Honda ZR-V: A cut above the rest?

2023 Honda ZR V VTi L 2

What is it?

Honda has shown its hand for the future with a deft shuffle of its SUVs, including the addition of a new model — the ZR-V.

It slots between the present HR-V and CR-V and while the newcomer is different, it does go somewhat to cramping the style of its older siblings.

However, Honda assures us the coming of the all-new CR-V in 2024, as a bigger, more spacious model than at present, will resolve the situation.  

“The Honda ZR-V is Honda Australia’s first, brand-new core model to be introduced in Australia in 20 years,” says Honda Australia director Carolyn McMahon, “and uses an enhanced version of Honda’s global architecture.” 

2023 Honda ZR V VTi L 3

What’s it cost?

The Civic-based ZR-V comes in three petrol-only grades and a range-topping petrol/electric hybrid.

Prices start at $40,200 for the VTi X with the hybrid e:HEV LX costing $54,900.

On test was the ZR-V VTi L at $43,200.

All prices are driveaway.

Standard equipment includes premium cloth upholstery, dual-zone climate control, 9.0-inch infotainment touch-screen, eight-speaker sound system, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, eight-speaker sound system, 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 11 airbags, 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers and parking sensors front and back.

In contrast, the VTi L takes on leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, 18-inch alloys, heated door mirrors, hands-free power tailgate, rear privacy glass, combination LED tail lights and metal paddle shifts.

At a tad over 4.5 metres long, ZR-V is knocking on the mid-sized SUV door.

With a forceful front, the radiator grille shows off why black is the new chrome, cropping up in all classes of automobile, from bargain basement compacts to high-end aristocrats and anything in between – a ZR-V, for example.

By contrast, the headlights flanking the front each share a home with daytime running lights and dynamic direction indicators under a single sleek clear plastic ‘roof’.

In profile the SUV is neither too tall nor too small, a genuine design Goldilocks – and leads to a rear as neat and tidy as a tucked-in shirt.

Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are a step up from the entry-level 17s.

A 9.0-inch touchscreen is small by present-day standards but is home to a simple menu layout for wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, and eight speaker sound system.

The 10.2-inch digital information cluster screen displays a good amount of driver information.

Up front are USB-A and USB-C, in the rear two USB-C ports.

The Honda ZR-V leads the class in passive safety with 11 airbags, including a front-centre and driver’s knee airbag. 

Active safety includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, driver attention monitoring, lane-keep assist, traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition, front and rear parking sensors, plus tyre pressure monitoring.

All ZR-Vs come under Honda’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with 24/7 roadside assistance.

Service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km and capped at $199 per visit.  

2023 Honda ZR V VTi L 6

What’s it go like?

Seating is firm and could give rise to complaints on long journeys.

Head and legroom are excellent. However, in the back the high-set floor leaves little room for toes under the front seats. 

Out back there’s also a fold-down armrest with cup holders, double USB-C charge ports and bottle nest.

ISOFIX points are fixed for the outboard edges of the rear bench. 

Access to the 380 litres of boot space comes via a power tailgate operated from an external switch, or with a gentle ‘kick’, Sam Kerr-style, to the rear bumper.

Fold the 60/40 seat backs and 1312 litres becomes available.

The under-floor comes in two parts and can be used to separate cargo.

There’s room only for a space saver spare wheel.

Honda has hooked into the floating centre console with decent-sized cubby below. 

Deep cup holders are situated ahead of the gearshift switch.

Door slots will take 700 ml bottles. 

The Honda ZR-V VTi L relies on a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine mated with a CVT automatic transmission driving the front wheels.

Maximum power of 131kW comes up at 6000 rpm; top torque of 240Nm between 1700 and 4500 rpm, making for flexible performance from go to whoa.

With 240Nm of torque on tap from a low 1700 revs well managed by the CVT tuning, the ZR-V pulls away with little fuss.

Acceleration into a motorway stream of traffic is likewise.

Engine, wind and road noise are all-but absent, except in the last case on course surfaces.

Ride and handling are competent thanks to a well-tuned suspension. 

Town work on test was as expected for a light vehicle, while body roll on fast bends was minimised and road blemishes ironed out with ease.   

As a performer, of the three drive modes, Normal is, well normal, for day-to-day city traffic, while Eco saves fuel but obviously dumbs down the driving experience.

Sport makes the best of the turbo for a taut response to right-foot input. 

Honda puts a combined urban/highway fuel consumption of 7.2L/100km on the ZV-R petrol vehicle.

On test the VTi L came up with 9.0L in the city and as low as 5.0L on the open road. 

Driver’s view all round is mostly good but is let down by limited rear-window glass.

There’s a neat lock-as-you-walk-away form the vehicle when you have your hands full.

2023 Honda ZR V VTi L 5

What we like?

  • 11 airbags
  • Walk-away locking
  • Single sleek clear plastic ‘roof’
  • Engine, wind and road noise are all-but absent

2023 Honda ZR V VTi L 1

What we don’t like?

  • Seating is firm
  • Limited rear-window glass
  • 9.0-inch touchscreen small by present-day standards
  • Little room for toes under the front seats

2023 Honda ZR V VTi L 7

The bottom line?

As a long-time possessor of a self-propelled Honda lawnmower and large house block I have been pleasantly surprised with the machine’s performance and reliability.

It makes me wonder if the same could be applied to the company’s new SUV down the track.

2023 Honda ZR V VTi L 8


CHECKOUT: Honda HR-V: Back to the future

CHECKOUT: Honda Civic Hybrid: More dollars than sense


Honda ZR-V VTi-L, priced from $43,200 driveaway
  • Looks - 7/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Safety - 9/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 8/10
  • Value - 7/10

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