Car reviews - Honda - zr-v
Decent standard equipment across the range; comfortable ride; nice turbo-petrol powertrain; more practical than HR-V; good size - inside and out; colour choices are a no-cost option
Room for improvement
Expensive compared with some rivals; hybrid cost premium is too great; no sunroof available; short service intervals; not going to be to all tastes, design-wise
The gap-filling midsize SUV stacks up nicely, if you can afford it
18 Jul 2023
HONDA Australia has launched its first all-new nameplate in more than two decades with the ZR-V, a new gap-filling model that is designed to slot in between the existing HR-V small SUV and the incoming new-generation CR-V, due later in 2023.
As such, this model finds itself in an interesting position, being not quite as big as a Toyota RAV4, but not as compact as a Corolla Cross, either.
It has five seats and generous interior space, but a smaller-than-average boot volume for the midsize SUV class (370 litres in the hybrid and 380 litres in petrol grades), meaning it arguably is not going to be the right pick for some families who need a cavernous cargo area.
It is going to be large enough for a family of four, though, at least in terms of occupant space – despite a relatively high floor that leads to a knees-up position for taller occupants, there is ample room for someone in the “taller than average” bracket to find themselves relatively comfortable.
There are rear directional air-vents and rear USB-C charge ports – along with a raft of storage options – means it is a practical model. However, the brand’s innovative and flexible Magic Seats are not fitted to this model.
Choose the VTi L or above and you also get bright ceiling-mounted LED spot lights for the rear, which will be helpful for parents with children that still need help buckling in – of course, there are ISOFIX points in the window seats, and three top-tether points (the middle of which is ceiling mounted, as is the middle seatbelt).
High-grade LX models score outboard seat heating for rear occupants, too.
Up front, there are some of those tell-tale new-gen Honda elements to the cabin, including a very simple interface for the media system that incorporates buttons and dials to make easier use of the screen while driving.
There are also knobs and buttons below for the air-conditioning and heating, and the layout of the cabin space is quite smart, with a pair of cupholders, a storage tray (with wireless phone charging in high grades), a covered centre console bin and door pockets offering up the cabin storage you would expect.
What is missing? Well, in the high-spec model you cannot get a sunroof, even as an option. That might be something that $55K SUV buyers want…
The Honda ZR-V sits in an interesting spot pricing-wise, too, with the entry-level version tipping over the $40K mark, meaning it is more expensive than rivals like the Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester.
However, it should be pointed out that Honda’s pricing is national drive-away set pricing under the Honda Price Promise strategy, meaning customers will not be stung for additional costs based on different dealership locations, for example.
The entry-level model is the VTi X, at $40,200 drive-away, which comes standard with a number of nice equipment highlights, such as LED exterior lighting, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, push-button start, a 10.2-inch driver info screen and 9.0-inch touchscreen media system, dual-zone climate control, cloth seat trim, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, 11 airbags and a host of ADAS safety features.
Above it is the VTi L, at $43,200 drive-away, which steps up to 18-inch wheels, adds a power tailgate, scores part-leatherette interior trim, and has heated front seats and rear privacy glass.
The VTi LX is next up, at $48,500 drive-away, and it adds leather-appointed seats, a 12-speaker Bose stereo (up from eight in the lower grades), a surround-view camera, wireless phone charging, and this grade also gains blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The e:HEV LX hybrid grade adds a few items, such as a shift-by-wire gear selector, smart key card, tyre repair kit (replaces space-saver) and a humidity sensor, but it costs $54,900 drive-away.
There are two powertrain options available in the Honda ZR-V range. The entry-level engine option is a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, producing 131kW of power and 240Nm of torque, which uses a CVT automatic transmission and is front-wheel drive. The high-grade engine choice is the e:HEV hybrid, which teams a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors and an e-CVT automatic, with total system outputs stated at 135kW and 315Nm.
All grades are front-wheel drive.
Official combined cycle fuel consumption for the hybrid model is 5.0 litres per 100km, while the petrol non-hybrid models use a bit more, at 7.0L/100km for the VTi X and 7.2L/100km for the VTi L and LX.
The brand is sticking with its five-year ownership promise, with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty plan, servicing for five years ($199 per service, intervals every 12 months/10,000km), and five years’ of roadside assistance.
For the most part, the ZR-V has kept true to the brand’s fine form when it comes to driving, though there were some notable differences between the petrol and the hybrid models.
For this reviewer (and those he spoke with at the launch), the petrol model seems to be a sweeter drive. It has a joyful dynamism to it, with sweet steering being one of the highlights.
The steering of the hybrid model is not quite as likeable, proving a bit hard to judge when it comes to mid-corner adjustments. That could be more to do with the tyres fitted – the Bridgestone Alenza rubber fitted to the e:HEV simply does not offer as much confidence as the Yokohama Advan tyres on the petrol models.
The extra weight of the hybrid components – approximately 116kg, when comparing VTi LX and e:HEV LX – also plays its part, as the hybrid does not feel quite as light on its feet in the bends.
However, the petrol-electric model is considerably more peppy when it comes to acceleration, with the engine and motors teaming up to offer strong pulling power from a standstill, and more instantaneous response at speed when you prod the throttle.
The zesty 1.5-litre petrol turbo engine is a charmer, too, though not quite as, ahem, electric in its responsiveness. It does offer enough power and pace, though the CVT still feels like it robs a bit of the fun-factor from the drive, as it can – at times – feel a touch slow to respond.
Another thing I noted was the amount of road noise intrusion in the cabin. It is not too bad at speeds below, say, 80km/h, but highways with coarse-chip surfaces tend to throw a lot of rumble and roar into the cabin.
All the petrol grades have a comfortable and composed ride characteristic, though the base model is a charmer, with its higher-profile tread making for an even cushier experience.
9th of May 2023
Honda secures more Civic Type R stock
Additional 500 units allocated to Australia, some wait times reduced to nine months
5th of May 2023
Honda prices ZR-V from $40,200 drive-away
Further specifications, including paint colours and pricing, offered for new coupe-SUV
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