Honda is introducing a new contender in the compact MPV class that concentrates on interior flexibility. By matching a 3 + 3 seating configuration with intelligent packaging and innovative seat conversion mechanisms, the FR-V has the ability to carry up to 6 people while simultaneously offering good load volume.
In addition to the packaging benefits, in opting for a 3 + 3 configuration, Honda also recognised that family communication, and in particular parent-child communication, is important and this layout lends itself to easy passenger interaction. And what child hasn’t wanted to sit up front with its parents? The FR-V allows just such a possibility, at the same time enabling parents to keep a watchful eye.
The FR-V also breaks with the typically utilitarian look of the cMPV segment, to offer sporty, dynamic styling. Combined with a choice of three engines including Honda’s acclaimed 2.2 litre diesel, a wide track chassis engineered to minimise body roll, excellent ride comfort and class-leading manoeuvrability with a small turning circle, Honda’s newest range is set to bring a new level of expectation to cMPV customers.
Multifunctional front seat converts into table, acts as storage
The multifunctional front centre seat can convert into a table or large armrest. Further versatility comes from a split seat squab, which reveals further storage areas.
The Jazz and Accord Tourer models in particular have amply illustrated Honda’s viewpoint that converting a car from passenger to load carrying capability should be neither time consuming nor hard work.
The FR-V continues in a similar vein, and unlike its competitors, opening up the total luggage area requires only 3 steps in total: No tricky double folding of seats is required, and neither do they need to be removed from the car and somewhere found to store them. What’s more, the seats just disappear into the floor to give a completely flat load floor. Supreme flexibility
The FR-V then offers a remarkably convenient and flexible interior concept based on six independent seats and as a result there are many seating and loading possibilities: parents in front, grandparents in the rear and two children in the centre seats with front centre slid back; or driver and partner alone with front centre seat in table mode; or three passengers in front and their bikes (with front wheels removed) standing in the rear – the
combinations are endless. And many couples will welcome the fact that they can sit alongside their child, enabling them to more readily share experiences. And no doubt children will welcome the opportunity to ride in front with mum and dad….
Supple ride, minimal body roll
In establishing the FR-V’s ride and handling characteristics, Honda’s chassis engineers set out to overcome the inherent high roll characteristics of cMPVs, while simultaneously ensuring good ride comfort, allied to surefooted handling and good steering response. The result is a relaxing drive with a supple, but flat ride, high stability during cornering and high speed cruising, and top of class ride comfort thanks to low rate springs. The market background
Although in relative terms the compact MPV market is a recent phenomenon, the sector has shown exceptional growth with annual sales currently around 1.1 million and predicted to rise to 1.2 million by 2006. MPVs generally are on their way to becoming the standard for family cars.
By far the largest market in Europe is France with sales of around 300,000, followed by Germany (235,000), the UK (192,000), Spain (156,000) and Italy (153,000). Around half of sales in the UK, and slightly less in Germany, are diesel powered. However, in France (83 per cent), Spain (79 per cent) and Italy (70 per cent), diesel is dominant, a trend that is likely to be reflected elsewhere as diesel power becomes increasingly popular.
For customers, the c-MPV market is expanding in size and choice. It has meant the leading players in the sector losing market share as new models have shown substantial growth, a reflection of customers’ willingness to consider new products.
MPV customers are 75 per cent male, however, more than three quarters of their partners drive the car almost as often. Customer average age is around 46, but the two main groupings are 30 to 40 year olds and 60 year olds. They fall predominantly into the category of mature family (i.e. over 35 with children), although there is an important element of empty nesters. Their main concerns are the practical features of the car and since it tends to be the main car, and forms an indispensable part of their lifestyle, it needs to be multi-purpose.
In arriving at the final design of the FR-V, Honda’s aims were to create a compact MPV contender that meets the demands of a 3 + 3 seating layout but without resulting in an excessively wide body. The vehicle also needed to be extremely practical, while avoiding a dull, boring traditional cMPV body style.
