2023 Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX review

2023 Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX review
2023 Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX review

What’s a ZR-V?

Honda was early to the SUV party with the HR-V and CR-V, but beside a brief flirtation with a luxurious BMW X5 rival in the mid-2000s it hasn’t really expanded the range beyond those two staples.

The ZR-V is here to change that. It sits between the small HR-V, which is only a four-seater, and the bigger new CR-V – and goes head-to-head with top-end versions of the Kia Seltos and Toyota Corolla Cross, and low-end versions of the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 in Australia.

Confused? Think of it as an SUV designed to be small enough that it’s friendly in the city, but with enough space for small kids and all the junk that comes with them. Under the skin, a lot of the ZR-V package has been adapted from the Civic hatchback.

The 2023 Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX on test here is the most expensive member in the range, and the only hybrid option at launch.

How much does the Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX cost?

Pricing for the ZR-V kicks off at $40,200 drive-away, and extends to $54,900 drive-away for the e:HEV LX on test.

Honda doesn’t do haggling or pricing variance between dealers, what you see is what you get with that figure – for better or for worse.

The $54,900 drive-away sticker aligns the e:HEV with a range-topping Toyota Corolla Cross Atmos AWD Hybrid (~$55,000 drive-away). Other hybrid rivals are hard to come by, although the Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid (~$54,000 drive-away) also shapes as a logical alternative.

2023 Honda ZR-V pricing:

Honda ZR-V VTi X: $40,200Honda ZR-V VTi L: $43,200Honda ZR-V VTi LX: $48,500Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX: $54,900

All prices are drive-away

What is the Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX like on the inside?

Honda is on a roll with its latest interiors. The ZR-V looks and feels high-end, and is full of clever touches aimed at making life easier for owners.

The driver and passenger sit in plush leather seats with heating and electric adjustment, and vision out is pretty good. The seats drop down nice and low to accomodate taller drivers, but anyone chasing a classic ‘commanding’ SUV driving position won’t struggle to achieve that.

Much of what you touch and look at feels high-quality. The steering wheel is wrapped in soft leather, the elbow rests are generously padded, and the buttons and dials for the climate control make a satisfying click when you use them.

There are some harder plastics present though. This is the most expensive version of an otherwise relatively affordable car, which shines through in places.

Storage space is excellent. There’s a wireless phone charger under the dashboard (that struggles with big camera bumps), dual cupholders under the dash, and a big, flat space under the transmission tunnel with two USB ports. The bin beneath the central armrest is massive, too.

Honda’s latest infotainment system is modern to look at, with crisp graphics and simple, slick menus. The maps finally look like an OEM product rather than an aftermarket system, although the wireless smartphone mirroring means you can easily sidestep the inbuilt software anyway.

Even the reversing camera is sharp and bright, unlike the foggy unit from the last car. Over-the-air updates mean the system can be updated throughout its life, too.

The simple driver’s display is clean and easy to understand on the move, but lacks the functionality on offer in Volkswagen Group products. You can’t get live mapping, for example.

Rear seat space is solid given the ZR-V isn’t quite as big as a RAV4 or CR-V. The large doors open nice and wide, making it easier for adults to climb in – or for adults to load kids in – and legroom behind taller drivers is decent for adults.

Dual USB-C ports and air vents are on hand, as is a fold-down central armrest. ISOFIX points feature on the outboard rear seats, and unlike the four-seat HR-V the ZR-V has three top-tether points.

The middle top-tether is a ceiling-mounted one though, and the middle-rear seatbelt is ceiling mounted, rather than integrated into the seat.

Although the outboard rear seats are nicely scalloped, any middle seat occupants will be left high and dry on what’s a pretty narrow, awkward seat. At least the floor is mostly flat.

The slim bottle holders in the doors will come in handy on longer trips, and there are map pockets behind the front seats to stow books or iPads on long drives.

The boot is hit-and-miss – with just 370 litres of space, it’s one of the smallest in the class. It’ll still take a pram or golf clubs, but you have less space to play with around.

On the plus side though, it’s a very well thought-out space. The floor can be split in two to stop groceries sliding around, and the luggage cover (which is a proper, solid unit) can be folded in half and stored under the floor rather than clogging up your garage.

What’s under the bonnet?

The e:HEV LX features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder hybrid system with two electric motors and an e-CVT. Total system outputs are 135kW and 315Nm.

It’s front-wheel drive as standard, with no all-wheel drive option offered in Australia. Claimed fuel economy is 5.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

All models run on 91 RON regular unleaded fuel and have a 57L fuel tank.

How does the Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX drive?

Smooth, quiet, and refined, the hybrid setup in the ZR-V is lovely.

In some ways it’s quite similar to a Toyota hybrid. Prod the start button and you generally get a “beep” to tell you the car is on, rather than an ugly flare of revs. Unless it’s freezing cold outside, the petrol engine isn’t needed on startup – instead, the ZR-V pulls away on electric power.

