25 March 2004

A top-secret new Honda, likely to be dubbed the FR-V (Family Recreational Vehicle), will join the sportier end of the midi-MPV market by the end of the year.

Like the out-going Stream MPV, it’s based on the front-drive Civic platform, but will offer Honda’s acclaimed new diesel engines and a far greater emphasis on style and driver appeal.

An Autocar source who’s seen the FR-V in the metal describes its looks ‘stylish and aggressive,’ sporting an unusual signature crease that runs from the top of the front wheelarch to the rear window line.

This line can be seen on the Bulldog MPV concept (above), shown at the 2001 Tokyo show.

Inside, Honda has opted for a two-row, six-seat layout similar to the Fiat Multipla’s, which is considered a more practical solution than the seven-seat configuration favoured by VW’s Touran and the Renault Grand Scénic. The inherently compact wheelbase of today’s C-segment vehicles can make legroom tight for third-row passengers – a problem neatly sidestepped by a two-by-three layout.

Keen to avoid repeating the mistake it made with the Stream, Honda has also equipped its newcomer with a proper boot. The six, full-sized seats slide and fold individually, and the entire third row can be laid flush with the floor to create a totally flat load space.

The FR-V will be powered by the Accord’s 2.2-litre CDTi diesel engine. 1.7-litre CDTi and petrol 2.0 i-VTEC units will also be offered, with dashboard-mounted five-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

The FR-V will debut at the Paris Motor Show in September; prices are expected to range from around £14,300 to £18,300.

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