At 4285 mm in length, the FR-V is just slightly longer than the compact MPV average: longer than the Citroen Picasso, Fiat Multipla, and Renault Scenic, for example, but shorter than Volkswagen Touran, Opel Zafira, and Ford C-Max.
Similarly, FR-V’s width of 1810 mm is very close to the class average and the same as the Renault Scenic. So despite achieving a remarkably spacious cabin that more than fulfils its requirement to sit three people abreast in comfort, both front and rear, it hasn’t required proportions that would have a negative impact on manoeuvrability.
The wheelbase of 2680 mm is actually 60 mm longer than the CR-V’s, with which it shares a platform.
Finally, the FR-V is below average in height, a fact that makes a significant contribution to the car’s dynamic and distinctive styling, and yet still provides excellent headroom and luggage carrying capability.
Styling breaks from the crowd
The trend for vehicles generally to become lower, wider and sportier, has made the appearance of MPVs all the more utilitarian. The FR-V’s ample dimensions without being overly tall, in contrast, mean that it presents a wide, firmly planted stance. This is complemented by a design characterised by a dramatically sweeping nose and headlamps, a theme continued along the length of the body in the form of a steadily rising waistline. The result is a crouching form that delivers a sporty dynamic in marked contrast to the cMPV norm.
The aggressive face of FR-V borrows styling cues from both the Accord and CR-V models. From the prominent grille with its three chrome bars, the nose tapers back, arrow-like, with distinctively shaped, and long, light clusters that sweep upwards into the wing line, and feature lines in the bonnet that flow out from the grille. Beneath is a deep spoiler with a wide central opening flanked by foglamps (standard on Sport models). Both bumper and spoiler wrap round before forming a distinct edge with the clearly delineated wheel arch.
The rising feature line along the side of the body that plays such a key role in the overall appearance of FR-V starts from the top of the front wheel arch and finishes at the leading edge of the taillight. It’s reflected both by the line of the lower edge of the windows and the rub strips which follow the crease on the lower part of the doors. Other notable elements of the side view include large mirrors incorporating indicators, as seen on Accord, small windows located just behind the A-pillar which cut into the door line, and chrome door handles with a ‘spearhead’ motif.
The roofline, rather than stretching the length of the car before simply meeting a tailgate that is more or less vertical, instead stops short at the C-pillar, the tailgate glass then extending back at about 45 degrees, before turning down into the tailgate panel. The effect is a visually arresting one and is complemented by a distinctively shaped window behind the C-pillar whose lower edge turns upwards towards the tailgate. The trailing edge of the roof is extended by a tailgate spoiler containing an additional brake light and a standard ‘bee sting’ aerial is located ahead of this.
Finally, the clean, uncluttered lines of the tailgate are dominated by a wide chrome trim located above the licence plate panel and large rear light clusters that extend forward in a point to meet the rising waistline.
Refinement a priority
Honda’s engineers strived for premium product levels of refinement, and noise reduction measures include a dual door seal, a large rear inner wing panel to cut down road noise, extensive insulating material, optimised rear frame thickness, extensive roof lining insulate, melt sheet applied to the floor, and a front damper base stiffener. The result is exceptional in cabin refinement allowing relaxed conversation.
The FR-V’s aerodynamic qualities are enhanced by a number of detail features including underfloor panels, an A-pillar trim, the rear tailgate spoiler and the specially designed front spoiler and bumper.
A key element in maximising the cabin interior width is the use of high radius door glass in combination with a relatively high window bottom edge: this ensures that the door glass at its lowest point is significantly clear of the protective door beam, allowing a more compact door structure.
Interior versatility matched by ease of conversion
High levels of comfort, flexibility and versatility, and a simplicity in switching from one mode to another, characterise the FR-V’s interior. Six independent seats, across two rows, open up numerous possibilities in terms of passenger/luggage carrying combinations, and even with a full complement of passengers, the FR-V provides good levels of comfort as well as space for their luggage.
