Long-term tests

Honda ZR-V Sport long-term test: a great car for dogs

First report: the spacious hybrid Honda ZR-V SUV passes its first test with flying colours on trip to Cornwall

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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If you need a Honda with a bit more boot space than the angular HR-V has to offer, the ZR-V is it. So far it’s doing everything well, combining great driving manners, efficiency, comfort and style.

  • Mileage: 4,606
  • Economy: 47.4mpg

Having spent time living with Honda’s excellent HR-V recently, I was pleased to be offered its bigger brother, the ZR-V, for a few months. The ZR-V not only offers usable room in the boot for our (not-excessively) Large Munsterlander dog (the HR-V’s sloping tailgate meant the load bay was just too confining), but also has a similarly spacious cabin and more oomph from a 2.0-litre petrol/twin electric motor hybrid set-up. It’s lifted from the Civic hatch, along with its entire platform, whereas the HR-V has a 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain.

Our ZR-V Sport arrived just before the Christmas break, with its ‘Still Night Pearl’ paintwork set off by a handsome set of chunky black-painted 18-inch wheels. While it’s similar in outline and proportion to any number of medium-SUV rivals, Honda’s designers have developed a sleek exterior with edges rounded like a newly-wetted bar of soap. Slim LED headlamp clusters and A-pillars, plus an unusually smooth roofline – the press info mentions a laser-brazing technique that eliminates join lines on the roof panel – and simple, unembellished flanks combine to good effect, but I’m not sure whether the ZR-V’s finer design points will stand out to casual observers. I’m pretty sure the exterior could happily pass as a design from a European premium brand.

The interior doesn’t inspire me in the same way, though, because it short on some of the European-market focused HR-V’s design brio. The ZR-V’s cabin is basically similar to that of the Civic, which means conventional and somewhat mainstream; – which, of course, it is in Honda’s biggest market for this car, the US. Over the pond, (where confusingly this car is badged as the HR-V), our Sport model has a retail price of $27,500 (to which you might typically add a 10 per cent car-sales tax in states that apply one), and you wouldn’t argue with the interior ambience at that money.

Over here the RRP is a more punchy £41,095, with an extra £650 for paint. That’s not to say the ZR-V is overpriced relative to its rivals in the UK – you can pay £42k for a hybrid Nissan Qashqai – but I’d like a bit more ‘premium feel’ inside for the money.

I have no complaints with the way the ZR-V goes, or doubts about its impressive comfort levels on my first long drive, a
10-hour trip to Cornwall and back from home. From memory, the cabin is significantly more hushed than the HR-V, and the seats are extremely supportive, especially when it comes to holding occupants in place when cornering, with excellent side bolstering on the backrest.

Body roll is controlled, and the HR-V feels stable at motorway speeds. It coped reassuringly with a lot of surface water in Cornwall on its big 225/55 R18 Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres. The car responds well to the throttle, too, feeling decently fast, and with none of the intrusive engine drone we used to associate with hybrid /CVT set-ups.

Accurate, well weighted steering makes placing the ZR-V easy, even on twisty roads, but the curvy body details mean it’s not always easy to judge the car’s extremities, whether that’s on a narrow Cornish lane or in a tight multi-storey car park. The front screen pillars appear quite slim when looking forward, where visibility is good, so it’s the car’s flanks that are hardest to gauge.

I’ve swapped to the ZR-V from a superbly efficient hybrid Toyota Corolla, so have high hopes for the Honda’s economy. My Cornish journey saw an average of 41.6mpg on the trip computer – pretty good for a bulky car

Model:Honda ZR-V e:HEV Sport
On fleet since:December 2023
Price new:£41,095
Engine:2.0 litre i-MMD Hybrid, e-CVT 141bhp/181bhp (petrol/electric)
Options:Metallic paint (£650)
Insurance*:Group: 35/Quote: £1,248
Any problems?None so far

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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