Efficient hybrid powertrain. Smooth and quiet cruiser. Neat dash design
The Civic exists. Some may find the looks offensive. Slightly harsh ride
What is it?
It’s the first of three crossover SUVs that Honda will introduce in 2023. Boo. And yet, that’s what the people want, so the ZR-V is here to fill the gap between the HR-V and CR-V. And no, we didn’t know there was a gap there either. But a new CR-V is another one of those SUVs that’ll arrive later this year, and when it does so it’ll grow slightly to make a little more space for this car.
Quite why Honda didn’t pick any of the letters between C and H for the name is a mystery, though.
So what’s it based on?
The ZR-V borrows much from the Civic, not least its platform which will also be shared with the new CR-V. And in terms of other parts sharing, Honda tells us that means the ZR-V is essentially a Civic at the front end and a CR-V at the rear.
It wants the ZR-V to feel like a Civic too, and much has been made of the ‘hatchback-like’ driving position. For more about that and the rest of the inside, head over to the Interior tab of this review.
And what powertrain is under the bonnet?
Surprise, surprise, it’s exactly the same setup as you’ll find in the Civic – and no, we don’t mean the Type R version. Shame.
Anyway, that means it’s the eHEV with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a small 1.05kWh+ lithium-ion battery and two electric motors. One of those motors drives the wheels with 181bhp for the majority of the time, with the petrol power unit only kicking in as a generator to keep the battery topped up. However, the engine can also drive the wheels when that’s most efficient, for example at motorway speeds. Clever. Plus, although there’s often no physical connection between it and the wheels, Honda has simulated gearchanges so that the engine sounds familiar.
Does that mean it’s efficient?
Honda quotes a figure of 49.5mpg for the ZR-V, and on a mixed route of motorway, town and country roads we managed 45mpg in the real world on the launch event, and 44.4mpg during our week’s test of it back here in the UK. Not bad.
It’s worth noting that Honda expects most buyers of the ZR-V to be ‘mature families’ with parents who are between 45 and 55 years old. Strangely specific, but it does tell you lots about why they’ve set the car up like it is.
Why does it look so depressed?
Ah, yes, there is that. It’s not the prettiest thing that Honda has produced, is it? Things are improved slightly if you go for the Sport trim (as pictured, the others are Elegance and Advance) with its sharper bumpers and honeycomb grille, but even so that mouth is still pretty gormless. Honda describes the ZR-V as having a ‘noiseless appearance’, but it looks like it’s trying to shout pretty loudly to us.
How much does it cost?
Great question, because it’s not that cheap either. The ZR-V starts at £39,495 for the entry level Elegance trim. That is well-equipped with 18-inch wheels, a rear-view camera and a 7.0-inch digital dial display, but it’s also around £4,000 more than a Nissan Qashqai in its hybrid form.
Additional rivals include the Skoda Karoq, Vauxhall Grandland and VW Tiguan, plus the likes of the Ford Kuga, the Volvo XC40, the MG HS, the Toyota RAV4, the Seat Ateca and the Mazda CX-5. We’ll leave it there…
What's the verdict?
Generally the ZR-V is a fairly plain crossover, which does rather beg the question why Honda went quite so controversial with the design. It’s really not a pretty thing. Selecting the Sport trim does improve things with a better grille and bumper, but who thought that giving the front end a Nigel Mansell tash was a good idea?
Plus, with a starting price of just under £40,000 it really isn’t cheap either. The eHEV powertrain could win some ‘mature families’ over as Honda hopes, but it’ll struggle to get them through the door of showrooms in the first place when rivals are both cheaper and slightly more visually palatable.