2023 Honda ZR-V Sport review

Honda has a new tech-savvy SUV on offer, the ZR-V landing in a busy market segment.

Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine

Honda has a new tech-savvy SUV on offer, the ZR-V landing in a busy market segment. Has it got the goods to run with the leaders of the pack?

Given the market obsession with all things SUV, it must be tough for Honda New Zealand knowing they can’t get their hands on the new HR-V just yet.

And so the arrival of the Honda ZR-V, a new nameplate for this market, is timely.

Don’t think of this as a Harvey replacement however as this new ZR-V is bigger and more expensive, with an entry price that is more than that of the CR-V.

But then the ZR-V is the first of Honda’s new models that will see it move towards becoming a more ‘premium Japanese brand’.

So along with added specification, technology, improved quality and safety, expect new models to come with higher prices.

A new CR-V will be along at the end of the year, and you can bet the new pricing won’t start as low as the $43k asked for the current entry model.

How much is the Honda ZR-V?

The ZR-V isn’t much smaller overall than the aforementioned CR-V, only 90mm shorter with a similar wheelbase. So it’s what you’d call a mid-size SUV, with similar dimensions to the CX-5 and RAV4.

There are two variants, one called the Turbo with a 1.5T engine and a $47,000 price tag, and the other is the Sport with the e colon HEV nomenclature marking it out as a hybrid.

Along with its petrol electric powertrain, the Sport has a better fit-out, and is priced at $55,000 with on roads set at $950.

Being a hybrid you’d expect a rebate but by the time you read this it will have gone from netting a nice $2130 to falling into the new neutral zone, and getting nada. The Turbo meanwhile goes from being neutral to copping a $2415 fee.

Is it a more premium Honda SUV?

Honda’s new mantra is to lift itself to a new premium level, although we think they’ve said that before, circa 2006 and the GFC put a halt to those ambitions. Hopefully this is not a harbinger of another economic downturn.

There is a newfound sense of quality in the ZR-V’s cabin. The ambience isn’t going to trouble Lexus and it is rather black inside but there are deft touches like the mood lighting and alloy details while the harder plastics are used sparingly.

Places you brush up against are soft and there are extras like a heated steering wheel.

There’s an interesting take on the centre console that looks swish but isn’t that space efficient, impinging on the driving position a tad.

The hybrid has buttons to select gears (the Turbo gets a lever) but we’d rather one of those little rocker switches as far as ease of use goes. And it would be good if when you selected P it also activated the brake.

There are well-placed cup holders and a charge pad while there is some storage space underneath.

The infotainment is of the no-frills variety but is well sited on the dash top and sat nav is included along with (wired) CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The ZR-V is the first model available here with Honda Connect which gives the ability to control a few aspects via a smartphone app.

Some of the features include remote lock/unlocking, location finder (should you forget where you parked…), you can set the climate control for your departure and it will record journey information.

In the event of an accident where the airbag deploys, it will notify the Honda Connect Customer Care line.

To help keep track of young drivers, there is a geofencing feature (you can set a travel radius and you’ll get an alert if the driver is detected outside of this area), and you can also be alerted if they exceed a set speed limit.

It’s free for the first three years, then there is a subscription charge.

Is the ZR-V a good family car?

There’s plenty of territory for those in the back and the flat floor gives equal leg room for three kids, reducing hostilities.

Extras include USB-C ports and bench warmers but Honda insists on slinging the centre seat belt from the roof; it’s just not user friendly or very premium.

The seats fold in a straightforward manner, the squab descending as the seat back folds so you get a flat area when you expand the boot.

The powered tailgate gets gesture control and while the boot might not be voluminous, it’s big enough.

Being a hybrid, the battery takes up space under the boot floor, so there’s not much in the way of additional storage or any spare wheel. This hybrid can tow but not that much, with a max rating of 750kg, so it’s half that of the Turbo.

Honda ZR-V hybrid specs

The Sport’s hybrid powertrain is more like Honda’s old IMA system (integrated motor assist) and not as confusing/complex as that in the Jazz (which is more of an EV with an engine for a power generator).

The engine part of the equation is a 2.0-litre four running on the efficient Atkinson cycle, which makes 104kW and 182Nm.

The ZR-V uses an eCVT contraption that houses two electric motors and once they have done their thing, Honda quotes the hybrid output at 135kW with 315Nm at 2000rpm.

Consumption is stated at 5.5L/100km with emissions of 126g/km (WLTP), while we managed 6.3L/100km over our week driving it.

This hybrid provides a smooth and torquey delivery. There’s abundant pull from down low, and that 315Nm can trouble the front wheels if you’re in a hurry.

The traction control quickly quells the wheel spin however and there’s no torque steer to contend with.

The motors do a good deal of the work, more so in slow moving traffic, but they can also take over on a steady cruise.

The steering wheel paddles can be flapped to add brake regen although it’s only slight, even on the max setting, so you always need to use the actual brake pedal to come to a halt.

What about the drive?

Generally the ride quality is okay; it’s slightly firm and while the suspension can fidget over some surfaces, the dampers do a good job of blotting over the big bumps.

The steering is well weighted and quick, the turning circle city friendly and the surround view camera makes parking easy.

This has all the usual active safety features, including LED lights with adaptive or matrix-style high beams, a first for Honda.

The lane departure system isn’t too bothersome while the adaptive cruise control does a good job in slow-moving traffic.

The ZR-V shares its platform with the Civic and it has similar dynamic characteristics. There’s more roll involved given it rides higher but it’s otherwise stable enough on the go.

The steering is accurate and those front tyres stick nicely when you’re in the bends.

The response from the hybrid powertrain is decent too, without so much of that on or off-power delivery some can dish up.

Up to task then?

Certainly, all aspects pass muster here, the ZR-V being a practical, well outfitted SUV (in terms of both quality and spec) that’s just easy to live with.

The hybrid unit does a good job of balancing power, refinement and frugality.

And the pricing is keen too with key competitors like the RAV4 hybrid Limited and CX-5 Limited positioned at $60k while it’s a bargain compared with the Hyundai Tucson hybrid which is priced between $62 and $73k!

Plus you have Honda’s five-year unlimited warranty and price promise, meaning that’s the price you’ll pay.

Other hybrids in the space include Ford’s Escape ($52k-$60k) while the Haval H6 offers Chinese value at $47k.

ModelHonda ZR-V Sport
Clean Car DiscountNeutral – $0
Engine1998cc, IL4, DI
Total Output135kW/315Nm
Drivetraine-CVT, FWD
Fuel Use5.5L/100km
C02 Output126g/km
0-100km/h8.0 sec
Turning Circle11m
Fuel Capacity57L
Stability systemsABS, ESP, TV

Luggage Capacity370-1302L
Tow rating700kg (750kg braked)
Service intervals12 months/15,000km
Warranty5 years/Unlimited km
ANCAP ratingNot yet rated

This article was originally published on autocar.co.nz

Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidy
Editor NZ Autocar magazine - autocar.co.nz

Kyle has been reviewing cars since starting at NZ Autocar magazine in 2003 and has been editor since 2009. In that time he’s become an expert on what makes for a good vehicle while also gaining insights into the local automotive industry.