Windscreen wipers for Stepwgn RG

Small, easy job to do – replace all the wipers.

The RG uses a very long drivers side wiper (26″ / 650mm) and a short passenger side (14″ / 350mm). These are on a standard hook type connection. The rear wiper is a 14″ / 350mm with the fitting used on many Japanese cars.

All of these lengths and fittings are the same as the second generation Honda Jazz (or Fit) from 2007 to 2014, also known as GE.

I like Bosch Aerotwin wipers so this was part numbers:

  • AR26U for drivers side
  • AR13U for passengers side
  • H354 for the rear

You can get both front ones in a pack (AR140S) but this was more expensive!

Very simple fitting, just follow the instructions on the pack.

How practical is a Stepwagon?


I love mountain biking, so a big part of choosing a Stepwagon was to have a car that I could easily carry bikes in.

While not as big as the likes of commercial vans like the VW Transporter, it is easy to get most bikes in the back without removing wheels. Folding one of the middle row seats gives enough space to wheel a bike in – I then use a bungee cord around the frame up to the loop used for securing the seats to hold it in place.

This shows a Cannondale Trigger and Whyte T-130 (both full suspension, 27.5″ wheel bikes) easily fitting inside, with plenty of room for extra kit.

A shorter bike (such as my hybrid) can easily fit straight-on with just a middle seat folded.

If wheels are removed, the space behind the second row is ample for several bikes, allowing the whole family (or a few friends) to travel together with their bikes.


As you might expect, even large pushchairs can be swallowed easily. This is a Phil & Ted’s double pushchair which can be a bit awkward to fold neatly. We can just roll it straight in behind the middle row, with plenty of space for it to fit.

When carrying passengers

The rows of seats can slide back and forth, allowing you to choose between legroom and luggage space.

This was how we had it arranged for a holiday – 2 year old’s ISOFIX seat on middle row on the right, 4 year old’s belted seat in the rear row. Adults in the left-side seats with enough legroom, allowing the middle seat to be folded for access to the rear. This left a really good sized luggage space for our things.

Long items

As the seats fold there is plenty of space underneath them to tuck things away. You can see a travel cot underneath the right side seat in these photos, but can also see a clear path all the way to the front row for a long pole or piece of timber.


Are the buttons all in Japanese?

No, there’s nothing on the dashboard or controls that are in Japanese – they’re all in English text or the standard symbols.

The stereo that comes in the car is likely to be a Japanese satnav unit with no knowledge of the world outside Japan and no English language option. Fortunately in most cars these are a standard double DIN size and can be easily replaced with a UK unit.

There’s a few little warning labels around the cabin – I’ve translated these with the Google Translate app and they’re for silly common sense stuff like not stepping on the sliding door mechanism!

Is there ISOFIX for child seats?

Yes! The two outer seats on the middle row both have standard ISOFIX points and I’ve used them with our Recaro seats.

The only headache is if you need two ISOFIX seats fitted, and want to get people in the rear row: the easiest way in is by folding a middle seat which will mean removing the child seat.

Are parts hard to get?

Lots of parts are shared with other Hondas of the era which are common in the UK – everything needed to service them, or things like brake pads and discs are easy to find.

Specific parts like body panels or a windscreen would be trickier – there aren’t many being broken for parts in the UK. Lots can be just be ordered via a UK Honda dealer if you have a part number, or sourced direct from Japan. The only problem is a long wait for them to arrive!

Is it expensive to insure?

Not for me – no more expensive than a similar family car.

While there are specialist import insurance brokers to try, many of the major insurance companies recognise common Japanese market MPVs and can quote on them.

How much to tax?

As it doesn’t have an official European CO2 rating, the rates are the same as for pre-2001 cars: currently £265 a year as it has an engine over 1549cc.

How is it on fuel?

Not the best – low 30s mpg on a longer run, 20s for typical shorter journeys. It has a simple, reliable petrol engine and automatic gearbox that aren’t doing any clever fuel-saving stuff. If you do lots of miles, it may not be the best choice for you.

Is it very cramped?

Not at all, despite the fairly compact size. Seating 8 people would be a squeeze but we had 6 (4 adults, 2 kids in seats) plus our luggage very comfortably for a week away. Unlike many MPVs, the rear-most seats are suitable for adults as there’s plenty of headroom. Both passenger rows can slide back and forth too so that you can balance legroom and luggage space.

I have the driver’s seat in the furthest back position, and I’m just under 6 feet (1.8m) tall. Someone much larger than me may struggle a bit, although I tend to prefer a straight-backed position with the seat further back.

My import process, part 3: UK registration

Now I had the car on my driveway, I can start the process of getting it registered with the DVLA and getting a registration number so I can put number plates on it.

