Honda FR-V has got real six appeal; Why compromise with a seven-seater car when you can have far more fun with six, says GRAHAM YOUNG.
TEST DRIVES can be deceptive. After half an hour with the Honda FR-V I reckoned only people really wanting a six-seater car would buy it.
Ten days and 1,200 mostly Cornish miles later, saying goodbye was as tough as leaving Fido at the vets.
As a kid in short trousers, trips to Cornwall meant peeling myself off the back seat of our Ford Pop.
"They'll never make cars as good as this again," my old man used to say on arrival, while I'd wonder if I needed a skin graft.
Several clunking British cars in the 70s seemed to prove him right until he bought a Honda Accord, his last car before he died far too young in 1985.
Handing back the FR-V brought back memories of selling the Accord which drove like a dream.
It's hard to believe that Honda has only been established since 1948 - initially making motorcycles.
But its pursuit of engineering excellence through innovation continues to astound.
The Fiat Multipla pioneered the contemporary six-seat formula, but it looks positively ugly.
More importantly for we private buyers, the Italian manufacturer has never enjoyed Honda's regular lofty status in the annual JD Power survey for customer satisfaction.
The FRV's build quality was rock solid and, with little more than 2,000 revs in sixth gear on the motorway, it purred like a fireside cat down the M5 and beyond.
And that was with four passengers and a very full, substantial boot.
A boot in a six-seater car?
Unlike the seven-seaters masquerading as family cars by effectively dumping the kids in the hold, the FR-V has plenty of room for cases and a pram.
Because of airbags, none of our children had ever been in the front of a car before.
But we were happy to see them sharing the novelty of the FR-V on trunk roads by letting them use the middle front seat which has no airbag.
To seat six adults in comfort, go for the 'twin V' formation. Sliding the two middle seats back a few inches eliminates elbow argy-bargy and creates personal space. For real driver comfort, when there are four passengers or fewer, fold the middle front seat down for an arm rest.
Or, to experience the ultimate in passenger luxury, sit in the middle rear seat and put your feet up on the back of the folded front equivalent.
So why the initial reservations?
The dash-mounted gearstick took a while to get used to as well as the wide, offside front pillar.
Moving my head more than normal on Cornwall's tight bends cured the latter problem, caused by the car's extra width, while the gearstick soon became such second nature that returning to my own car caused a greater, week-long problem!
Factor in Honda's strong residual values on top of the FR-V's exceptional ride quality, low motorway noise and stability even in high winds and you've got a beautiful, quality car.
So why are most manufacturers chasing seven seats when even a family of five like ours will rarely need more than six? It beats me...
The new Mazda 5, for example, puts two of its seven seats in the boot and the narrow middle 'seat' of the second row of three isn't really a proper seat at all.
And, in Cannon Hill Park, I recently asked the owner of a Toyota Corolla Verso how he found his seven-seater.
"No room in the back and not very good in winds," was his verdict.
He should try the FR-V. It's at a nice height for access and visibility, yet compact enough on the outside to make finding parking spaces easy.
And if, like my wife, you can't remember its initials, think of FVR - for Favourite.
Honda will know what you mean.
Honda FR-V 1.7-litre
Price: pounds 15,212
Max speed: 113mph
Acceleration 0-62mph: 12.3 secs
Urban 30.4mpg Extra urban 43.5 mpg Combined 37.7mpg
C02 emissions: g/km 179
FAMILY FAVOURITE... the Honda FVR is a step ahead the rest when it comes to six-seater vehicles.
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|Publication:||Birmingham Mail (England)|
|Date:||Nov 17, 2006|
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