This new addition to the Honda range combines hybrid technology with the generous dimensions of a medium SUV.
If you ask what Honda is traditionally known for, the answers you will probably get are sports cars, powerful naturally aspirated engines, the Japanese philosophy of quality and reliability, but it is unlikely to be about the company's pioneering SUVs.
You see, long before SUVs were all the rage in today's commercial dimensions, Honda was thoroughly involved with the subject, introducing the CR-V in 1995, and four years later creating the founder of the B-SUV class, the memorable and very popular in our parts, HR-V.
With this accumulated know-how of all these years, Honda is now taking the next step, which is not a new generation of an existing model, but a new addition.
The name of this 'ZR-V', which comes to be 'squeezed' in Honda's range between the HR-V and the C-RV, although, as its length reaches 4,568 mm, it is essentially a D-SUV . The closer you look at it, the more you feel that with its long, narrow silhouette, it looks more like a crossover coupe than a massive SUV.
A “quiet” picture
The front end of the ZR-V exudes a subtle dynamism, thanks to slim headlights and a grille (the dominant, striking, gloss-black grille consists of strong vertical bars on Elegance and Advance versions, while on Sport models, as in this case, it is differentiated by unique mesh-shaped finish), creating, according to Honda, a “quiet” image, where nothing betrays any visual affinity with the Civic
Below the lights, the front bumper features vertical slits at the edges, in front of the front wheel, which form part of the air curtain that reduces the vehicle's overall drag. Sport trims are distinguished by a different bumper, with even glossier black trim around the air curtain area, enhancing the ZR-V's image and sporty undertones.
Another element that differentiates the Sport version is the two chrome exhaust tips, which complete the image of the rear.
Contrary to its exterior appearance, the interior of the ZR-V shares essentially the same dashboard as the Civic. The horizontal design stands out, highlighted by the central strip in a mesh pattern that camouflages the vents.
The instrument panel consists of a 7-inch screen and an analog speedometer (in the richest version, Advance, the driver's information is handled by a fully digital 10.2-inch panel, together with a head-up display system), while the stand-alone 9-inch screen of the system multimedia continues to dominate the top of the board.
To minimize driver distraction and ensure total control, the steering wheel features two groups of switches on the armrests. The one on the left controls the infotainment system screen, allowing users to select audio, phone or settings functions, while the one on the right controls the functions of the vehicle and assistance systems.
To the above are added the high-quality materials, the careful finishing and the subtle lighting – all together make up a premium atmosphere. The console is defined by the “keyboard” of the box, which literally bridges the distance from the glove box between the seats, creating a small shelf in the lower part for some small items.
To ensure uninterrupted connectivity for all passengers, the ZR-V features five separate ports for charging mobile devices throughout the cabin. Up front, there's a 15-watt wireless charging pad for smartphones, in addition to illuminated USB-A and USB-C fast charging ports below the gear selector on the center console.
Although it is a relatively tall SUV, you still have the feeling that you are sitting relatively low inside the car. The seats (heated with electric adjustments, but no lumbar support in this particular Sport version) offer good lateral support and prove quite comfortable on long journeys.
With a height of 1,620 mm. unloaded, width 1,840 mm, length 4,568 mm and 2,657 mm wheelbase, the ZR-V holds its own in Honda's SUV lineup. Being by 50 mm. wider than the HR-V and by 59 mm. lower than the CR-V, Honda's new SUV is spacious enough.
In the rear seats, even three passengers of normal height will be comfortable, which is facilitated by the smooth configuration of the floor, while they have access to charging ports and air vents to supply fresh air.
With rear split seats that fold completely flat to create a flat space, a luggage compartment, a folding shelf and a small underfloor storage area, the boot adapts to the needs of passengers, although the standard capacity of 390 liters is a rather modest price for the data of D-SUVs.
Folding the rear seats adds an extra 921 liters (1,311 liters in total), while the low, wide sill and flat floor make it easy to load large items. An automatic power tailgate is standard from the Sport trim up, while the walk-away function activates automatic closing and locking.
The hybrid heart of the Honda ZR-V
Another element, which some may not mention is intertwined with Honda, has to do with hybridization. The famous VTEC engines may have stolen the glory, but the company has gained expertise in hybrid systems for over two decades.
The result is the highly advanced self-charging full hybrid system introduced in the last generation Civic and now housed under the hood of the ZR-V.
Contrary to what we are used to from parallel devices of some competitors, here we are dealing with a serial device, where the first reason is a powerful electric motor, which draws energy either directly, or through a small rechargeable battery, from a gasoline engine.
The difference in Honda's e:HEV system is that in very specific situations, such as driving on the open road at a constant speed, the thermal engages to power the wheels directly.
