21 May 2004

Honda is preparing a family of new MPVs to cash in on the growing popularity of people carriers. And it appears to have a surprise up its sleeve with this mystery MPV spotted testing near its Swindon base.

Looking like a cross between a stretched Jazz and a high-roof Civic, the mules point to a new entry to sit alongside the Jazz and the forthcoming Family Recreational Vehicle, or FR-V.

The FR-V will be shown in July and goes on sale here in November. It will copy the Fiat Multipla’s six-seater three-plus-three layout in a market currently dominated by five- and seven-seat cars. This should better balance room for passengers and luggage.

Jazz-like flexibility is promised, with the rear three seats folding flat for increased luggage capacity, the middle seat in the first row lifting out to provide more room up front.

The FR-V will use a modified Civic front-drive platform, running Honda’s responsive i-VTEC petrols in 150bhp 2.0-litre and 120bhp 1.7-litre form, and a 140bhp 2.2-litre i-CDTi diesel. A four-wheel-drive version is almost certain for the Japanese market, but is unlikely to make the jump to Europe. It doesn’t look like the FR-V will get a low showroom price to tackle the £13k Renault Scénic and Citroën Picasso though. The need to differentiate it from the Civic hatch will dictate an entry price above £15k, stretching beyond £17k for the priciest models.

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