Tech and Science

Honda ZR-V Hybrid takes aim at younger drivers


Of the three circa-$40,000 SUVs in Honda showrooms, the new Honda ZR-V is pitched at the youngest audience.

Crafted for the postmillennial Generation Z, the ZR-V is designed to appeal to people on the right side of their 30th birthday.

The newcomer feels like the work of a focus group.

Larger than the compact HR-V but smaller than the family-minded CR-V, it’s a sensible car with close ties to the latest Honda Civic. It ticks quite a few boxes, including the option of hybrid power, although the wagon-like body looks awkward in the metal.

The range opens with the entry-level VTi X for $40,200 drive-away, bringing 17-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights and simple seats with cloth trim.

Standard safety gear includes 11 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, but blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts – standard fare on many rivals – are reserved for the most expensive model in the range.

Mid-grade VTi L variants add 18-inch alloys, a powered tailgate and heated faux-leather seats for $43,200 drive-away.

Range-topping VTi LX models sold for $54,900 drive-away have heated seats with genuine leather trim in the front and rear, a 12-speaker Bose stereo, a 360-degree camera, wireless phone charging and more, including the driver aids missing from cheaper models.

Most models have a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that uses 7.0L/100km to make 131kW and 240Nm, sending power to the front wheels through a CVT automatic transmission.

The top-end model is also available with hybrid power for $54,900 drive-away, swapping the 1.5-litre turbo motor for a non-turbo 2.0-litre engine paired with an electric motor to produce 135kW and 315Nm. It uses a claimed 5L/100km.

The green version is saddled with one of the most complicated badges on the road – the “ZR-V e: HEV LX” – but there’s a reason the car wasn’t simply called “ZR-V Hybrid”.

Honda plans to offer cheaper petrol-electric models in the future, giving customers access

to the more efficient car without the need to pay for heated leather seats or premium audio.

Every car in the range has a customisable 10.2-inch digital driver’s display, along with a 9-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay.

The ZR-V impresses with an eye-catching cabin, supportive seats and a well-placed steering wheel with plenty of adjustment. Back-seat passengers will appreciate luxuriant legroom, air vents and twin USB-C chargers, along with their share of eight cup holders.

A five year-warranty is standard, as are services capped at $199 for the first five years, along with a five-year connection to “Honda Connect”.

The digital service includes a smartphone app with clever features such as a location finder that tells you where the car is parked, along with driving history reports and a Geofence alert that tracks the car’s location. Are those features intended for drivers aged in their 20s, or nervous parents of new motorists?

Whether young or young at heart, drivers will enjoy the impressive roadholding ability of the ZR-V.

Built on Honda’s latest platform, the new machine has a keen appetite for cornering, exhibiting a similar enthusiasm for bends as the new Civic hatch. Powerful brakes join sharp, well-weighted steering that inspires confidence on winding roads.

The standard car’s compact motor makes light work of hills or overtaking, delivering quiet punch with the help of its turbo.

The expensive hybrid version is less convincing. Its naturally aspirated engine is noisier than its turbo cousin, which makes it sound strained at times. Extra weight and less grippy eco-conscious tyres make the hybrid less engaging in the bends, too.


Three and a half stars

A crisp drive and quality cabin work in the Honda’s favour but an expensive hybrid option and the omission of safety gear on cheaper versions count against it.


PRICE From $40,200 drive-away

ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 131kW and 240Nm

WARRANTY/SERVICE 5-yr u’ltd km, $995 for 5 years

SAFETY 11 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane-keeping assistance

THIRST 7L/100km

BOOT 380 litres

SPARE Space saver


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