Honda opted for the solution of a 2-liter naturally aspirated engine operating in the Atkinson cycle, which is more efficient in hybrid applications. It is distinguished by a high degree of efficiency, thanks also to the direct injection system, while it could not have the famous VTEC for valve timing.
It makes no sense to talk about combined power, since the maximum performance of the system is essentially identical to that of the electric motor, which here reaches 184 hp, where, despite the weight of 1.6 tons, the performance of 7.9 sec. and the 173 km/h top speed are completely satisfactory.
The same applies to ecological performance, given that we are dealing with an SUV of respectable dimensions and weight. CO2 emissions amount to 130 g/km, with average factory consumption at 5.7 l/100 km.
As we found, there are no significant deviations in practice, with the average value of 6 l/100 km not affected by heavy use in urban environments, while on the open road the consumption increases by around 1.0 litres. Somehow, then, you can't get enough of seeing the range indicator, which, as you start with a full tank, is four digits.
The road “ways” of the Honda ZR-V
There may be quite a few similarities with the Civic, but we cannot say that the ZR-V is the SUV variant of the Civic. That's evident by looking at the ZR-V's chassis, which is a mix of elements from the Civic up front, the new CR-V at the rear, and a few new ones in terms of sound insulation and vibration damping.
Be that as it may, however, the Japanese engineers wanted to give a more traditional feel to driving, despite the strongly electrified features. The start is almost always electric, and if the driver shows restraint, the system gives priority to the electric drive.
Otherwise, the system, either through the direct engagement of the petrol engine or through the gearbox that simulates traditional gear changes (in reality it just cuts the power momentarily and produces a growl from the speakers), the driver swears he's got a sports car in his hands vehicle.
Via a dial, users can automatically switch between four driving modes: Normal, Sport, Eco and Snow. The Sport program improves throttle response and performance, while Eco adjusts power unit operation with fuel efficiency in mind. The new Snow program adjusts throttle response characteristics for driving on surfaces with a low traction coefficient.
Unfortunately, despite the presence of the very practical metal paddles on the steering wheel (which actually come from the flagship NSX), the energy recovery is actually regulated in four stages, only in the Sport program. In Normal, which is the default program at startup, any operation is canceled very quickly.
Therefore, despite the virtual reality of the box and despite the excellent writing samples we obtained from the Civic, the ZR-V leaves aside the sporty characteristics, where it simply predisposes to something more (thanks to the winding control system, which in the turns keeps the engine high while increasing the level of energy recovery), choosing to focus on a nice ride quality, taking advantage of the suspension travel and 18-inch wheels.
At the checkout
Troubled times for hybrid princes, when all manner of plug-in models await, with the corporate-friendly legislation that comes with them, while on the other side lies a plethora of C- & D-SUVs.
By absolute standards, the ZR-V wins you over with ride quality, space (except for the trunk), quality and the glamor of the Honda name, while its hybrid system works well, keeping consumption at very reasonable levels.
On reaching the checkout, however, the prospective buyer is faced with a cost that starts at €44,700 for the entry-level Elegance version, when the Sport rises to €51,800, while the richer Advance sits at €55,800.
However, it is accompanied by a 5-year warranty, an extension of pan-European road assistance through the Honda Assist program, which will also reach 5 years and 8 years factory warranty (or 160,000 km) to maintain 70% or more of the capacity of the high-voltage battery.
At the same time, a new promotional program is offered with a subsidized interest rate of 2.9% (40% down payment, up to 60 months repayment) and 5 years of free service (periodic maintenance program work and spare parts), while now the Sarakaki group will also be actively active in the time-leasing sector , which of course will include the new CR-V._ 4T
PROPULSION SYSTEM: n/c + c/c >DISPLACEMENT (c/c): 1,993 cc >POWER (b/c): 143 hp/6,000 rpm >TORQUE (b/d): 186 Nm/4,500 rpm >POWER (hp): 184 hp >TORQUE (hp): 315 Nm >COMBINED POWER: 184 hp >COMBINED TORQUE: 315 Nm >DRIVE: Front wheels >TRANSMISSION: 2 speeds >FRONT SUSPENSION: MacPherson struts > REAR SUSPENSION: Multi-link >LxWxH: 4,568×1,840×1,620 mm >WHEEL BASE: 2,657 mm >LUGGAGE SPACE: 390 liters >WEIGHT: 1,604 kg >0-100 KM/H: 7.9 seconds >TOP SPEED: 173 km/h >AVERAGE TEST CONSUMPTION: 6 l/100 km >CO2 EMISSION: 131 g/km >PRICE: From 44,700 euros
PHOTOS: YIANNIS KOUSKOUTIS