MOT test

For imports over 10 years old, an MOT test is all that’s required before registering the car. You can drive to and from the MOT test without numberplates as long as it’s pre-booked and you have your insurance (based on the chassis number) in place.

I gave the car a basic check over (tyres, lights, etc) and gave the battery a charge for a few hours – it had been sitting for a few months at this point and was flat.

I took all the car’s paperwork I had along with me, and stayed to wait while they did the test. Although MOT stations near the ports might be familiar with imports, my local one was not and we went through the start of the computerised process together to make sure it was all filled out properly.

A DVSA blog post was a useful reference for what the tester has to do:

Once the details were in the computer, he got on with the test and was pleased to tell me it was in great condition underneath and couldn’t fault anything on it. I went home with a fresh MOT certificate for the car.

DVLA registration

You can order forms from the DVLA to register the car (pick the “used vehicle import pack”), or they are all available now to download and print at home if you’re short on time.

Form V55/5 is the one to fill out, and V355/5 is the accompanying notes, and a leaflet explains what to do and send. At this stage you also pay the registration fee and the first VED (car tax).

The form has dozens of fields but many won’t be relevant to registering an import car – I called the DVLA and they advised to fill out as much as you have or know, and leave the rest. These are the ones I filled in. Check the notes and your own documents to ensure you get these right but these worked for me:

Country purchased from – Japan


2. Tax class – Private/Light Goods (PLG)

3. Period of tax applied for – 6 or 12 months

4. Registration fee – check the current ones but for imports there’s not a European CO2 figure so they go on engine size like pre-2001 cars. This was £265 for me for 12 months.

6. Make – Honda

7. Model – Stepwagon G

8. Type of body – MPV

9. Wheelplan – 2-Axle Rigid

10. Colour(s) – main primary colour (no fancy manufacturer paint names). White in my case.

15. Length (mm) – 4630. This is on the export certificate.

18. Number of seats (inc driver) – 8 for me, although there are 7-seater Stepwagons. If you don’t have a gap in the middle row, it’s 8!

22. Width (mm) – 1690. This is on the export certificate.

27. Year of Manufacture. I took this from the first registration on the export certificate

30. Date from which tax is to run. Remember VED is always in whole months and it will take a couple of weeks for the form to be processed – I put the first of the following month.

31. Type of fuel – Petrol.

32. VIN / Chassis number – This is on the export certificate.

33. Engine number – there should be a sticker on the offside of the engine block (left side as you stand in front of the engine), with a number that starts K20 or K24.

34. Cylinder capacity – This is on the export certificate, although in litres not cc. 1998 for a 2.0 litre, 2354 for a 2.4 litre.

46. Date of original registration. This is on the export certificate, but only the month and year, not a day. I left the day part blank.

57. Partial postcode of purchaser. The first half of my home postcode.

62/63. Personal details.

65. Mileage recorded on speedometer.

The registration document (V5) with the new registration number came back 12 working days later.

Last steps!

Now I had a V5, I could get some numberplates made up. I used Demon Plates who can supply UK legal plates in the Japanese 330mm x 165mm size – I’ve seen Stepwagons with conventional UK plates but the fit is a little awkward and I just prefer how the import size ones look!

Last task – update the insurance company with the new registration number. This didn’t have any admin fee and they issued new (digital) documents with the registration number added. It was showing as insured on askMID the following day.

Just under 4 months from winning the auction – at last I can drive our new car!

My import process, part 2: getting it to the UK

So now I have a car. Fortunately the rest of the process to get it out of Japan is done for me – Sam arranges shipping, does the conversion work (rear foglight and speedo conversion to miles) and gets the car to the port.


Cars going from Japan to the UK usually go on huge RORO (roll-on/roll-off) ships that do routes around the world.

My car was booked on the Hoegh Trapper, a 200m long behemoth that can take 8500 cars at once. Hoegh’s website lets you see the route it’ll take, and from the car’s VIN what the current arrival date is.

You can also use MarineTraffic to track the ship as it moves from port to port – it’s a long wait so it’s nice to check occasionally that it’s still getting there!


I took out marine insurance via Primo at a cost of £160 – this covers the car for loss or damage in transit, until it reaches the UK. I tried about a dozen different brokers and most couldn’t cover an individual rather than a trader, or couldn’t cover a car over 10 years old.

For when it arrives, it needs a conventional car insurance policy. The challenge here is that it doesn’t have a UK registration number yet so it needs insuring on the chassis number (or VIN). There are specialist import brokers who offer this, but I found Admiral (who’ve insured my cars in the past) could do it and were most competitive. They provided a cover note on the chassis number for 30 days, starting from the day it was due to arrive at UK port, and I can update the policy for the registration number once I have it.

