Honda has entered the compact MPV market with the launch of their new FR-V, or “Flexible Recreational Vehicle”.

With sales beginning in November, the FR-V features a seating layout similar to the Fiat Multipla. The seats are arranged in two rows of three, and the rear set can be individually folded flat into the floor in a one-handed motion similar to that employed in the Honda Accord.

The front centre seat can have its backrest folded forward to make room for long loads or to form a table. There’s also a fold-out extension to the seat cushion, and a storage drawer mounted underneath.

Additionally, it can be slid 270mm further back than the outer pair, a configuration designed to be used when occupied by a child. This seat, and the two outer rear seats, have ISOFIX child seat mounts, too.

All six seats have three-point seat belts, while the front seats have pre-tensioners and load limiters. Twin dual-stage airbags are mounted up front, with side airbags mounted in the two outside front seats and full-length curtain airbags to provide overall protection.

The wider track promotes stability and reduces the roll centre, which has allowed Honda to fit softer springs than would be the case if the springs were also being used to limit body roll, thus ensuring a comfortable ride.

At launch there will be a choice of two petrol engines: a 125 PS 1.7 litre SOHC VTEC unit mated to a 5-speed manual transmission and a 150 PS 2.0 litre DOHC i-VTEC unit mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

In 2005, Honda’s acclaimed 2.2 litre i-CTDi diesel engine from the Accord will be available, and will be mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.