The Honda ZR-V is a smart looking, practical and efficient SUV.
Sitting at the centre of Honda’s SUV line-up, it’s sandwiched by the smaller HR-V and larger CR-V.
That puts it square in the mid-size SUV segment, probably the most popular class of vehicle in the UK. It will be trying to tempt buyers away from excellent and established models including the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga and Hyundai Tucson.
So it had better be good if it’s going to succeed. My first impressions were positive. It’s a smart looking car, well-proportioned and with some nice details to hold the eye.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0 litre petrol engine that’s assisted by a battery and electric motors on the front axle.
Paired together, they generate a healthy 181bhp, enough to shift the Honda from a standstill to 62mph in 8.0 seconds. Official fuel economy is an excellent 48.7mpg.
My week with the Honda ZR-V coincided with our plan to walk the Speyside Way. The Honda transported us from Dundee to Buckie – a journey of nearly three hours.
With most hybrids the engine drives the wheels with the electric motors offering a bit of assistance. Honda has flipped that formula. Instead the electric motors do most of the work, with the engine acting as a generator, keeping the battery charged up.
Sounds complicated? In practice the car takes car of everything and all you need to do is get in and start driving.
The journey from Dundee to the far side of Aberdeenshire is long and beautiful. Rain lashed down for much of my journey, turning to snow over the high pass near Dalwhinnie and going past the Lecht ski centre.
The Honda doesn’t have four-wheel drive but it felt sure footed and the high-up driving position gave a clear view of the road ahead, even with the wipers working overtime.
The road is undulating, with lots of steep ascents. That’s not a good formula for fuel economy, yet the ZR-V returned 44mpg over the course of the journey, which is within touching distance of its official figure. On flatter, straighter road 50mpg should be achievable.
Ride quality is decent and the ZR-V handles well, with good levels of grip and precise steering. It’s not quite as refined as the superb Mazda CX-5 but nor is external noise too intrusive either.
The Honda ZR-V’s interior is a pleasant place to be. There’s a clean, uncluttered dashboard layout with easy-to-use buttons for the most common functions. Rivals such as the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq make you use a touchscreen to adjust the heat and fan settings, which is tricky to do when you’re driving.
There’s enough space for four adults. At 380 litres the boot is – on paper – smaller than many rivals. I found it much more generous than that figure suggests, however, with a flat, rectangular load space and plenty of height for large items.
Those needing more space might want to look at the Skoda Karoq or Mazda CX-5, both of which have bigger interiors.
Prices for the ZR-V start at a little over £39,000 for an entry level car. It doesn’t cost too much extra to upgrade to mid-spec Sport trim or the range topping Advance model, and it’s probably worth it to bag the extra kit.
My test car came with Advance trim and its niceties included heated seats in the front and rear, leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, Bose stereo, wireless phone charging and smart headlights. These angle round corners so you can see better around bends and automatically adjust high beam so you don’t dazzle other road users.
There’s a lot to like about the Honda ZR-V. Looks, practicality and economy are all on its side. Honda has been at or near the top of every manufacturer reliability survey for decades, so I’d expect the ZR-V to offer years of trouble free motoring as well.
In fact, the Honda ZR-V’s greatest rival might come from within its own stable. The latest Honda Civic is a superb car, with many of the same attributes as the ZR-V at a lower price point.
If you’re not wedded to the high driving position of an SUV it’s well worth taking one for a test drive.
0-62mph: 8 seconds
Top speed: 108mph
CO2 emissions: 132g/km