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Review: Honda WR-V

Driven March 2017

Review: Honda WR-V

Not a lot has been said about the WR-V, Honda’s next for India. This compact cross-hatchback, based on the same platform as the Jazz, was first unveiled last year, at the Sao Paulo motor show. Aimed at ‘emerging’ economies, the WR-V also got a substantial input from Honda’s Indian R&D arm. Which explains the rather quick – by Japanese automotive standards – turnaround from concept to production for this car. In fact, India will be the first global production launch for the WR-V, even before South America gets it.

In absolute terms, what Honda has tried to do is make a car that could well be positioned as a ‘crossover’ version of the Jazz. It’s a done practice with a lot of other carmakers – Toyota’s Etios Cross, Volkswagen’s Cross Polo and Hyundai’s Active i20 come to mind. But the difference here is that the effort to make an all-new car comes across as more substantial.

The WR-V is longer, wider and taller than the Jazz. It’s larger by approximately 50mm all round. It just about hints at its crossover aspirations; cue the higher ground clearance. The front is unmistakably Honda. It gets the familiar chrome slab on the grille. The headlamps get trademark LEDs with DRLs. The bonnet looks flat and raised. In profile, there is a hint of Jazz thanks to the creases on the doors and flow of the roof. At the rear it looks quite different, though, enough to distinguish it from anything else from the stable. The large WR-V badging helps generate interest for someone approaching it from the rear. Engineers claim the body has been strengthened further keeping in sync with the extra millimetres added to the platform.

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More generous proportions have freed up more legroom in the WR-V. It feels considerably spacious, especially at the rear. The seats are cushy and plush. No leather or faux leather trim but Honda has gone with a two-colour fabric finish – one a bit “casual” blue-grey and the other a more “sophisticated” black and grey. The front is where most action is in terms of equipment. The dashboard layout is typically Honda – simple, large and clean. It reminds more of the new City now thanks to the large 17.7cm display carried over from that car. Similar touch-enabled climate control system and steering wheel all adds to that feeling. At the rear, though, apart from loads of space (and comfortable ride) there is nothing to pamper the passengers. Honda has skipped on a central armrest, charging points and even proper adjustable headrests, which would be important on longer commutes. No rear air-con vents but we won’t complain because the AC in the WR-V is strong enough to keep rear passengers comfortable, as we experienced during our test on a hot Goan afternoon.

There will be – no surprise – two engine options for the WR-V, both carried over from the Jazz. The petrol is the 1.2-litre i-VTEC unit that churns out 89bhp and 110Nm. Smooth and refined, it feels a tad more underpowered here than in the Jazz thanks to the extra weight. However, driveability is good, which you will appreciate in city traffic. This is also helped by the five-speed manual ’box, which has sticky but short throws. Honda isn’t offering an automatic on the WR-V, obviously with an eye on keeping the price in check.

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The diesel is also the familiar 1.5-litre i-DTEC and it feels peppier and more fun in comparison, thanks to its near double torque. More importantly, Honda hasn’t been stingy with cabin insulation, and the overall refinement of this unit is excellent, unlike some other Hondas. There is no clatter and no vibrations entering the cabin from the powertrain. The six-speed manual ’box is less sticky and has equally short throws as the petrol’s which makes driving this version more of an exhilarating experience. You will be more comfortable cruising at three-digit speeds in the diesel WR-V.

Honda has reworked the suspension and steering set-up on the WR-V keeping in mind the added weight and ground clearance. The steering is light but communicative. The suspension is tuned a bit on the softer side which is good to absorb small bumps, however, it can get a bit choppy at the rear at high speeds. The body tends to roll, which is the flipside of high ground clearance. Steering feel is better; light but communicative. We wouldn’t mind a smaller wheel, though.

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Honda did not talk about the price or where it will position the car in its line-up although it does look like it will hover around the Jazz. What we can confirm is that it will be available in two trims – S and VX. Don’t rule out more variants coming in later. The WR-V has a lot of going for it in terms of the novelty of a new design, spacious interior and high ground clearance. The plastics and interior look and feel premium but not luxurious.

Can’t say Honda has not bothered with an appropriate equipment list considering the WR-V will offer the City’s infotainment and connectivity system apart from automatic climate control. In fact, in what is a segment-first, it will even get a sunroof. The diesel variant also gets the added convenience of a Start/Stop ignition switch. A lot of parts sharing means Honda will get some economies of scale when it comes to fixing a price tag. We hope this will result in Honda pricing the WR-V more competitively than it is normally known for.

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Rating: 7/10

Honda WR-V (Specifications)
Petrol: 1199cc, 89bhp, 110Nm, 5M, 17.5kpl, 1104kg
Diesel: 1498cc, 99bhp, 200Nm, 6M, 25.5kpl, 1204kg
Dimensions: (LxWxH) 3999x1734x1601mm, 2555mm wheelbase, 188mm ground clearance, 363 litres boot space, 5.3m turning radius, 195/60 R16 tyres
Price: Rs 7-9 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom)

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Girish Karkera

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