Like so many carmakers, Honda has realised just how important it has become to have at least one SUV in the range. There seems to be a never ending thirst for such vehicles; look even at the likes of Bentley, where the introduction of the SUV boosted sales to a high degree. Honda now offer SUVs which will have wide appeal, a brand which has and continues to have a reputation for excellent engineering and build quality.
The latest to come my way is the ZR-V, which slots neatly into the range between the HR-V and CR-V. This is the Japanese carmaker’s latest electrified SUV and as I discovered during my week behind the wheel, has an impressive blend of performance, build quality and comfort. Make no mistake, it is a player in the highly competitive C sector of the market, so the buyer, it is fair to say, has maximum buying choice. Performance really impressed; under the bonnet sits a potent two litre, four-cylinder direct injection engine, which works in conjunction with two motors to provide a drive experience on a par with a sporty hatchback; but then over the years I have always found there is a performance edge to the Honda product. Built around Honda’s acclaimed e:HEV hybrid technology, the ZR-V features an upgraded version of the twin electric motor system as in the Civic e:HEV, the powertrain now produces a total power output of 135 kW and 315 Nm of torque, providing acceleration from rest to 100kph (62 mph) in just 7.8 seconds.
Driving in town, the ZR-V mostly runs in EV Drive, producing zero emissions whilst utilising the seamless and responsive traits of electric driving. When stronger acceleration is called for, the car will switch to Hybrid Drive to propel the wheels via the powerful electric motor, with the internal combustion engine generating the required electric power. Driving at constant high speeds, the system will shift to Engine Drive and is directly and efficiently powered by the petrol engine with minimum losses and assisted by the electric motor when necessary and when drive energy increases towards top end speed, the system switches back to Hybrid Drive thus delivering the full output of the electric motor. For me, in company with performance, handling has always been one of the joys of driving a Honda and again I was not disappointed; there are impressive levels of grip and control in all situations and during my loan periods I encountered a variety of roads and changing weather conditions with the bulk of my driving in counties Donegal and Fermanagh. With a chassis that is both light and rigid, plus a responsive hybrid powertrain, on occasion I forgot I was driving an SUV, the feel was more akin to a sporty Civic- who said SUVs were boring, not this one! Sitting lower than its cousin, the CR-V it rides on eighteen inch black alloys, (now very much in fashion) and wider than the HR-V, the low and wide appearance gives an impressive footprint and solid base; the end result is a very dynamic SUV. Styling is sleek, a well defined body and during our week together, this Honda created a good deal of attention with other drivers following me up close and then darting past to get a closer look.
A wide range of innovative technologies, designed to keep driver and fellow passengers connected to the car and the outside world and I found the controls and easy-to-read displays added to the pure joy of driving this Honda. Honda SENSING is among the most comprehensive safety technology packages in this sector of the market and using camera information in conjunction with a host of high-tech sensors, I felt very secure and confident behind the wheel. One aspect of buying an SUV, is the need for a practical vehicle and the ZR-V offers from 370 litres of cargo space at full passenger capacity, 20% more than HR-V, and an additional 921 litres (1291L in total) by folding the rear seats down, while the low, wide boot aperture and flat cargo floor helps when loading heavy items. An automatic power tailgate is standard on the Sport grade and above, improving the ease of loading and unloading and this system reacts to a kicking movement under the vehicle’s rear bumper to the open the boot, while a walk-away function automatically closes it.
Summing up, this is one of the most attractive SUVs currently available.