The multi-functional aspect of the front centre seat further adds to the interior comfort and enjoyment of the FR-V. Both it and the rear centre seats can slide rearwards to provide passengers with enhanced shoulder room, while their folding seat backs can either serve as table and storage surfaces, or open up further load carrying options. Opening up the full luggage area only requires the dive-down rear seats to be folded into the floor, a simple operation by the standards of the compact MPV class.
One of the benefits of the 3 + 3 configuration is that it permits much easier communication between passengers, the relaxing and refined cabin environment making this all the more possible.
Above all, the layout allows a child to travel in front with their parents which more often than not is where every young child wants to be and simultaneously allows their parents to keep an eye on them. The 3 + 3 configuration also allows easier communication.
The particularly versatile front centre seat can be slid through 270mm (the two outer front seats slide through 230 mm) and fixed in a total of eleven different positions. Since the centre seat is in its foremost position when the outer seats are in their rearmost, this means the seat can be pushed 270 mm further back than the front seats. If the occupant is an adult, he or she thus has considerable scope in optimising shoulder and leg room by sliding back the seat. However, even with the centre seat slid fully forward, there is still good leg room since there is no conventional centre console.
Alternatively, if occupied by a child (see Safety Considerations below) then a parent might want to slide the seat back so that either the child is the centre of attention (when rear seat passengers are also being carried) or so that it is not distracting to the driver. The sliding mechanism can be operated by a lever located at the front of the seat or (for someone in the rear) by a similar catch located at the base of the seat. Front centre seat offers multifunctional capabilities
The front centre seat back can also be folded down – released by pulling on a loop at the back of the seat squab – to form a very comfortable and large armrest. It can also serve as a table top and adding to its functionality is a recessed tray located in its back.
Further versatility of the centre seat comes from a split seat squab, the front half of which flips forward through 180 degrees (using another loop) to reveal storage beneath, a secure space for items such as a small handbag, wallets, compact cameras etc. On the back of the inverted seat squab is a further sub-divided recessed tray, similar to that on the seat back. And beneath the seat is yet more storage, provided by a high capacity, slide-out tray.
And versatility in the rear, too
The centre rear seat can also be slid backwards by 170 mm (three positions), thus improving shoulder room, or particularly where the front centre seat has been moved back, leg room. The sliding mechanism is operated by a lever located in the seat base. To accommodate the sliding seat, the retractable luggage cover is split into three sections corresponding to the three seats, and each section clips to its respective headrest supports.
All three rear seats can be reclined (two positions) by using the catch located on top of each seat back, the mechanism also operating the seat dive down function. Providing a comfortable environment for three abreast
One of the key considerations of the 3 + 3 configuration is the amount of space available to front seat occupants, in particular the driver. FR-V has cabin space comparable to a D-segment saloon, while the relatively high overall body width provides a cabin that is 1380 mm wide. At the same time, front seat dimensions have been carefully tailored to ensure high levels of comfort while still permitting three seats to be accommodated. So while their overall widths are less than the average in cars generally, cushion seat width is nevertheless comparable, achieved through a more compact frame structure containing additional support material.
The outer front seats backs are 470 mm across, the centre seat 420 mm across, while the corresponding seat bases are 478 and 420 mm respectively. This is perfectly adequate to accommodate three adults in comfort, while allowing the driver sufficient space to operate all controls without hindrance. This is reflected in a class leading couple distance (ie the distance between the centre point of the outer seats). The occupants of the three seats are of course able to maximise their shoulder room when the centre seat is slid back – the same applies in the rear. Furthermore, tall seatbacks and long seat bases ensure excellent support for both backs and legs.
