Drivers who aren’t ready for battery electric vehicles are a key target for Honda’s new ZR-V C-segment SUV, which goes on sale in July.
Honda has positioned it as a more premium alternative to a Nissan Qashqai, packed with the brand’s usual build quality, desirable tech and no-nonsense attributes.
This is reflected in its pricing, starting just shy of £40k, but Honda needs this car to make some profit for both its dealers and the brand.
Set to slot between Honda’s existing SUVs, the large and spacious CR-V and the more compact HR-V, the ZR-V is the newest model to come with to Honda’s clever 2.0-litre e:HEV hybrid powertrain. First introduced in the Civic, this new powertrain offers a reduction in CO2 emissions from a standard petrol unit.
The powerful 2.0-litre, four-cylinder direct injection engine works in conjunction with two motors to provide good levels of performance – an eight second 0-62mph sprint was once the preserve of hot hatchbacks but the ZR-V manages it too.
At 1,620mm tall unladen, 1,840mm wide and 4,568mm long, with a 2,657mm wheelbase, the ZR-V slots neatly into the current Honda SUV line up between the existing HR-V and CR-V. Being wider than the HR-V, the car feels pretty spacious in the front – no risk of knocking elbows. This is a five-seater with ample space for four adult passengers, five at a push, and a modest 380-litre boot.
Set upon a modified Honda platform combining the best bits of the Civic and CR-V, the Honda ZR-V is front-wheel drive. Unlike in some nations where petrol powertrains are in the range, in the UK ZR-V will only be offered with a pure hybrid line-up when first deliveries come through in autumn 2023.
Honda UK is deliberately keeping the decision-making simple for customers. There are three trim levels on offer: Elegance, Sport and Advance.
Elegance’s highlights include keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, rear parking camera, auto lights and wipers, dual climate control standard on all models.
Sport adds half-leather seats, power tailgate, privacy glass, wireless phone charger and slightly sportier body styling.
Advance comes with full leather upholstery, a panoramic opening sunroof, electric seats, heated steering wheel, head-up display, heated rear seats and adaptive headlights. It also gets a 12-speaker BOSE sound system and an digital dashboard upgraded from the Elegand and Sport's 7in one to a 10.2in dash.
Customers can choose from five paintwork choices at launch, including Radiant Red Metallic, Platinum White Pearl, Still Night Blue Pearl, Diamond Dust Pearl and Ruse Black Metallic.
The ZR-V is the latest Honda car to feature the company’s advanced suite of Honda SENSING technologies as standard. Combined with a comprehensive airbag system and impressive all-round collision performance, the ZR-V achieves high levels of both active and passive safety.
Honda dealers can reassure their customers that this is one full hybrid car that doesn’t require a degree in electronics to work or any excuses to live with: simply climb in, prod the D button and drive away.
There is no traditional gearbox in the Honda ZR-V and the system instead phases drive from the electric motor to replicate gearchanges; around town, it’s mostly silent as the engine spins a generator to make power for the electric motors; accelerate hard down a motorway slip road or twisty back road and the engine clutches onto the wheels.
Cleverly in this instance the e-CVT transmission is tuned to rise and fall to sound like a conventional ICE car, so the Honda ZR-V avoids the noise of soaring revs that have blighted most full hybrids since they first arrived with elastically geared CVT gearboxes a quarter of a century ago.
The Honda ZR-V is super-relaxing to drive. The e:HEV powertrain is whispery quiet most of the time and this calm ambience is matched by a quiet, well-judged ride.
This car is certainly a welcome addition to Honda dealers’ showrooms.