Honda FR-V

If you want a lean body and a six-pack, you'd have to spend hours at the gym. Alternatively, you could visit your local Honda dealer, where the all-new FR-V goes on sale in November.

Honda hasn't launched a bad car this century, and more than maintains its clean sheet with the FR-V. The six-seater represents superb value for money and offers a decent driving experience, while its practicality rivals the best in the class. The only downside is the lack of a diesel, but this will be rectified early next year when the Accord's 2.2-litre oil-burner arrives.

If you want a lean body and a six-pack, you'd have to spend hours at the gym. Alternatively, you could visit your local Honda dealer, where the all-new FR-V goes on sale in November.

Honda's six-seat entry into the mini-MPV market is smaller than the seven-person Stream, and cheaper, too, start- ing at £14,750. But does it give the family value promised by the price tag?

This £16,400 2.0-litre Sport range-topper is still less expensive than many rivals. For that you get power windows, climate and cruise control, alloys and foglamps. It uses the 148bhp engine from the Civic Type S, mated to a six-speed box. Although the FR-V claims full MPV capabilities, it is only slightly larger than the Civic, with a lower cabin than most rivals. Yet despite the compact dimensions, it is very spacious. Six seats are arranged in two rows of three and slide forward and back individually. Middle chair elbow room is slightly cramped, but small passengers will be fine.

The dash has two fold-out cubbies, an air-conditioned glovebox and a small chilled storage box. We also like the central three-abreast cup-holder. The rear is equally well planned and gives good legroom, while the three chairs can be folded by pulling a cord. Tumbled into the floor, they give a huge load bay.

It's all very clever - but how does the FR-V fare on the road? The iVTEC engine is certainly responsive, although it performs best with full use of the rev range. The dash-mounted six-speed gear- shifter is a joy to use, and the assured handling gives good grip. Unfortunately, the power-steering lacks feel and will put off keen drivers, while the ride is jittery on less-than-perfect surfaces.

Otherwise, Honda's well thought-out and superbly engineered family car is the perfect six-pack it sets out to be. But if the FR-V is beyond your means, then we're afraid that only the gym'll fix it...

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