Honda`s 5th generation Step WGN minivan features a clever new rear door design that sees a side-opening door placed within the tailgate, giving back seat passengers easy access as well as providing full access for rear loading.
Depending on which part of the world you're from you may know them as minivans, people carriers or MPVs. Whatever you call them, vehicles designed to carry 7 to 8 people share a common hierarchy that runs from 1st class front to the decidedly 3rd class rear seats. Not only are these rear seats often cramped, but access is an exercise in flexibility and diplomatic negotiation.
With this in mind Honda decided to create the Waku Waku (exciting) gate, which rearmost passengers their own personal access and egress. The design combines a wide top-hinged tailgate with a sub-door that is hinged down the center of the tailgate and opens sideways for passenger access.
The rear seats are of Honda`s "Magic Seat" 60-40 split design that fold into the floor when not in use. This means there is direct access to the rear two seats.
We found that operation of both elements of the Waku Waku gate to be simple, and while you do notice it looks much heavier and bulkier than normal tailgates, the heavy-duty gas struts do their job nicely.
At the other end of the 5th generation Step WGN there's a newly-developed 1.5-liter direct injection VTEC TURBO engine that delivers fuel economy of 17 km/liter (40 mpg). The minivan also features a suite of driver-assist and active safety features including pedestrian detection, an Emergency Stop Signal system that warns following vehicles of a sudden stop, and a new front passenger airbag system designed to hold internal pressure for a longer.
At the moment the new Step WGN is only available in Japan, and it should be noted that the Waku Waku gate is currently only convenient for right-hand drive (left side of the road) markets. For left-hand drive Honda will have to produce a mirrored version, to really get the benefits of this new design.