Shoulder room for rear seat passengers, given the cabin width, is equally good. A best-in-class tandem distance of 1005 mm (ie the distance between the front and rear passenger hip points) also ensures excellent leg room, further helped by a flat floor without tunnel intrusion.
All six seats have headrests, those in the rear being of the ‘teardrop’ variety so that they do not obsure rearward vision when fully retracted. Four damped grab handles are provided, those in the rear having coat hooks.
A steering wheel that is adjustable for both reach and rake will enable drivers to find an optimum seating position. This is augmented by a driver’s seat featuring ratchet-lever control height adjustment.
The gear lever is fascia mounted and thanks to the particularly compact dimensions of the shift gate, is within very close reach of the steering wheel. The hand brake is located beneath the fascia. In operation, it is simply gripped from below and released by means of a push knob. Lights (including foglamps) and wipers are operated by twist-type stalks.
The driving position offers good all-round visibility helped by relatively high seating and an eye-line well above the bottom edge of the windows. Most importantly from a safety angle, it is possible for the driver to see a 5-year old child standing immediately alongside the car, left or right.
Ahead of the driver, the main dials appear as a darkened panel with the ignition off, transforming to a bright display when the wave-type key is inserted into the ignition, thanks to the use of backlighting. The highly legible instruments feature white numerals and red-illuminated needles, with the tachometer on the left of the speedometer and the fuel and temperature gauges to the right. A useful digital information display positioned beneath displays ambient temperature, odometer, trip distance to empty, and average fuel consumption.
Switches for the standard electric windows front and rear are located to the right of the steering column (RHD), while the electric door mirror switch is located on the driver’s door armrest. Taking care of belongings
In addition to the centre seat undertray, and concealed cubby hole beneath the seat squab, plenty of storage space is provided throughout the cabin. The large glovebox is practically shaped with no awkward protrusions, while large door bins are incorporated on all four doors. Those in the rear are also shaped to accommodate a large drinks bottle. There are map pockets on the backs of the outer front seats.
Located in the lower central fascia is a compact pull-out cup holder which, as it slides out, neatly opens up to create a three capacity holder (up to a 500 ml drinks bottle) and above this and alongside the gear lever is a large cubby hole with a fold down cover for storing wallets, mobile phones, etc. Finally, located to the side of the steering column is a fold down pocket for loose change and other small items. Standard Climate Control
Automatic air conditioning is fitted as standard in all FR-V’s. The system is based on that of the CR-V but its output is boosted to meet the requirements of the increased cabin space and glass area. The system is also optimised to provide the same performance for all three front occupants while simultaneously achieving comfortable temperatures for rear seat passengers. The single air vent on the left (RHD) of the central fascia is provided for the exclusive use of the centre seat passenger. The two vents located above can be controlled so that they feed air either to the front seat passengers or those in the rear.
All air conditioning controls are of the one touch type, and the settings are provided in a digital display.
Integrated radio/CD/NAVI units
All models have an audio system that is fully integrated into the fascia, rather than simply being housed within a DIN slot, to add to the overall sense of quality of the cabin architecture. The standard radio and single CD player comes with four speakers (two in the front door panels and two in the luggage area side panels) and a 30W ?×4ch? amp. The head unit is notable for its large knobs which make tuning or changing volume simplicity itself. The pre-set buttons and, positioned above, the subsidiary controls are also, comparatively speaking, large. Above the audio unit and located within the top of the fascia is a separate digital display which provides audio information (radio station, CD track, etc) and clock.
On all models remote audio controls are provided on the steering wheel.When fitted, the 7 inch touch panel screen of the satellite navigation system is seamlessly integrated into the upper fascia panel in place of the standard audio display.
