5 January 2024

Does Honda have a spy at Maserati? The front of the new ZR-V says yes

| James Coleman
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Honda ZR-V

It’s that gaping grille and those taut headlights that do it. Photo: James Coleman.

According to the latest Census, Wagga Wagga has a population of over 60,000 people. And there’s one main street, called Best Street.

Like a lot of NSW cities on a Thursday evening – when Canberra might content itself with cheap drinks – this one has late-night shopping. You can see where this is going.

Best Street becomes the worst street. Whole eras pass before you, species come and go, all as you watch a set of lights perform the same red-yellow-green cycle over and over again because – several cars in front – there’s a major befuddlement over parallel parking. A cumbersome bus is also in the mix, and several dithering pedestrians.

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The traffic was appalling. But this was also perfect for my purposes, because at a time like this, little annoyances in your car rise up like pimples on a humid day.

I was in a new Honda ZR-V I’d borrowed from Wagga Motors, here’s the thing – I was struggling to find one.

It’s true the satnav is basic, and got me lost earlier. And though there are glimmers of Maserati about it, the looks are not outstanding. Fortunately, mine is a vibrant blue.

But that was all. Even on the road outside Tilly’s at 7 pm.

In case you’re wondering, ZR-V isn’t an acronym we’ve come across before – it’s an all-new model, bigger than the HR-V but smaller than the CR-V.

In much the same pattern as we saw with the new Civic, Honda has taken the Henry Ford approach to the line-up too: you can have any ZR-V as long as it’s either a petrol X, L or LX, or a petrol-electric hybrid LX e:HEV.

Prices range from $40,200 to $54,900, and there’s no negotiation on these either – they’re fixed nationally. Pretty much the only options you have to think about are the colours, and there are five. You technically can’t even change the wheel design without having to change model.

Mine is the hybrid, fitted with a 2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and two electric motors.

Honda ZR-V

On the shores of Lake Albert in Wagga. Photo: James Coleman.

It should be no surprise it’s a very slick system. We might associate hybrids with that nondescript Uber we got home in the other night, and it’s true Toyota was the first to produce the technology en masse in 1999 (and pretty much did nothing with it ever since). But the Honda Insight wasn’t far behind.

Nearly 25 years and a few other hybrids later, a green light on the dash tells you the ZR-V’s engine is on standby and it’s just you and electricity. Plant your foot and without a clumsy clunk or flare of revs, it’s back. And in an eager way.

It’s obviously a bit more roly-poly than the lighter and lower Civic, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had here.

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And impeccable refinement. You could host a radio show inside at 100 km/h on the Sturt Highway – it’s that quiet – and your right foot could be physically connected to the brake – it’s that tractable. Steering is light, but precise too.

We know to expect no-nonsense reliability from the Japanese and crisp design from the Germans. This is both.

Take the knobs for the air-conditioning, for instance. They’re milled – like you’d find in a BMW 7-Series – and rotate in dignified clicks.

The overall design of the cabin is best described as ‘beefy’, like it’s a Transformer waiting for an opportune moment to turn into Dwayne Johnson. Opening the doors feels like you’re grasping a leather-wrapped dumbbell.

But the whole package emanates premium, and the fixed $54,900 sticker price begins to look a bit like a bargain. Is the hybrid worth the extra $6500 though? Probably not.

The petrol models also make do with a standard gear lever. And that’s welcome because the only feature in my hybrid that bugged me to the end was the design of the buttons for Drive, Neutral, Reverse and Park. Why do they all have to look different?

A petty point, yes, but you discover these things at 7 pm, Thursday, on Worst Street.

Honda ZR-V

Hello there. Photo: James Coleman.

2023 Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX

  • $54,900
  • 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors, 135 kW / 315 Nm
  • CVT, front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • 5.0 litres per 100 km combined fuel usage
  • 0-100 km/h in 8 seconds
  • Five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty
  • Not yet tested for safety by ANCAP

This car was provided for testing by Wagga Motors.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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