Home » The Honda HR-V Is The Crossover For People Who Don’t Want A Crossover

The Honda HR-V Is The Crossover For People Who Don’t Want A Crossover

Honda Zrv Review Ts

Choose life. Choose a side hustle because your regular 9-5 doesn’t pay enough to cover your cost of living. Choose an expensive television to watch vacuous mid-wits desperate for five minutes of fame because attention is the only currency that matters anymore. Choose finding Hot Wheels in the supermarket because that’s the only excitement in your life. Choose spending an extra five minutes in the shower just to feel some warmth. Choose to wear jogging bottoms on the weekend because really what’s the point? Choose a crossover because your partner won’t be seen dead in a minivan or a wagon.

Crossovers. The official car of your image writing cheques your lifestyle can’t cash. No one actually spends their weekends mountain biking and kayaking. Honestly, who has the energy for that? With apologies to Irvine Welsh, why do people keep choosing them? The truth is more and more customers are finding the raised seating position makes it easier to get in and out, and better for strapping recalcitrant children into their seats. Ford Exploders and Rollover Rhinos are a long distant memory. There’s not much of a handling or fuel economy penalty over a traditional hatch or saloon, and have you seen the state of the nation’s tarmac recently?

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The Honda HR-V (or ZR-V if you’re in the UK, which I am) is a Civic in hiking boots. Wedged in between the smaller UK-market HR-V (which has no American counterpart) and the larger CR-V (which is identical to the USA model, minus the steering wheel position), the ZR-V is pitched as being a sporty crossover for when your heart says Macan but your bank account says Ma-can’t. Compared to the 5-door Civic hatch, the ZR-V is about 130 mm longer, 100 mm wider, and 200 mm taller (or five, four, and eight inches in the aforementioned dimensions, for those of you who can’t imagine millimeters). Despite the ZR-V standing a healthy 200 mm / 8-inches taller than the Civic, only two of those inches are accounted for by a boost in ride height. This suggests Honda has prioritized passengers over luggage, a presumption born out by the fact the ZR-V has fractionally less boot space than the Civic. And the ZR-V is 2WD only, so don’t get any ideas about tackling the Rubicon – this is firmly a road-orientated machine.

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Honda Zrv Front Back


A 2.0 Liter That Goes Like a 3.0 Liter

Civic Type R, motorbikes, and lawn mowers aside, all UK-market Hondas are now hybrids or fully electric. The ZR-V’s power system, dubbed e:HEV by Honda, uses a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine paired with two electric motors and a CVT-style transmission for a grand total of 181 bhp and about 233 pound-feet of torque. If you think this sounds like a lot of motor for a C (compact) category car, Honda claims it gives the performance of a 3.0-liter ICE. Having driven the old Range Rover Velar three-liter with enough torque to spin the earth backwards, I’m not sure about that – but the ZR-V does get down the road well enough, with 0-60 quoted as 7.8 seconds. And don’t let the letters CVT fill you with dread; the engine spends most of its time functioning as a generator for the tiny 1.05kWh battery as the e:HEV system blends seamlessly between electric-only, hybrid, and engine-only power depending on road speed and the angle of your ankle.

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Under slightly fiercer acceleration, the ZR-V mimics gear changes so you’re not subject to the awful, constant-note droning of an engine being held at maximum torque. You press the accelerator and it goes, clever electronics and powertrain management figuring out the rest. It’s responsive, powerful, and efficient … but maybe too quiet. Like the Juke hybrid I drove earlier this year, there’s no rev counter, only a power gauge, so you never know exactly what the engine is up to. Selecting Sport mode relieves some of the noise suppression and makes it easier to sense what’s going on rev-wise. And what else does Sport mode do? I’m getting there …

How Much More Black Can It (the interior) Be?

Massaging the ZR-Vs sport credentials are a pair of actual real-metal paddles behind the steering wheel … but instead of manipulating gears, they control the amount of regenerative braking. I’ve never quite understood this as a control choice because it goes against an established design heuristic. Confusingly, pulling back on the left paddle increases the regen only for a couple of seconds in normal and eco modes. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, it reverts back to the nominal setting. The increased regen effect only remains in place in Sport mode. Given the whole point is to put extra power back into the battery, surely that’s how it should operate in eco mode – meaning that in Sport mode, the paddles could be used for something more appropriate like maybe, oooh I dunno, banging up and down a simulated set of gears? I asked Honda the reasoning behind this (actual journalism. I know. Don’t worry. Standards will drop again shortly) and they said the intention was for the regen system to be as non-invasive as possible, so customers transitioning from pure ICE vehicles to BEV or hybrid vehicles will have a familiar driving experience, leaving Sport mode to simulate aggressive engine braking. I get Honda’s reasoning, if I’m not entirely sure I agree.

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Paddle confusion aside, the rest of the dashboard is “so far, so Civic” with proper rotary controls for the HVAC and the same excellent pushbutton drive selector found on the electric-only Honda e. At the front of the center console there’s a wireless charging mat, and the center console is deep enough to keep your snacks tantalizingly out of reach. The only slight ergonomic whiffs are the Start button (it’s hidden behind the steering wheel) and the door-bin drink holders (each is suitable for a single serving wine-bottle and not much else).