An extensive accessory range
The FR-V is available with a wide accessory range to match the “clever versatility with quality and style” theme and so meet customer requirements. It includes an interior bike carrier, full length roof rails, seat back trays as well as aerodynamic body kits for the exterior and a variety of alloy wheel styles. Some of the available items are listed in Appendix 2. Unique Bluetooth module for hands free telephone
FR-V will be the first Honda model to have a Bluetooth kit as a dealer fit option (Bluetooth applicable telephones only). The special Bluetooth module – specifically developed for Honda – is mounted on the A-pillar and features volume control, call/receive button, auto answer, and audio mute. It can also be switched to phone-only operation (ie bypassing the audio system speakers). The bluetooth module can work with up to three phones, in descending priority, with automatic switching to the second phone if the first is removed from the car.
Customers have the choice of two four cylinder petrol engines: a 125 PS (92 kW) 1.7 litre SOHC VTEC engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, and a 150 PS (110kW) 2.0 litre DOHC i-VTEC mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Both provide strong performance matched to excellent fuel economy.
They will be joined in the middle of next year by Honda’s award winning 2.2 litre i-CTDi diesel. This exceptionally fuel efficient 140 PS (103 kW) engine was developed entirely in-house by Honda and introduced in the Accord range earlier this year.
The 1.7 litre engine’s peak torque of 154 Nm delivered at 4,800 rpm provides excellent flexibility during everyday driving, while boosting fuel economy. The particularly flat torque curve ensures that the 1.7 litre FR-V pulls strongly across the rev range, particularly between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm, for effortless performance. Maximum output of the 1.7 SOHC VTEC unit is 125 PS (92 kW) at 6,300 rpm.
Fundamental to achieving these figures are a number of measures aimed at boosting combustion performance. The swirl intake port optimises both vertical and horizontal vortices inside the cylinder, ensuring excellent fuel distribution and thorough mixing for effective, stable and clean combustion. By ensuring more complete burning of the air-fuel mixture, a higher compression ratio is possible.
At the heart of the 1.7-litre engine is Honda’s acclaimed Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) system which is so effective at maximising combustion efficiency at all engine speeds for good low to mid-range torque, vivid top-end output and outstanding fuel economy.
Torque characteristics are further improved by reducing the length of the conduit between the air intake and the intake manifold chamber by 84 per cent. This realises optimum resonance characteristics and torque at 4,000 rpm is increased by 6 per cent. 2.0 litre DOHC i-VTEC
The more powerful petrol-engined FR-V uses Honda’s now well established 2.0 litre DOHC i-VTEC engine already fitted to CR-V, which delivers an outstanding combination of power and torque in all speed ranges with strong fuel economy.
To optimise efficiency it uses both the VTEC system, which varies the timing and amount of lift of the valves, together with VTC (Variable Timing Control) which continuously adjusts the cam phasing to best match the current engine load. A variable length intake manifold is also used for improved low end torque.
The engine is characterised by strong torque delivery: peak torque is 192 Nm at 4,000 rpm, but even by 3,000 rpm the engine is generating 188 Nm.
A key element of i-VTEC technology is Honda’s long-established VTEC system which is able to adjust the lift and opening duration of the valves. In this application, the system uses two rocker arms per pair of intake valves. During low rpm operation, intake air is drawn almost exclusively through the primary intake valve, thereby creating a very strong swirl effect to maximise combustion and to produce abundant low-rpm torque. At higher rpm, the secondary rocker arm engages the primary one causing both intake valves to open for the same lift and duration, substantially increasing airflow into the cylinder and boosting performance.
Variable Timing Control (VTC)
Variable Timing Control works by taking into consideration engine load.
By controlling the phasing of the inlet camshaft, it improves charging efficiency and combustion, and delivers higher torque, reduced intake resistance and improved efficiency of exhaust gas recirculation. Based on input from a position sensor located at the rear end of the inlet camshaft, together with a whole range of other data, the engine control unit varies the inlet camshaft position relative to that of the exhaust camshaft by means of a hydraulically driven, compact vane-type pump located on the front end of the inlet camshaft. In this way it can advance and retard the opening of the inlet valves.
