stream.

Previous generation 1st Gen Streams sold in ASEAN have been built by Honda's plant in Indonesia. When Honda launched the new generation Stream earlier this year for the JDM, Honda Malaysia patiently waited for the Indonesia plant to switch production to the new Stream. Unfortunately the recent natural calamities that overwhelmed Indonesia also delayed the moving of the ASEAN assembly to the new generation. This was still not done by the time Honda Malaysia had sold off the existing stock of 1G Streams. So the alternative then was to import the Stream from Japan. However, this move would be counter-productive. The Malaysian import duty structure for fully built cars (known as CBUs) enforces quite a hefty penalty in duty compared to locally assembled units (CKDs) or even CBUs from within ASEAN (according to the AFTA or ASEAN Free Trade Agreement). This directly means a higher selling price, or much lower profit margins for the Stream. Nevertheless, sales of the 1G Stream had really been quite stagnant and when stocks were finally finished, Honda Malaysia had to make a decision whether to introduce the new generation or to stop selling the Stream altogether. The decision was made to swallow the bullet and to launch the new 2nd Gen Stream, taking CBU stocks directly from Japan.

Malaysian Domestic Model Line-Up

ModelHonda Stream 1.8 iVTEC
Model CodeRN6
Configuration16V SOHC i-VTEC
Displacement1,799 c.c
Bore X Stroke81.0 X 87.3 mm
Compression Ratio10.5
Max Power140ps (103kW) @ 6,300rpm
Max Torque17.7kgm (174Nm) @ 4,300rpm
Steering Ratio14.23
Transmission5AT with Torque Converter
BrakesVentilated Disc (F), Drum in Disc (R)
Parking BrakeFoot Actuated
Suspension FrontMacPherson Strut
Suspension RearReactive Link Double Wishbone
Wheel Size15 X 6JJ
Tyre Size205/65R15 94S Yokohama S47
Overall (LWH)4,570 X 1695 X 1545 mm
Wheelbase2,740 mm
Tread1,470 F, 1,470 R mm
Ground Clearance150 mm
Kerb Weight1,385 kg

For the new 2G Stream, Honda Malaysia again launched only 1 variant which they labelled as the Stream 1.8 i-VTEC. This is equiped with the 140ps R18A SOHC i-VTEC engine from the Civic 1.8S. This engine is undersquare in configuration and of course features the new innovative 'economy i-VTEC' implementation which utilizes very long valve opening duration - well into the compression stroke - and DBW to reduce (air) pumping losses during light throttle driving and thus acheive superlative fuel economy. For those unfamiliar with this implementation, refer to our R-Series Technical Overview for a more in-depth discussion of this mechanism. Besides i-VTEC technology, the R18A also features many other technologies and ideas. These are covered in our R18A Technical Overview. Specs-wise the R18A delivers the same as that of the Civic 1.8S - max power of 140ps (103kW) at 6,300rpm with a max torque of 17.7kgm (174Nm) at 4,300rpm. As an illustration of the effectiveness of the economy i-VTEC implementation, Honda rates the fuel economy of the R18A engine as used on the new Honda Stream at 14.8km/l which is quite astonishing for a 1.8l engine that delivers 140ps !

The gearbox is also the same 5AT as that used on the Civic 1.8S though based on information from Honda's JDM line-up, the final drive ratio has been increased to compensate for the heavier bodyweight of the Stream. The individual gear ratios remains the same. The gear-stick continues to be put on the dashboard proper, like in the previous 1G Stream. The dashboard features large meters for the instrument panel and the steering wheel now features telescopic adjustment in addition to tilt.

The Stream continues to use the front strut/rear double-wishbone suspension. Brakes are ventilated discs for front and solid discs for rear though the nomenclature used for the rear brakes is a little bit misleading (called 'drum in disk' by Honda). The Stream is equipped with 15" wheels bearing 205/65 size Yokohama S47 tyres.

As standard across the whole line-up from Honda Malaysia, the new Stream is equipped with ABS + EBD, and dual front air-bags. The air-bags are now called 'Dual i-SRS' and features a dual-stage, dual threshold system. They actually deploy at two different rates and thresholds depending on the severity of impact and seat belt use. While the new Stream do not feature 'enthusiasts items' like sequential shifting mode for the 5AT or HID headlights, Honda Malaysia made a special effort to fit it with a sunroof as standard. This is the slider type which slides inside the roof when opened.

