Home > Uncategorized > Starting a New LIfe

Starting a New LIfe

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Cheap and Cheerful

After months of searching, I’ve got myself a new Life, literally and metaphorically.

In the metaphorical sense, a new world of opportunities has been opened to me. In the literal sense, I’m the proud owner of a (slightly used) 2009 Honda Life G.

As mentioned in my previous post, most Japanese dealers do not sell off the lot, but have a limited availability of test drive cars. My new Life was one of them, for the fine Honda Cars Yokohama group of dealers. In its 12 months of service in that capacity, it was driven only 6,000 km, and was carefully maintained. Unlike most Japanese used cars, it has not been smoked in, nor eaten in, nor modified in any detrimental way. And despite the excellent condition it’s in (and largely due to the outrageous color), a year’s depreciation has saved me hundreds of thousands of yen – about 30% of the price as new – and helped take the sting out of a new car purchase.

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Big in Back

Enough of that, though, and a bit more about the car. The Life was comprehensively redesigned for the 2009 model year, and along with the Suzuki WagonR, is one of the newest in its class. A so-called “middle-height” kei, it has ample interior room front and rear, even for six-footers, and a healthy amount of cargo space with the rear seats down. While it lacks the trick folding seats of Honda’s Zest or the sliding rear seats of most of its competitors, its exceptionally low load floor and fixed design gives it the greatest cargo capacity in its class when the rear seats are up – even while providing business-class legroom in back.

Mechanically, Honda’s kei leave something to be desired – the suspension is a bit busier than the silky-smooth WagonR, and the engine, while happy to rev, strains a bit when paired with the four speed automatic (most of its competitors now have a CVT). Strictly on numbers, the Life’s 660cc 3 cylinder is down four horsepower on the class leading Daihatsu engine, even with Mitsubishi, and a touch behind Suzuki and Subaru. But it is smoother than most of the 3’s on the market, with excellent, linear throttle response, and for those with a distaste for the buzzy, anemic feeling of CVTs, the 4AT feels more like a regular car.

The earliest production models (like mine) introduced electric power steering to the Life, and due to the largely female customer base of these cars, it was modified to feel a bit lighter at highway speed from mid 2009. I personally am not much ruffled by missing out on the newer version, because the steering now is a tough on the light side, and a touch too light on center for my taste. It’s never vague, but it’s never dialed in, either. More than anything, however, the impression from behind the wheel is overwhelmingly one of Honda-ness. For anyone who has driven Honda cars before, the Life will present few surprises, despite its diminutive proportions. I’m inclined to believe this is a good thing.

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A beautiful view

The Life is available in three flavors: the standard “G” (with the stripped down “C” for businesses), the pinch-me cute “Pastel” and the confusingly named “Diva” (which is supposed to appeal to men). My car is a G, which despite its positioning in the lineup still comes with a lot of standard equipment. Power windows, keyless entry, air conditioning, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, power folding side mirrors, UV rejecting glass with rear privacy tint and – most trick of all – a standard rear-view camera cover all the bases. Step up to the higher end Diva or Pastel models, and this itty-bitty commuter, Honda’s most basic model in Japan, can be spec’d with HID headlights, rear park distance sensors, curtain air-bags, auto climate control, aluminum wheels, hard disk based navigation and keyless ignition. Pretty cool considering that, so specified, you’re still looking at a purchase price of around ¥1.5 million, taxes included. It really does pay to live small.

But best of all, by buying off the lot, it will be in my parking space in less than a week, rather than waiting the three to four weeks common when buying new.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 79rivers
    March 24, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Honda! Good choice. The kei is quite dependable. Before we got our VW Polo we used my wife’s 1990 Honda Today. It was 16 years old when we finally splurged on the new car, and it could have lasted much longer.

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