During the periods of high engine load which occur during acceleration, VTC is set at a relatively small degree of valve overlap which provides the best output, the valve opening angle utilising the inertia of the intake air. In addition, as engine speed builds, the VTEC mechanism switches from the low speed cam to the high speed cam (ie optimal torque to optimal power), but with the same degree of overlap.
Alternatively, at high engine speeds in situations where the engine is not under heavy load, for example during motorway cruising, there is much greater valve overlap and this is advantageous in reducing pumping losses, maximising the exhaust gas recirculation effect for reduced NOx levels and providing the best balance between fuel consumption and output.
Finally, at idle and low engine speeds during light load conditions, inlet valve opening is retarded for minimal overlap, generating strong swirl and therefore good mixing.
Variable length intake manifold
Made from resin for light weight, the intake manifold features a variable length inlet tract controlled by a rotary valve. At low engine speeds this opens to lengthen the inlet tract to 540 mm, which keeps intake velocity high, creates good turbulence and cylinder filling and boosts torque, before closing at higher engine revs to shorten the effective length of the inlet runners to 270 mm, satisfying the engine’s demand for additional air and increasing power.
6-speed manual transmission
The 2.0 litre petrol engine drives through a six-speed manual transmission. Gear ratios have been selected so that maximum speed is achieved in fifth gear, with the overdrive sixth gear providing superior high speed cruising and fuel economy.
The gearbox is characterised by a light, supple shift feel, thanks to triple multi-cone synchronisers on 1st and 2nd, double-cone synchronisers on 3rd and 4th and high capacity carbon synchronisers on 5th and 6th gears. Quicker changes result from shorter shift strokes.
2.2 i-CTDi diesel engine
In 2005, the two petrol-engined FR-V models will be joined by a diesel variant which becomes the third model to make use of Honda’s in-house developed 2.2 litre diesel engine. Having received wide acclaim in the Accord i-CTDi since its launch earlier this year, this state-of-the-art engine promises to deliver one of the best all-round compact MPV packages on the market.
The 2204 cc, all-aluminium engine delivers 140 PS at 4,000 rpm and maximum torque of 340 Nm at just 2,000 rpm. It’s fuel efficient, refined to drive, quiet in operation, and produces low emissions. Key features of the 4-cylinder unit are DOHC, four valves per cylinder, balancer shaft, second generation common rail direct injection, and variable nozzle turbocharger with intercooler.
In order to produce a light, compact and high performance aluminium cylinder block that provides sufficient strength to cope with the high combustion pressures generated, Honda pioneered a semi-solid casting method using a sand core cylinder.
To provide high levels of rigidity, the cylinder block water jacket requires a hollow construction known as ‘closed deck’. It is very difficult to achieve this with only a metal mould and the general method employed is to use a cylinder core of sand during casting. Afterwards the cylinder core is destroyed and removed.
However, during the high-pressure diecast process that is generally used for the manufacturing of cylinder blocks, the cylinder core can easily break and so this method was unsuitable. Honda therefore developed a high strength sand cylinder core with a pressure-resistant coating which in conjunction with the original Honda semi-solid casting method realises a closed deck structure with high rigidity.
The new casting method takes an aluminium alloy in a semi-solid state which is then smoothly poured into a metal mould after which high pressure is applied. The good formability characteristics of the semi-solid material and a sand cylinder core that allows precise casting mean that the thickness of the aluminium between the bores is reduced to just 3 mm to give an overall length equivalent to that of a petrol engine. Furthermore, the high quality of the casting permits heat treatment after the moulding process to give even greater rigidity and surface hardness. The end result is a product that is lighter, stiffer, stronger and more accurate.