Arrival in the UK

At last the ship is due to arrive at Southampton. A couple of days before, I get an invoice from the customs agent, covering:

  • Shipping (you pay this on arrival rather than upfront)
  • Import duty at 10% of the cost of the car and shipping
  • VAT at 20%
  • Fees for processing customs clearance and port terminal handling fees

The agent handles all of the paperwork for informing HMRC that the car has arrived, and paying the taxes due on your behalf.

The ship arrived on a Saturday morning, and the car was cleared and available to pick up by 11am on Monday.

Getting it home

I had planned to get a train down to Southampton, collect the car and drive it home via a pre-booked MOT test. As it was, work was busy so I arranged transport via Anyvan. This cost £180, although it saved me a £50 train ticket, £20 in fuel and a day off work.

The service was good and I could track the driver via their website on his way to me. He arrived on time and with the car in good order.

At last, it was on my driveway! But we still have a few more weeks to go before we can drive it.

My import process, part 1: buying a car

I’d decided I wanted a Stepwagon, and that I wanted to import itself myself rather than buying one already here. So first things first:

Research what I wanted

From looking at cars for sale in the UK and some info online and in Facebook groups (I’ll be collating more soon), I worked out what I wanted – an RG1 (2WD) model, in grey, dark blue, white, or silver, dark interior, ideally with both sliding doors, and a non-smoker’s car. I also wanted one that did not have the Internavi (built-in satnav) system because it would make it difficult to fit a UK stereo later on.

Find and appoint an agent

I came across Japautoagent from their YouTube channel which shows vehicles that have been purchased and are about to ship, showing the condition of the car. I spoke to Paul and he talked me through the process, and provided a spreadsheet of estimated costs, so I could see how various auction prices would affect the total I paid, and I could work backwards from my budget to see what I should bid up to at auction.

I got web access to the auction data so I could see what cars had sold for in recent weeks, and what cars were coming up in the next few days – it lets you see the auction sheet and a few basic photos of each car.

Pick a car to bid on

Either Paul or Sam (in Japan) would suggest cars, with a couple where I’d seen them on the auction system and asked them to look. They’d provide a translation of the sales and attention points on the auction sheet.

Unless there was something wrong with it, I’d get a few dozen photos and a phone call from Sam (usually late in the evening UK time!) to go through what he’d found.

If I wanted to bid, I’d give him an upper price in yen and he’d send me an email with the result a few hours later. We went through a few nice looking high-grade cars that went for way over my budget but after a couple of weeks found one that met all my criteria and we got it for 305,000 yen.

Pay for it

I got an invoice for the auction price in yen, plus a further 100,000 yen to cover the various fees. I then used TransferWise to pay Sam in yen from my UK bank account – all very straightforward.

Why a Honda Stepwagon?

The UK car market has plenty of MPVs available – why did I want this one?

Petrol engine and automatic gearbox

My Stepwagon RG uses the Honda K20A engine – a 2.0 litre petrol unit, connected to a conventional 4-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. Very reliable and used in millions of Civics, Accords and CR-Vs around the world.

The European MPV market is dominated by diesel engines, which are now being discouraged with pollution control measures in many cities, decades behind the Japanese cities. Petrol engines are making a comeback with new cars, but they are rare to find in the used market. Automatic transmissions are rare too, and tend to be complicated dual-clutch systems. Look for a petrol automatic and many of the options are other Japanese market MPVs that have been imported already!

Powered sliding doors

Sliding doors are fantastic on MPVs – kids can’t accidentally swing them open and damage them, they provide easy access in tight parking spaces, and don’t get in the way when you’re putting kids in car seats.

All the Stepwagon RGs I’ve seen have at least the passenger side door powered – many (including mine) have both sides powered. These can be operated from the handles on inside and outside, via switches near the driver’s right knee, or from the remote keyfob.

Walk-through access

Between the two front seats there is a flat floor and clear space. The gearstick is up on the dashboard, the parking brake is in the driver’s footwell. The driver or passenger can easily get to the back (to deal with children) without needing to get out of the car.

Rear row seats that fold upwards

Many European MPVs fold the seats into the floor, limiting vertical space. The Stepwagon (like many Japanese-market MPVs) has them fold upwards and to the sides, where they latch with a strap. This gives loads of vertical space, making it perfect for carrying bulky items like bikes.

A huge tailgate

The flat tailgate hinges up giving plenty of space for even a 6ft tall person to stand underneath or give shelter while you sit on the boot lip – great when it’s raining and you’re changing shoes after a walk or ride!