Blog: 24 hours in Jerez
Dave Leggett | 20 October 2004
I'm now back from a flying visit to Spain to try out the new Honda compact MPV, called FR-V. The big idea in the FR-V is a two row 3+3 seating layout (as opposed to the more usual five or seven seats in cars of this class). Only the outlandishly styled Fiat Mutipla, one of the widest cars on Europe's roads, has previously opted for that six seat configuration (a Honda R&D man insisted that they had firm plans to do 3+3 before they'd even seen Multipla).
The seats work quite well - the middle ones slide back ('double V'), giving more legroom. The centre seats are great for a small child perhaps (FR-V could find a natural market in couples with one small child), but a slightly chubby adult might not want to be in such a seat for long. There seemed to be a lot of room in the cabin, but my fears about the car's width were unfounded: it is no wider than a Renault Scenic. Interior design looked good, but why did they bother with walnut effect on the dashboard of the sport variant? It's clearly not a Triumph Stag or classic Jag and it just seemed a little out of place. I was told that it is just done for the UK market. Seems strange that some design oddities like that persist.
Styling looked good I think - it doesn't look like a typical MPV (I especially liked the curved glass on the rear window). The steep sides probably help to create the feeling of immense space in the cabin, but the overall appearance isn't anything like as radical as vertical-sided Multipla.
Honda should sell its FR-Vs in Europe without too much difficulty as the sales targets look low - (20,000 units per annum for Europe, of which 5,000 units for UK). And there will not be a diesel until at least mid-2005. That can't be ideal, but Honda seems pretty relaxed about the lack of a diesel. And you can forget automatic transmission also: Honda says that the market segment in Europe is 95% manual, so it's not needed. How amazing is that?
What about the driving? I'm no expert, but it seemed to handle more like a car than some of the more wallowy MPVs that are around (but how do you do the suspension set-up on these tall cars? Must involve some tricky compromises). Two litre engine seemed to be the one to have rather than the 1.7 (there weren't many 1.7L cars to drive, suggesting that more of the two litre ones will be sold). The area around Jerez isn't especially attractive at this time of the year. Grey sky met with dry, brown earth that appeared agriculturally unproductive and the area was also surprisingly flat with occasional bits of unattractive development. Looked a bit down at heel in places. But the roads were good - many highways paid for through lovely, lovely EU grants.
I'm glad I wasn't stopped by any of the numerous police cars on the roads for any reason, as I - somewhat typically - managed to forget to bring my driving licence with me. One thing struck me as a slightly amusing irony. Any inadvertently bad or inconsiderate driving by me (but being male, I'm a pretty good driver, obviously) could have had the locals cursing holidaying Germans. The press cars, you see, all had German registration plates. One old gent crossing the road in a remote village was seen by my co-driver, Steve Loader, just a little bit late. It wasn't anything like an emergency stop you understand, but the brakes were snatched at a bit. Old timer gave us a pretty withering look. I, in the passenger seat, was laughing uncontrollably. Those Germans...
Oh, and the sherry was good.
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