In establishing the FR-V’s ride and handling characteristics, Honda’s chassis engineers set out to overcome the inherent high roll characteristics of cMPVs, while simultaneously ensuring good ride comfort, allied to surefooted handling and good steering response. The result is a relaxing drive with a supple, but flat ride, high stability during cornering and high speed cruising, and top of class ride comfort thanks to low rate springs. Established suspension set up
Although a number of chassis components are unique to FR-V including most of the front suspension, the steering assembly and much of the rear suspension, the overall layout is very similar to the established and acclaimed suspension arrangement of the CR-V. That means the toe control link MacPherson strut design at the front in conjunction with a high-mounted steering rack, and reactive link double wishbone at the rear, both of which provide significant packaging benefits.
The FR-V’s steering rack features a centre take off which means the tie rod are substantially increased in length to provide improved toe control. Over the vertical travel of the wheel the toe characteristics are more like those of a double wishbone arrangement, moving from slight toe-out at full bump to slight toe-in at full rebound; conventional struts move from substantial toe-out at full bump to almost neutral in the median position and back to substantial toe-out at full rebound.
The compact reactive link double wishbone rear suspension features a rear mounted toe control arm that flexes backwards under braking. The slight movement of the suspension to the rear in turn acts on the compliance bushes that locate the lower wishbone to the chassis and their compliance in a diagonal direction pulls the trailing arm into a toe-in direction. High speed stability
Further fine tuning of the FR-V’s suspension and in particular more compliant toe control arm bushes front and rear, provides excellent stability during high speed cornering. At the front of the car the inner wheel toes in, the outer toes out; at the rear the inner wheel toes out and the outer toes in. The combined effects are a greater passive steering effect.
Steering responsiveness remains uncompromised at mid to low speeds, however, with quick turn in combined with mild, linear yaw rate gain – in other words, sharp, but stable cornering characteristics.
Roll stiffness adds to passenger enjoyment
Since the higher centre of gravity of MPVs can often lead to excessive body roll and discomfort for passengers – particularly for those in the outer seats – Honda has made good ride comfort a priority. The FR-V’s wide track (1550 mm front, 1560 mm rear) plays a key part in this, since the wider the track relative to the same centre of gravity, the greater the roll stiffness of the car. This in turn has permitted the use of lower (ie softer) spring rates, so ride comfort improves accordingly.
Furthermore, Honda’s chassis engineers have arrived at a suspension geometry that optimises the position of the roll centre axis, ie that point about which a vehicle rolls during cornering.
The heights of roll centre and hypothetical arm length, which controls the height of roll centre, were optimised relative to the height of the centre of gravity. This enables a reduction in the roll moment arm and jack-up, thus minimizing change of roll and pitch angles during cornering. The result, in simple terms, means passengers can enjoy a more stable, flat ride with minimal body roll, and less chance of travel sickness.
In addition, body pitching has been minimised thanks to optimised anti-dive and anti-lift angles, achieved through raised installation points of the front and rear suspension arms. Vehicle Stability Assist
FR-V 2.0 and 2.2 litre models are equipped with Honda’s own 4-channel Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system which is designed to assist the driver in maintaining control during cornering, acceleration and sudden manoeuvres by applying brake force to the right or left hand wheels as necessary and managing the throttle and ignition systems.
At its simplest level, VSA has a traction control function whereby it detects wheel slip under acceleration and coordinates the use of braking to regain traction. In situations where the driven wheels are on surfaces with different levels of traction, such as a partially wet road surface, the system applies braking action to the wheel that’s slipping, allowing the tyre with better grip to move the vehicle. In addition, the system reduces engine output to minimise wheelspin.
By monitoring input from a series of vehicle sensors, VSA calculates a predicted range of vehicle response while constantly monitoring the vehicle’s actual response and the driver’s control inputs. If the actual response is outside the predicted response range, as when cornering forces exceed the tyres’ performance, VSA automatically intervenes with corrective action.
In the case of oversteer (which may lead to a spin), VSA applies braking to the outside front wheel to counter the yawing tendency. On the other hand, if understeer is detected, VSA applies braking to the inside rear wheel and reduces engine power to turn the car back on to the intended course.
