I’m always amazed, intrigued and a bit overwhelmed by the vast assortment of vans that were (and are) available in the Japanese domestic market (JDM). I still don’t have a good handle on all of them—probably never will—but thanks to this Stepwgn posted at the Cohort by robadr, I now am familiarized with this one.
The Stepwgn (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) is particularly intriguing, given that its size might have made it viable in the US market. It’s essentially the same size as the swb Caravan of the times, and a bit bigger then the Mazda 5, which of course was always a bit of an outsider here, but much appreciated by enthusiasts.
The Stepwgn appeared in 1996, based to some extent on the Civic, and using its drive train (2.0 four and 4-speed automatic). In 1999, it received a very mild refresh, mainly involving new headlights and tail lights. Its wheelbase is 112″, one inch less than the swb Caravan, and its overall length of 185″ is also one inch less. The big difference is width, as the Stepwgn is only 67″ wide compared to the Caravan’s 76.8″. The Stepwgn is three inches taller.
These dimensions are not that much different than the gen1 Odyssey, but that sat on an Accord platform and was lower by six inches. The JDM Odyssey and Stepwgn have both continued there, but with somewhat different roles and formats. The Odyssey is lower and decidedly more passenger car oriented, while the taller and narrower Stepwgn is lower cost and more space efficient.
The narrower interior format is somewhat evident here. The typical configuration in back corresponds to the Caravan, with 2+2+3 seating, with a narrower bench in the middle.
This is the AWD Field Deck version, which has a pop top similar to the iconic VW Westfalia.
The next generation had sliding doors on both sides, which would be handy when imported to Canada or the US, like this one in BC.
Here’s a shot of it raised.
And here’s the “bed” that’s up there.
But unlike the Westfalia, these did not come with any other camping gear. The seats folded down, but that was it. But apparently some were converted by third parties.
The Stepwgn has gone through several generations since then, and this is the most recent one, introduced this year (2022). Wheelbase is up a bit, to 114″, length to 189″, and width to 69″, still narrow in international standards, but that’s almost certainly due to JDM tax standards.