One item which should cause some issues with potential buyers of the new Stream is that the air-conditioning system is only single zone and comes with a single blower and front vents only. In a vehicle as long as the Stream and in a country as hot and stuffy as Malaysia, the lack of rear air-cond vents is seen to be problematic. But not so with this new Stream. The key is a pair of air-cond vents located centrally on the dashboard. These vents are angled upwards and works in conjunction with a specially designed streamlined roof. In operation, the air-flow from these two vents are directed by the roof profile to flow evenly over the whole vehicle including to the 3rd last row right at the back of the vehicle. I have first-hand experience of this system on an extended journey out of town. So I can vouch for the effectiveness of this system. Over a journey that lasted 3-4hours, I sat in both the 2nd and the 3rd (last) row of seats. Even with fan speed set to medium, there was a constant draft of cool air coming into the 2nd and 3rd row of seats. Cooling is very efficient and despite the hot weather during the journey, I never felt stuffy and never sweated.

The new Stream's chassis features increased use of strong, lightweight, high tensile steel along with tailored blanks that incorporate fused steel plates of varying thickness and materials for more efficient strenghtening. This results in increased body rigidity and a 10kg reduction in overall weight. The pillar joints have been strengthended to improve rigidity of body door frames. The sub-pillar located behind the front pillar in the 1st Gen Stream has been eliminated. This also eliminates the triangle window. The end result is improved visibility and a cleaner outer appearance. All these contributes to a much better driving feel as well as safety.

At the moment, it seems that Malaysia is the only country outside of Japan to have the new 2nd Gen Stream as part of the official domestic line-up. Chalk up another point for the hard working product planning staff at Honda Malaysia ! For the previous generation Stream, Honda Malaysia offered only the 2.0l version. That came with some nice features like a sequential shifter. However the problem with it was pricing. Despite switching to being supplied by Honda of Indonesia, the price of the 2.0l Honda Stream (1st Gen) was still above RM150k. In Malaysia, this RM150k price barrier is of particular importance. Due to local taxation laws for businesses, the amount of capital allowance permitted for vehicles bought for business use is halved when the cost of the vehicle exceeds RM150k. So for buyers who want to purchase the Stream for business use, the RM150k price point becomes an important consideration. For this reason, for some time while parallel importers were allowed to bring Hondas into Malaysia, the 1G 1.7l Stream was very popular and enjoyed good reception and sales. Eventually the authorities stopped parallel importers from dealing with Hondas though early this year, they were allowed to do so again. Nevertheless, as an indication of how well the Honda Malaysia head product planner understands his customer market, the specification of this new 2G Stream including its features were specially chosen and packaged to the RM150k price point. Thus the selling price for the Honda Stream is RM149.8k, just below the RM150k barrier.

Vehicle Highlights

Honda Malaysia's marketing campaign for this new 2G Stream was described as '7 seater for 2'. This was explained as being that they target this vehicle as the family car of choice for newly married couples. Thus the family starts at 2 but will gradually increase in number and the new 2G Stream is envisaged to be with them in this journey through life.

From the Honda press release for this new 2nd Gen Stream, it is stated to feature an 'agile low-slung form that expresses functional beauty reminiscent of a coupe'. In fact, the presentation for the Stream starts with the fact that Honda wants to present the new 2G Stream more like its a 'Compact Sports Coupe' rather than a people-mover van, i.e. a 7-seater sports coupe. Thus the slogan of '7 for 2' being used for this new 2G Stream.

Subjectively for me, the new 2G Stream's front end shows clear similarity with the Odyssey and also the Honda AirWave, a JDM-only wagon. The rear profile reminds me of the CR-V. The new Stream is lower than the old one, by 45mm (almost 2in) in overall height. The wheelbase has been increased by 20mm. And to improve room in the 3rd row, the tandem distance between the 2nd and 3rd row has been increased by 30mm. The side sill has been redesigned and gives an extra 20mm of width for 1st and 2nd row passengers. For the 3rd row, a new slim fuel tank creates a lower floor and combined with a reduced cross section in the rear frame results in more width. The new Stream features a lower center of gravity and a new optimized flat floor design.

