The year 1996 delivered on the most memorable JDM people carriers ever, the uniquely named Honda Stepwagon (usually styled STEPWGN, but pronounced Stepwagon). The Stepwagon fell into the mid-size range of Honda’s eclectic collection, but boasted a better occupancy of up to 8 passengers, better than fellow Honda models the Odyssey or Stream (both max. 7 passengers).
The Stepwagon is currently on its fifth generation, which have so far run as follows:
First generation: 1996-2001
Second generation: 2001-2005
Third generation: 2005-2009
Fourth generation: 2009-2015
Fifth (and current) generation: 2015-present
The car has undergone a number of facelifts and modifications over the years. One of the biggest and most beloved changes was the Stepwagon Field Deck in 1998, which we will feature more in this piece. You can find more on the Stepwagon Field Deck below.
Key Stats for the Honda Stepwgn
First Generation – 1996-2001
Wheelbase: 2,855mm (112”)
Length: 4,705mm (185”)
Width: 1,695mm (67”)
Height: 1,815mm (71”)
Fifth Generation – 2015-Present
Wheelbase: 2,890mm (114”)
Length: 4,690mm (185”)
Width: 1,695mm (67”)
Height: Max 1,855mm (73”)
Fuel economy: The Stepwgn on average gets a combined economy of 26mpg for city driving, and 31mpg for countryside driving.
Background – Honda Stepwagon
One of the first things that helps the Stepwagon stand out is its higher-placed cabin, giving you greater visibility than its Odyssey sibling MPV. The car first appeared as part of the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show. At the time, it was known simply as the F-MX, but production and sales of the new Stepwagon began in May of the following year.
In the beginning, the project seemed in many ways to be an exercise in providing a budget family car. When you look at most of the main features of the first generation, like the cabover engine design, and there being only one engine/transmission specification to choose from. Honda also cut down on steel panels and parts, and opted for a simple 2L inline four engine with CVT.
And so, the Stepwagon was born. It received many updates and facelifts over the years (see more below), and most notably the family leisure/vacation model, the Field Deck, which came along in 1998 to offer a whole new way for families to enjoy the great outdoors.
Features – Honda Stepwagon
Engines and Transmission
Stepwagon started with a 2.0L B20B engine in 1996, which while not that impressive in itself, was within the guideline of “budget model” that Honda was going for at the time. The second generation brought new engine choices, this time the 2.0L K20A (160 PS) or 2.4L K24A (162 PS), which stayed with the Stepwagon as it entered its third generation in 2005. This was interesting considering the amount of change that came to the vehicles outer design for the third incarnation.
The year 2009 brought the Stepwagon back a little to just a single 2.0L option, but it offered considerably more power at 15 PS. The eco revolution stretched to the latest generation (starting 2015) as certain models (e.g. Stepwagon Spada) were fitted with 3-mode hybrid engines that could run on all-electric, hybrid or petrol.
The Stepwagon was available as a 4- or 5-speed automatic, with 4WD available on select models (including the Stepwagon Field Deck)
Features – Honda Stepwagon
The first Stepwagon to emerge in 1996 may look a little boxy compared to its later, curvier descendants. It should be noted, however, that as a budget model it was quite typical for the target market it pursued. Whichever way you might regard that initial release, it was a popular and high-quality vehicle that a family could depend on.
The 4-door design persisted through the first and second generations. The driver’s side had a single door, and the passenger side two doors, including a sliding door to access the rear seats. Later, a 5-door design was introduced that included a sliding door on both sides.
Major redesigns and facelifts happened in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2012, 2015 and 2017. The result is that the range of Stepwagon people carriers has become quite varied in itself.
Features – Honda Stepwagon
The interior is fairly simple; a kind of no-frills level of comfort which is fairly typical for the Japanese market of the 1990s. Later generations were significantly upgraded with greater comfort, air conditioning and other additions that made it a more luxurious, even high-end feel compared to the 1996 model.
On many, you’ll find good-quality cloth upholstery, standard analogue dials. Basic safety upgrades like ABS and SRS airbags became standard in 1997, and the standard package augmented with Honda’s own safety packages over the years. The latest versions include Honda Sensing park assist, which includes automatic parallel parking.
The seating is very flexible and adaptable, you can arrange it in different ways, and of course lay it all down flat to make a rear bed. An additional upper bed is added on the Field Deck version (see below)
Background – The Honda Stepwagon Field Deck
The JDM Honda Stepwagon became something of an unsung hero in the world of outdoor pursuits thanks to the creation in 1998 of the Stepwagon Field Deck. This van shared many of the same physical design and engineering hardware features as the 1st-generation Stepwagon, but there were a number of key differences that set this model apart, and make it still much sought after to do this day.
The announcement came with some fanfare from Honda’s press department, taking advantage of the momentum that the popularity of the first Stepwagon had developed. It was originally developed by a Honda affiliate company, Honda Tokuso, which later dissolved in 2008.
Features – Honda Stepwagon Field Deck
January 22, 1998 was D-Day for the Field Deck, and the Japanese public was finally introduced to the many new features of this exciting new outdoors model. These features included:
A pop-up roof/observation tent that gave enough sleeping space for up to 2 adults. It made a very comfortable and separate space for kids especially, allowing the whole family to sleep with a bit more room between them!
The tent itself includes waterproof neoprene panels, making it a true all-weather edition, with no need to worry about water seeping in during the night.
It also includes insect nets, and the mesh design means natural light comes in and makes it a pleasant space to be in.
Body-colour roof panels made high-quality and durable rust-proof fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP).
Height with observation tent stored up was just 1955mm, making it able to fit into multi-storey car parks and their spaces. The 4WD version is 1970mm high.
The Field Deck comes with seemingly no end to storage, holders, pockets and other compartments that make it perfect for the family camping trip. Some editions, usually marked “Camper” even came with a rear foldable kitchen facility with a fold out table surface and gas stove. When you want a great-value MPV for the outdoors, they really haven’t built better camper vans since the Stepwagon Field Deck.
Stepwagon – Step into life
The popularity of the Stepwagon was always its ability to serve well the families that purchased it. It was easy to drive, affordable, spacious and packed with utility. Whether you were going on the school run, dropping kids off at baseball practice, doing a big weekly shop or going on a camping trip, the Stepwagon was that giant mechanical family member you always needed to help you along.
To learn more about our inventory of Honda Stepwagon, get in touch with us today.