Between standstill and around 40km/h the electric motor does most of the work in day-to-day driving, and when the engine is required it fires quietly. Unless you’re looking at the EV light in the instrument cluster it can be hard to know which power source is doing the heavy lifting.

Coupled with light steering and a comfortable ride, the hybrid setup makes the ZR-V a lovely SUV to drive in the city.

There’s barely any noise from the engine, and below 80km/h the cabin is nicely insulated against wind and road noise. Even on the 18-inch alloy wheels you get with LX variants, the ZR-V doesn’t crash and bash over city potholes or speed bumps.

Vision out of the tall windows is good in every direction, making this an easy car to place in tight spaces, and the switch from the old camera-based blind-spot monitor to a light in the exterior mirrors is a step forward for Honda.

Hybrids aren’t known for being fun to drive, but Honda systems buck that trend. Put your foot down and the electric motor and petrol engine team up to deliver a pretty impressive shove in the back, complete with fake gearshifts from the CVT automatic.

Rather than an ugly, droney sensation when you want to go fast, the Honda feels happy to push hard.

The steering is linear off centre, and there’s solid enough body control that you can drive the ZR-V like an oversized hatchback on interesting roads. It’s not quite as nimble as the lower, lighter Civic, but this is an SUV capable of having a bit of fun.

At highway speeds the ZR-V feels like a bigger car. It’s nicely settled over big crests and dips, and Honda’s driver assists are all on hand to nudge you back between the white lines, or to maintain a gap with the car in front, without feeling overbearing.

There’s enough punch from the hybrid powertrain to make overtaking a breeze on single-lane country roads, but the lack of all-wheel drive will be a turn off for some. It’s possible to get the front wheels spinning off the mark in the city when it’s wet, and if you frequent the snow or areas with gravel roads all-wheel drive comes in handy.

There’s a bit of road roar from the tyres and wind rustle from the oversized mirrors at 100km/h on average Australian roads.

What do you get?

There are four variants in the ZR-V range.

ZR-V VTi X highlights:

Adaptive LED headlightsActive cornering lights17-inch alloy wheelsRain-sensing wipersHill descent control9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment systemWireless Apple CarPlayWired Android Auto10.2-inch digital instrument cluster8-speaker sound systemBlack fabric upholsteryDual-zone climate controlAuto-dimming rear-view mirrorLeather-wrapped steering wheel and shifterUpholstered centre console with French stitchingFront USB ports (1 x USB-A and 1 x USB-C)Rear USB ports (2 x USB-C)Rear air ventsSpace-saver spare wheel60/40 split/fold rear seats

ZR-V VTi L adds:

18-inch alloy wheelsHeated exterior mirrorsHands-free power tailgate with walk-away closingRear privacy glassCombination LED tail lightsBlack leatherette upholsteryHeated front seatsMetal paddle shiftersLED ambient lighting (roof)

ZR-V VTi LX adds:

18-inch two-tone alloy wheelsBody-coloured lower bumpers and wheel archesSelectable drive modes (Sport, Normal, Economy)12-speaker Bose sound systemWireless phone chargerSatellite navigationBlack leather upholsteryEight-way power driver’s seat with memoryFour-way power passenger seatHeated rear seatsHeated steering wheelSports pedals‘Door Line Illumination’Auto-tilting mirrors in reversePlasmacluster air purification system

ZR-V e:HEV LX adds:

Smart key cardShift-by-wire gear selectorTyre repair kit (in lieu of space-saver spare)Humidity sensor

Is the Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX safe?

The Honda ZR-V has yet to be tested by ANCAP.

Standard safety equipment includes:

AEB incl. Pedestrian, Cyclist detectionAdaptive cruise control with low-speed followDriver attention monitoringTraffic Jam AssistLane keep assistTraffic sign recognitionFront and rear parking sensorsTyre pressure monitoring11 airbagsDual front, knee airbagsCentre airbagFront and rear side airbagsFull-length curtain airbags

VTi LX and above get blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a surround-view camera.

How much does the Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX cost to run?

All Honda ZR-V models are backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Servicing is required every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. The first five services are capped at $199 each.

CarExpert’s Take on the Honda ZR-V e:HEV LX

The hybrid Honda ZR-V offers impressive fuel economy and a fun-to-drive character.

Throw in the spacious, luxurious interior and reasonable price alongside its big rivals from Toyota, and you’ve got a pretty appealing new option in one of the most crowded corners of Australia’s new car market.

Honda has been struggling to make an impact on the sales charts in Australia lately, as it transitions to a new business model, with a new pricing structure, and a new range of cars.

The ZR-V could be the catalyst for a bit of a revival. Our biggest complaint is that the e:HEV hybrid powertrain on test isn’t available in a cheaper model variant – hopefully that changes soon.

Click the images for the full gallery

MORE: Everything Honda ZR-V

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