Unlike some vehicle stability systems, which can seem intrusive to enthusiast drivers, the FR-V’s VSA is calibrated to add to stability and predictability, without stifling the driving enjoyment of the carefully engineered chassis. An indicator light flashes on the instrument panel while the system is actively enhancing the stability of the vehicle. A cockpit switch to the side of the steering column disables the VSA.
Dealing with tight situations
While wider than the average C-segment car, FR-V’s manoeuvrability isn’t compromised. Indeed, although wider than some of the competitors its turning circle of 10.5 m is one of the best in class. So while the FR-V’s spacious interior might suggest otherwise, FR-V isn’t a large car when it comes to negotiating narrow streets and supermarket car parks.
Honda has carefully considered passenger safety and across the range, the FR-V features dual stage front airbags; side airbags for front seat occupants; full length curtain airbags; and three point seatbelts on all six seats, with pretensioners and load limiters in the front. To ensure occupants in both the front outer and front centre seats are equally well protected, the extra large passenger airbag opens to a width of 860 mm.
Acknowledging that children will be sitting in both front and rear, ISOFIX fittings are included on the front centre seat as well as the two rear outer seats for the safe securing of child seats. Each also has a tether anchor point in the base of the seat backs. Where small children are placed in the front centre seat, Honda recommends that it is moved to its rearmost position.
Front driver and passenger airbags, front side airbags and curtain airbags front and rear are fitted as standard across the FR-V range. Both front airbags are dual stage. In addition, all six seats have three point seatbelts, that of the front centre position being built into the seat, and that of the rear centre seat having a twin buckle belt that retracts into the roof. All three front row seatbelts also benefit from pre-tensioners and load limiters, those for the driver being dual stage.
In terms of occupant safety, the front centre seat can be considered in exactly the same way as the outer front passenger seat. The extra large, 133 litre front passenger airbag, with its high output inflator, is designed to open and expand towards the centre of the car to a full width of 860 mm, thus protecting both front passengers.
Honda has paid considerable attention to the safety of child passengers, and in recognition of the fact that children will want to travel in the front with their parents, the front centre seat, like the two outer rear seats, has ISOFIX fittings and a tether anchor point on the rear of the seat back (so that neither the driver’s view nor cargo space is blocked). The width of the centre seat means it is perfectly capable of taking a 460 mm wide (standard) child seat.
4 star expected for Euro NCAP
The design of the body structure offers good crash characteristics thanks to the large cross section of the front frame and the ladder frame structure of the rest of the body, complete with six crossmembers as well as longitudinal members which effectively disperse loads. The FR-V as a consequence is expected to achieve a four star rating for the Euro-NCAP offset barrier, side impact and pole side impact tests, three stars for the pedestrian rating and four stars for the (recently introduced) child protection tests.
Extensive use of a variety of grades of high tensile steel for both the frame and outer panels both reduces weight by almost 70 kg and optimises impact safety characteristics.
The ladder shaped frame together with the front and rear cage sections deliver class leading dynamic stiffness. In particular, intensive reinforcement has been placed around the tailgate opening and in the front and rear damper housings.
Braking system with ABS, EBD and brake assist
All FR-V models are equipped with ABS and, for optimum performance, Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) which adjusts front-to-rear brake effort to achieve maximum braking performance and stability. At the rear, a select-low braking strategy is also used to help maintain directional stability in slippery driving. In the event of a rear wheel beginning to lock-up, triggering a pressure modulation at that wheel, brake pressure is also diminished at the adjoining wheel to help preserve the rear axle’s lateral stability. Further security is provided by the brake assist system which automatically increases braking output when emergency conditions are detected from the manner of the driver’s input to the pedal.
Intensive testing has resulted in excellent braking performance for this class of vehicle, especially high speed stability characteristics. The FR-V is equipped with ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear.