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Home / Reviews / Cars & bikes / Honda ZR-V review: more than a stop-gap SUV

Honda ZR-V review: more than a stop-gap SUV

C-segment SUV offers great middle ground potential

Honda ZR-V review tracking front

In many ways, the ZR-V is typical Honda. This SUV is finished to a very high standard, and built to last – but it’s also rather expensive. That last one’s an aspect of the brand that loyal customers tend to put up with, given the reliability associated with its cars, but it will make it tricky to dissuade shoppers away from rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tuscon.

In fact, anyone entering the SUV marketplace, or simply trading up, is pretty spoilt for choice. Honda itself also offers the CR-V and HR-V. Nevertheless, Honda’s ZR-V will be available from £39,495 and comes with a hybrid powertrain, which could make it a handy stepping stone towards EV territory for Honda’s loyal band of followers.

The styling

Size-wise, the Honda ZR-V sits in-between the smaller CR-V and the sizeable HR-V. The firm’s designers have done a reasonable job; it’s most distinctive when viewed from the front, with an eye-catching compendium of lights, grille and black trim flourishes that make it quite memorable, especially sitting on the 18in wheels of the Sport model.

The effect is not quite as dramatic when you view the ZR-V from the side, or for that matter the rear, despite the latter’s LED taillights. No matter, because if you’re not bowled over by the exterior there’s every chance you’ll warm to the interior. The cockpit is a very nice place to be, with a fit and finish that’s everything you expect from the Honda brand. Doors clunk shut nicely and the ambience inside is cool, calm and reasonably refined – which you’d expect given the price.

While there is much taken from the inside of the Honda Civic, including the cool honeycomb plastic trim styling, it all works to good effect inside the cabin of the ZR-V. The 10.2-inch digital instrument panel is supplemented by a central 9-inch touchscreen that juts up out of the middle of the dashboard. It’s not really big enough to do justice to the information on offer and one wonders how well this will age though. Nevertheless, the real estate of both screen areas is very nicely executed and the resolution of the graphics underlines Honda’s focus on quality.

Considering this is a Honda and will presumably be owned by a majority of fairly sensible people, the oomph provided by the 12-speaker Bose audio system found in the Advance model is well worth hearing and a lot more potent than we were expecting.

There’s half (synthetic) leather in the Sport car, with seat coverings that look a little like those old chairs that have lost their buttons over time, leaving just the fixing spot in place. Not really a negative; more an observation. Advance trim models ditch the fabric bit of the equation and are very comfortable, with a reasonable degree of electric adjustment in the front too.

The drive

Honda’s one-size-fits-all thinking for the ZR-V has resulted in it getting a cracking 2-litre petrol engine, which works in harmony with twin electric motors and a small battery to deliver pure hybrid goodness. It’s an impressive result too, with a well-rounded, front-wheel drive delivery of power that switches between electric and the petrol engine with a good degree of refinement.

It’s only when you hit the gas on something like a motorway slip road that the engine really shows any sign that it’s working hard. You can have some fun with the Honda ZR-V too as while the high up-up riding position offers a little bit of jostling on less smooth surfaces and a bit of roll in those tight corners too, it’s both compact and powerful enough to deliver some thrills if you step on it.

One of the downsides of less engine noise is the noticeable drone from the tyres however, although this isn’t really enough of a distraction to become wearing. And, because the interior is so nicely done, the fixtures and fittings do a good job of deadening the worse it has to offer. When you set off and work your way around town, the ZR-V really does feel like an EV, but it’s good to know there’s also plenty of power available when it’s needed. Overall, the effect is impressive and there’s economy that is in the right direction of 50mpg, which is admirable too.

The technology

Honda’s ZR-V comes with everything you need to make the most of today’s in-car app world, with a sat-nav that’s pretty dependable for starters. There’s wireless charging too plus a head-up display if you spend more and go for the Advance-grade car.

The £41,095 Sport model seems like best value though as it comes with Honda’s Sensing driver aids, front and rear parking sensors, a rear view camera and power tail gate plus keyless entry and start. Heated front seats will be handy in the winter too. It’s all good, even if what’s on offer doesn’t feel quite as solid value for money as it does in the more competitive, volume selling Qashqai.

Honda ZR-V verdict

You can get the Honda ZR-V in three different trim levels, with the entry-level Elegance model being the one to go for it you’re worried about the pennies. Our favourite is the Sport, and then Advance-grade cars, take the price up a few thousand – but if you can’t do without the likes of adaptive LED headlights, the rather good panoramic sunroof and that excellent Bose stereo it’s worth going for.

All cars come with the same eHEV engine anyway, so expect performance to be similar no matter which model you plump for. There are rivals that offer more space, particularly in the boot – like the Qashqai for example, but if you’re a committed Honda fan heading towards your first all-electric car then this could be a sensible first stop.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Another C-segment SUV to consider if you’re keen to dabble with electric power, but don’t fancy any of the range anxiety that comes with it in full-on EVs.

Honda Z-RV technical specifications

PowertrainDual electric motor + 2.0-litre petrol engine
0-60mph7.9 sec
Top speed107mph
Fuel economy48.7mpg
Cargo volume380 litres
Profile image of Rob Clymo Rob Clymo


Rob is a freelance motoring journalist, and contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv

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