HONDA has tightened its hold on the SUV sector with the ZR-V, squarely aimed at families and retail buyers.
The Japanese car-maker has a very loyal following and while it wishes existing owners will consider the newcomer when they want to change, it also hopes to hook in buyers from other brands as the sector now accounts for almost six-in ten new cars registered.
For the Honda ZR-V, the emphasis is on proven powertrain technology, very high equipment levels, sporty handling and good economy.
Although Honda's clever magic seats have disappeared in the newcomer, it does provide a lot of room for five with a family-sized boot, many practical details and on the Advance flagship model a lot of creature comforts.
Startingwith the well-equipped Elegancegrade from £39,494, this features 18-inch grey alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors,11 airbags, a rear-view camera, and an eight-speaker audio system. A nine-inch touchscreen display is available across the range, complete with Honda Connect, navigation, and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto compatibility, alongside a seven-inch digital instrument display behind the leather steering wheel.
Sport grades begin at £41,095 with a unique front bumper and grille treatment, gloss black mirrors and window trim, matte black wheels, and a fabric and synthetic leather combination interior trim. Sports pedals, ambient LED lighting, hands-free power tailgate, wireless charging, and additional USB ports are also standard.
Range-topping Advance models from £42,895feature full leather seats with perforated inserts and silver stitching, a heated leather steering wheel and heated front and rear seats, panoramic sunroof, and gloss black and diamond cut alloys. Customers opting for the flagship ZR-V also get a 12-speaker BOSE sound system, a 10.2-inch multi-information display, and an all-new six-inch head-up display.
This means only the Elegance grade model escapes the list price premium road tax from years two to five and the Sport and Advance models attract a £560 duty each year then.
Andrew Winfield, product and business planning manager, said the hybrid ZR-V fills the gap between the compact sized HR-V and the medium sector CR-V as part of Honda's electrification programme by 2030 which will see 30 new EV models, both cars and motorbikes.
"The SUV sector now accounts for nearly 57 per cent of UK market sales, some 13 or the top 20 models, so the arrival of the ZR-V this month is timely and important to the brand. It has been pitched against the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tuscon in particular in terms of size comparisons," he said.
The powertrain comes straight out of the electrified Civic with slight modification and is common to the Elegance, Sport and Advance grades which individually differ in front grilles and bumpers, wheel finishes, interior equipment and details. They are built in China.
Order books are now open and first deliveries will be in September. Key to its success in the current economic climate is making acquiring the ZR-V affordable, particularly for families and there may be some room for price negotiation in dealerships.
On a first drive, the Honda ZR-V impressed with its effortless performance, long legged range over 53mpg, abundance of room and the very high equipment on our flagship model.
The boot is a useful size and quickly expands as the seats fold, the Advance full-length sunroof restricts headroom to some extent but the leg and shoulder space is good.
Ride quality was slightly firm on 18-inch wheels and tyres and you could hear the rumbles beneath them, but the powertrain was extremely quiet by contrast.
Handling was very good for an SUV of this size and the roadholding was safe and surefooted.
Honda ZR-V Advance
143ps 4cyl 2.0 petrol engine and 184ps electric motor driving front wheel vai automatica transmission