Stephanie Cachopa had polio as a young child which left her with very little strength in her legs. She went to school at the Elizabeth Conradie School, for children with physical disabilities, in Kimberley. There she met Tony and they were elected head boy and head girl. Years later their paths crossed again and they decided that they were meant for each other.
Tony has Mycenia Gravis, which resulted in weak and deformed legs. Both he and Stephanie need crutches to walk, but their weak legs did not stop either of them from becoming qualified teachers. Perhaps it was these disabilities that helped to develop their determination and perseverance, as well as their ability to adapt to whatever life threw at them.
About 5 years ago, Stephanie’s adaptability was really tested when she fell and broke her stronger leg. The experience was very traumatic for her with numerous operations and a very long, slow recovery which resulted in her needing to use a wheelchair for longer distances.
Just before breaking her leg they had bought a Honda Civic - which they loved. Unfortunately the additional weakness in her legs made it difficult to get in and out of the low seat of the Civic, and transporting an electric wheelchair in the Civic was not possible. They looked long and hard to find the perfect vehicle that was the right height for Stephanie to get into and out of, had enough space for the wheelchair and a family and was automatic (for Tony’s hand controls).
They discovered the required balance of practicality and function in the Honda FRV, with its ingenious design of flexible space.
The first thing that they noticed was the large amount of internal space in this relatively small vehicle and the drivers’ seat height was exactly right for Stephanie. This was particularly important for enhancing Stephanie’s independence when getting into and out of the car. The seat is also relatively flat which makes the transfer in and out easier. The tilt and telescopic steering wheel enables Tony and Stephanie to position it according to their individual needs.
An unexpected bonus was the seat layout, with six independent seats laid out with three at the front and three at the back. This means that Sheri-Lee, Stephanie’s daughter, can travel up-front with them, which she loves. Both middle seats can slide forwards and backwards independently, giving easier access to the seat as well as avoiding making the occupants sit shoulder to shoulder. Three point seatbelts are fitted on all six seats, with pre-tensioners and load limiters in the front.
When not in use the middle seat can be folded flat to act as an armrest (which Stephanie finds very useful to support herself on) or flipped forward to reveal additional storage space. The individual rear seats fold down with a simple one-handed action, collapsing flat into the floor for a maximum luggage space of 1049 litres when loaded to the windows. In this guise the FR-V can still carry three adults in perfect comfort and safety.
The large boot space is perfect for her electric wheelchair. She had a Bootlift fitted by Shoprider (012-653-1817), which lifts her chair into and out of the car at the push of a button. When fitting the boot lift they had a heart stopping moment when they were not sure if the door would close over the wheelchair, but fortunately there is a curve in the design of the door, which literally wraps around the wheelchair, with only millimetres to spare! Once she has loaded her wheelchair she walks the short distance around to the driver’s door, loads herself in and off she goes.
The super-light power steering and boosted brakes make it an easy vehicle to be driven with hand controls.
Tony chose the push-pull system fitted by Independent Drive Systems (082-853-0742).
They are very happy with IDS’s professional service and the neatly fitted control.
The gearlever - on both the manual and automatic – is positioned a hand’s width away from the steering wheel on the dash-board, making it easy and convenient to reach. The lack of a central consol frees up the space for the middle seat.
One disadvantage is that the hand brake on the automatic has been moved to a foot control position. Stephanie and Tony have enough lower limb function to manage this, but a person without this would need an additional adaptation fitted to the hand brake.
Stephanie loves using the cruise control, not only does it prevent picking up speed fines but it also saves energy, particularly on long distances.
Another useful feature is the on-board computer which gives outside temperature, average fuel consumption and and how far you can drive before running out of petrol. So no excuses for running out of fuel!
Visibility from the drivers’ seat is excellent, with a very large windscreen and rear window as well as large exterior mirrors which are mounted on stalks, giving the driver the widest possible field of view, and good size blind-spot mirrors built in.
The Honda FRV is designed with a wide track relative to its centre of gravity. The suspension geometry creates less roll and gives greater stability when cornering and at high speed cruising. This results in comfortable driving, particularly for people who have no balance. Parking is also no hassle with the remarkable low speed manoeuvrability and small turning circle.
The advanced 5-speed automatic transmission features an Intelligent Grade Logic control system ensuring smooth gear changes and the optimal gear for driving conditions.
The FR-V’s 1.8 i-VTEC engine (Intelligent Variable-Valve Timing and lift Electronic Control) automatically adjusts valve timing and lift according to driving conditions, giving you the ideal balance between fuel economy and driving performance. This allows you to enjoy an engine that adapts to your driving requirements, delivering power when you need it along with good fuel efficiency, using between 6.6l/100km in the open road to 10.6l/100km around town.
It comes with a full house of safety features, including Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist plus a combination of sensors that maximise your control of the vehicle. The dual stage front airbags, front side airbags and full-length curtain airbags are fitted as standard.
The FRV is currently only available in a 1.8 option and the manual costs R261 900 while the automatic costs R274,900 and is fully imported so it qualifies for the full 17% rebate. The Honda FRV came out on top in CAR Magazine’s SA’s customer satisfaction index, it also comes out tops on Stephanie’s “Perfect car for me Index”!