Room but no power for the people
26 October 2004

The 1.7-litre Honda FR-V exists to create an entry-level price point. It’s the FR-V ‘from’, with prices ‘from’ £14,750; then a salesperson will point out that for only £20 a month more you can have the 2.0-litre SE, with six gears instead of five, 16in wheels instead of 15in, VSC stability control and 25bhp more (125bhp to 150bhp).

But why wouldn’t you choose the 2.0-litre for an extra £20 a month? Search me. If £5 a week makes that much of a difference to your budget, you wouldn’t be looking at a relatively pricey product like the FR-V – you’d be buying a Citroën Picasso instead.

Despite all that, you’ll like the small-engined version of Honda’s clever new six-seater MPV, and there’s not a big penalty to pay, unless you’re doing regular motorway work. The little engine revs smoothly and with great gusto – like most Honda engines, it exceeds expectations – with low gearing helping to disguise its relative lack of torque (113lb ft compared to the 2.0-litre’s 140lb ft). It’s nippy and easy to use around town.

But at higher speeds, the engine’s incessant spinning grates a bit: at 85mph, it’s revving at 4440rpm in fifth, where the 2.0-litre is turning over at a more sedate and natural 3320rpm in sixth.

Honda chose the UK launch of the FR-V to announce its new ECO (Easy Care Option) package, which gives you an FR-V 1.7 SE for only £300 a month, including five years’ free servicing and three years’ free insurance.

Just add fuel. And you get the same sensible six-seater cabin package as the 2.0-litre provides, including Isofix mountings for child seats, both for the centre chair in the front row, and the outboard seats in the rear. That makes the FR-V 1.7 a terrific ownership proposition and a very enticing package. But not as enticing as the 2.0-litre at £320 a month.

Bill Thomas

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