- We like...Engine, steering, price
- We don't...Handbrake
Honda's MPV is one of very few to offer six seats. But will its two rows, three-seat layout please or plague you? Five, six or seven? We’re talking seats here. And if you’re buying a car for a family, it is the first score that needs settling.
Hit on the first or last option and there are dozens of models to choose between. Pick six, and you’re down to two. You’re looking at the more likely one here. Otherwise you’d be off to buy Fiat’s Multipla – a good car in its day but now an ageing design that’s popular second-hand but which sells new in tiny numbers.
It and the FR-V pack the same seating layout – two rows of three, each of which slides fore-aft so that you can arrange the cabin just-so. In the Honda the chairs are wide enough for grown ups. But unless they are slender, they’ll be jostling for elbow room – and that’s not much fun for the driver. Slide the middle chair rearwards, though and it’s fine for a toddler in a forward-facing child seat, because they can be attended to easily, when needed.
Having a full-sized companion sat where the gear-shift and hand brake would otherwise be poses problems. Honda solves them by putting the gears high and on the dash (good), while the brake works off an ‘umbrella’ handle under the dash (not so good). And, because there’s also a jack for your iPod and a fussy-looking fold out twin cupholder under there, too, the below-dash space is kind of crowded.
At first, you feel oddly off-skew at the wheel, and there’s a feeling that the car’s as wide as it is long. In truth, it is a few millimetres wider than, say, a Citrn C4 Picasso or even the Multipla, but it’s by no means the chubbiest thing on the road. And that feeling soon dispels, helped by a good view out through its deep and wide ‘screen and a driving position which, though high-set, feels definitely car-like.
Honda has long been good at making petrol engines but its diesels haven’t shone as brightly. Until now: this 2.2 motor is a honey. It mayn’t be the quietest at idle, but it is very quick and willing across the revs. Team this with a short throw, positive gearbox and it’s a nice thing to row along.
What’s more, the FR-V strikes a fine balance between good body control and a forgiving ride. You’ll feel the bumps a jot more than you would in, say, a Renault Scenic, but the springs and dampers take the sting out of all but the biggest. And they also keep the car’s big body in check, so that you can drive the FR-V with spirit, if you’ve a mind.
Generally, Hondas aren’t cheap cars new but this one sits competitively against five-seat rivals and carries generous levels of standard kit. Second-hand they are sensibly priced, too – while the make’s excellent reputation for reliability makes them a strong buy for the long-term.
Should you buy one? Yep – just make sure that you’re happy with the seat layout and that wide body first.
For new and used Honda FR-Vs, go to motors.co.uk
- Engines2.2 diesel
- 0-60 mph10.1secs
- Insurance groups11
Motors.co.uk value verdict: