More choice for the

Honda faithful

Honda ZR-V, 2023, front, action
Honda ZR-V, 2023, front, action
Honda ZR-V, 2023, front
Honda ZR-V, 2023, front
Honda ZR-V, 2023, side
Honda ZR-V, 2023, display screen
Honda ZR-V, 2023, centre console
Honda ZR-V, 2023, engine
Honda ZR-V, 2023, instrument panel
Honda ZR-V, 2023, interior
Honda ZR-V, 2023, side
Honda ZR-V, 2023, rear
Honda ZR-V, 2023, boot

THE escalating number of new cars coming onto the market means brand loyalty is constantly under threat.

But if there's one company that suffers from the problem much less than others it's Honda.

Honda buyers are a loyal bunch and traditionally tend to move from one Honda model to another, so news of an addition to the brand's line up is likely to get the company's showrooms buzzing.

The newcomer is a rather smart, spacious SUV called the ZR-V, and it's been designed to slot neatly between the company's two existing SUV models, the smaller HR-V and the larger CR-V.

In truth it's barely 14 centimetres shorter than the current CR-V but a radically new version of that model is due out later this year and it's dramatically larger, appealing to a different type of buyer.

Prices for the ZR-V start from £39,495 and there are three spec levels available, with the top-of-the-range Advance model - which I sampled at the car's launch - at £42,895 expected to the best seller.

Like its siblings the new model is a 2.0-litre self-charging hybrid with two electric motors - so no worries with range anxiety - which Honda says will average almost 49 miles per gallon. Top speed is 108 mph and it will reach 62 mph in an impressive 8.0 seconds.

The stylish but slightly bulbous design of the new car means generous interior space and plenty of luggage room with 370 litres beneath the powered tailgate rising to 1,301 litres with the rear seats folded down. Sadly Honda's versatile "magic seats" have not been included on this new range.

Current Honda SUV owners will feel very much at in the cabin, which is smart, clean cut and functional. Like its siblings the ZR-V doesn't have a gear shift as such, just buttons to engage drive, reverse and neutral on the CVT automatic gearbox.

The hybrid system works out the most efficient power source to run on at any given time so you could be running on purely electric - mainly in towns and cities - on the engine or on a combination of both.

The result is a super smooth, super quiet-around-town SUV that's relaxing to drive.

Paddles behind the steering wheel allow you to increase or decrease the rate of regenerative braking to increase the charge going into the battery and there is a choice of four engine modes, eco, normal, sport and - for bad weather - snow.

The Advanced model car had all the benefits you would expect from a top spec Honda including heated seats front and back, a heated steering wheel, a sliding glass sunroof, leather upholstery, a 12-speaker Bose surround sound audio system and a crystal-clear head-up display.

There's a 9-inch touchscreen which sits high on the top of the dashboard for accessing on-board features although I found it a little small when trying to view the satellite navigation system in bright sunlight. Fortunately the head-up display projects a mirror image into the windscreen alongside the digital speed readout.

I liked the radically new centre console design which incorporates a mobile telephone charging pad and plenty of stowage features, including a deep box beneath the armrest large enough to accommodate a laptop.

On the road the ZR-V handles more like a hatchback than an SUV but with the added bonus of better all-round visibility thanks to its height.

Honda has obviously done a lot of work on soundproofing because the cabin is impressively quiet and refined.

With 181bhp there's plenty of response when you put your right foot down hard using the power of both engine and electric motor and never a feeling that the car is lacking. In fact the company claims it boasts the same amount of torque, or pulling power, as a 3.0-litre petrol engine.

On the other side of the coin, it's surprising just how often you find the ZR-V running purely on battery power and saving fuel.

Back in 2010 just 7.4 per cent of cars were SUV models. Now that figure is well over 50 per cent so Honda can be pretty sure it's latest one is going to be a success - especially with its loyal bank of devotees anxious to be among the first to take delivery in September.

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