Honda is particularly proud of the new flat floor of the Stream. Work was done to eliminate the floor tunnel (which is not needed for an FF) and along with exhaustive efforts to remove every bump and gradation in the floor resulted in a completely flat floor. This significantly improves the feeling of spaciousness of the new Stream. To enhance this spaciousness, the seat mechanisms have been re-designed for easy operation. Manipulation of the seats in the previous 1G Stream, especially the 3rd last row has been one of the biggest complaints by owners. In this new 2G Stream, the 2nd row seat now features an easy slide mechanism to permit access to the 3rd row seats. In operation, it's very much like the front passenger seats in a 2door sports coupe. There is a lever on the left of the seat rest, near the head-rest. Pull this lever up and the seat rest will fold down till flush and flat against the seat cushion. Now reach over to the bottom of the seat and pull the slider lever and the whole seat can be pushed right to the front. This allows a very wide passage from the side door to the rear seats.

A very big improvement has been made to the 3rd row of seats. They are now an evenly split design unlike the single piece bench design of the 1G Stream. This greatly improves luggage space flexibility as now half of the rear seat space can be used to carry 1 passenger while the other half is folded down to give important extra space for luggage. In this mode, luggage space is now enough to swallow the luggage for 5 adults for an overnight trip - including the results of our mandatory shopping souveniors for the family. The operation of this 3rd row seat is the most improved of all. Instead of a huge bench that requires a college degree to figure out how to fold and unfold, the new seats on the 2G Stream features a pull lever, similar to those on the foldable rear seats of cars, like the new Civic. So one just needs to grab the lever handle and pull and the seat rests can be folded flush and flat against the cushion. The seat itself cannot be slided forward or backward but when upright, the seat rest can be set in a few positions. This is important because it allows us to control the rear luggage space even when both 3rd last row of seats are used. When both are used but adjusted properly, it is now possible to put two full sized luggage into the rear luggage space. The luggage space itself features 2 separate lidded compartments left and right for greater versatility to suit a variety of uses, including the ability to store wet items separate from the luggage proper.

Other than the seat operations and luggage space, one of the issues with the previous 1G Stream is the rather high seating position, one that constantly reminds the driver that he/she is driving a van. In line with the new 'compact sports coupe' direction of the new 2G Stream, the drivers position is now almost exactly like that in a car. In fact, the 2G Stream drives so much like a car that one can quickly forget that one is driving a longish people-mover (van). When driving at speed, the Stream do not feel fast. Rather it can quickly misled one into complacency especially when approaching corners. Fortunately the Stream corners well too for its size and length. When pushed beyond its cornerning limit, it will deliver moderate (not mild but moderate) understeer. But even when drifting outwards due to the oversteer, it still felt stable and under control.

In terms of acceleration, the R18A engine performed pretty well. With 5 full adults on board, we could still overtake slower moving vehicles. In tighter overtaking situations, I found shifting into 2 to be more than sufficient. The tuning of the engine sound at heavy throttle is similar to that on the Civic and so listening to the R18A revving can be quite pleasing. Unlike the CR-V, the new Stream still uses regular single-pot brake calipers for the front. Nevertheless the braking is still more than sufficient, even for hard driving.



Honda Malaysia have delivered yet another good model into the local domestic line-up. For a time, it looked as if the Stream will be deleted from the Malaysian domestic line-up as Honda R&D looks set to pull back yet another model to make it 'JDM-only'. But thanks to hard work by the Honda Malaysia head product planner and some common sense from Honda R&D itself, the Stream has now made its official return back to the local domestic line-up. No doubt other countries will quickly follow this move.

Ever since I first saw the new 2G Stream in real-life, when I encountered 1 unit from Singapore on the road here in Malaysia during the SUPER GT race earlier in June this year, I have been extremely impressed by how good the new 2G Stream looks in real-life. Singapore Streams are sold by parallel importers as Kah Motors (~ Honda Singapore) do not feature it in their domestic line-up. But with the official launch here in Malaysia and a chance to not only check it out but drive it, I am even more impressed with the new 2G Stream. While maintaining the same basic principles, the new 2G Stream offers some important improvement over the previous 1G Stream, very worthy improvements indeed.

Wong KN
October 2005
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