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Honda's new Civic-based SUV is designed to fit between the HR-V and CR-V - can it make its mark in the busy C-segment?
18in alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, 11 airbags, a rear-view camera, 9in touchscreen with Honda Connect navigation and Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatability, 7in digital instrument display, leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Elegance, Sport, Advance
2023 seems to be a year of SUVs for Honda, with the HR-V we previewed in the last issue incoming, along with the all-electric eNy:1. But first, Honda has launched the ZR-V, designed to slot into its SUV family between the bigger HR-V and smaller CR-V.
Hybrid-powered and mechanically like the Civic hatch, the ZR-V is an interesting fusion of Civic at the front sharing its floor plan, with rear suspension shared with the new CR-V.
The ZR-V gets a new front bulkhead, which Honda tells us improves refinement. It means this Honda gets the same e:HEV powertrain under the bonnet. This is made up of a 2.0-litre direct-injection Atkinson-cycle engine, two electric motors, a new power control unit and an intelligent power unit, which together equals 184hp.
Like with the Civic, this powertrain is held together by the e-CVT system, that isn't as the name suggests a continuously variable transmission. Instead, it works via a clutch pack that seamlessly switches between each power source. This transmission impressed in the Civic, with the way it simulated gearchanges.
Outside, whilst the ZR-V follows the same design language, it still looks different to the CR-V and HR-V. On closer examination, it's still an anonymous design. From the front, you'll spot the grille (with the different slats being the identifier between models), the high-set LED headlights. The side is probably the most forgettable part of the design, with the only highlights being the distinctive wheel arches, lower cut-out and the chunky door handles. At the back, there are high-set, horizontal-style LED rear lights that stretch across the boot.
Inside, the ZR-V is perhaps more like the Civic, as like that car, this Honda has a slim dashboard design with mesh detailing down the centre - which hides the air vents. Also like the Civic, is the fact that there are welcome physical controls, rather than just a menu on the 9in touchscreen. The ZR-V's interior feels spacious, like a taller version of the Civic which it effectively is. Quality is good, everything feels well screwed together and the front seats are supportive. The 390-litre boot is smaller than in rivals, but practically-shaped and can be expanded to 1,291 litres with the rear seat folded.
Available in Elegance, Sport and range-topping Advance equipment grades, we got to try the Sport and Advance, and can report that both versions were well-equipped, with the Sport grade expected to most appeal to fleet.
On the road, like the Civic, the ZR-V is generally good to drive. All models have 18in wheels, which equals a well-resolved ride that's not too bothered by road imperfections.
The steering is pleasingly precise, although the taller body equals more roll in corners than the Civic and grip limits are easily found.
Where the wheels slightly fall off the ZR-V as a driver's package, is the car's hybrid system which seems less well-resolved than in the Civic - which is one of the best in our opinion. The cars we drove on the launch seemed far less predictable as to which power source would be used, and the result was far less smooth as a result. For example, even at lower speeds the engine seemed keener to cut in, with the obvious engine noise - which is not pleasant. This could be down to the extra weight, which brings 100 additional kilogrammes.
The ZR-V has four driving modes, including a new 'Snow' one, but we couldn't find much differentiation - apart from 'Sport' where it seems to hold the throttle even longer - although the fake gearchanges are neat.
The ZR-V should be launched in the UK by the time you read this, with customer deliveries from autumn. If you like the way the Civic drives, but need an SUV, this is a good compromise.