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Of the ZR-V’s interior, I must say – and coming from me, this might sound odd – it is a bit unremittingly black in there. There’s bright piping on the power-adjustable seats, but as far as interior jazz goes, that’s the entire lot. The driving position (which I have seen criticized elsewhere as being a bit low) I found to be fine. You can see plenty of bonnet through the windscreen, so although this isn’t a big car, maneuvering it is even more of a snap than expected for its size. The rear footwell is completely flat, so a third passenger in the back won’t have to splay their legs to find space for their feet, but sadly there are no Honda Magic Seats to really take full advantage of the flat floor. Even though total cubic capacity is slightly less than the Civic’s, there’s plenty of boot space and some clever thinking going on: curry hooks for takeout; and spotlights to illuminate how much of mess the dog has made; and the parcel shelf can be removed, folded, and stored in a hidden compartment under the floor. There’s also hands-free tailgate opening for when your arms are full of wriggling children, groceries or in my case all the stuff I take RC racing on a Friday night.  Zrv Interior

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It’s Sort Of A Macan If You Squint

I’m less concerned with practicality and more concerned with how good the stereo is (it’s excellent) and whether or not I look good behind the wheel (I do). I’ve noted before how Japanese OEMs are quieting down their exterior designs and leaving the busyness to the Koreans. The ZR-V is no exception. Because outright practicality wasn’t a priority, the ZR-V isn’t a box on stilts. It’s subtly muscular with its raked rear window, and the rear three-quarters that has a hint of Porsche about it. Up front, the grille is sensibly sized and filled by a funky hexagonal pattern (a design flourish that’s much easier to do now that parametric tools are built into modeling software) and simple but distinctive light graphics. The whole thing is clean and taut without being overburdened with unnecessary visual quirks and gimmicks that add nothing but noise. I don’t like the black wheels, but other optional designs are offered, and the higher level Advance trim gets some natty diamond-cut numbers that add a more a bit more of a sporting, sophisticated touch and more importantly aren’t all black.  Img 0049


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So the ZR-V goes against type by looking a bit sporty. And as far as crossovers go, it does drive rather sportily as well. Setting off for the first time, I was surprised at how firmly it rode. And how noisily. Not Type R raucousness, but din enough to drown out the engine on the motorway on grainier tarmac. That underlying buzz extends to the steering, which is chatty and well weighted – but I wouldn’t say no to a bit more sharpness. The ride and handling balance dial is resolutely turned towards responsiveness over comfort. There’s enough feedback and body control to keep you interested on a twisty road without the ZR-V ever feeling out of its element. All the while, the added torque of the hybrid system is capable of hurling you out of corners at deceptively high speeds. More than a couple of times I glanced at the clocks and was surprised by how rapidly I was going, without ever feeling like I was about to put the Honda on its roof.
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The ZR-V Honda lent me was the mid-range Sport (I kid you not) trim, which requires swiping the plastic for a punchy £41,095 without any options. In the UK you’re probably better of settling for the slightly cheaper Elegance trim to slide under the Vehicle Excise Duty £40k threshold, but that will mean going without wireless charging, BOSE, adaptive headlights, electric front seat adjustment (all non-essential) and the powered tailgate (absolutely essential). In the US, the car does without the hybrid system and the extra 40 bhp or so it provides but is usefully cheaper starting at $24k for the naked LX trim. At that price, if the US version is half as handy on back roads as the UK one, it’s a bargain.

Crossovers Are Here To Stay, You May As Well Get Used To It

Crossovers attract a lot of opprobrium for being tall, heavy, wobbly blobs that no right-minded enthusiast would choose of their own accord, and that somehow OEMs have foisted them onto the market in some grand conspiracy to avoid selling normal sedans and hatches. Here’s a dazzling insider trade secret: OEMs are in the business of making money, and margins in the volume sector are not great. You know what happens when a customer walks into your showroom wanting a crossover and you don’t offer one? They walk straight out again, across the street to a competitor who does. Customers like crossovers, and the cost of one or two miles per gallon is a trade they’re willing to make for a raised driving position and ease of access. And if you have been told the next family hauler has to be a crossover, good news: that doesn’t have to mean you’ve been crushed by life. Not if you get a ZR-V (or HR-V, for you Americans).  The Honda ZR-V is a crossover for people who would rather have a degree of driving feel than the last cubic liter of cargo capacity. Its profile picture isn’t caked in mud sweatily finishing a tough mudder race. Seriously, does anyone find those attractive?

The ZR-V is the character in the background you secretly suspect is having more fun than appearances suggest.



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2 months ago

In the US, the HR-V is only available with a 2 liter, 158 hp, non-hybrid engine, at a starting MSRP of $24,100. for the base LX trim. I’m not sure, but I think this is the same 2 liter engine that Honda’s been using in Civics and the last HR-V forever, and frankly, I’d rather have it instead of the the 1.5 Turbo that serves as the base engine in many of their cars now… it’s got some issues that make regular maintenance imperative. Of course, I’d much rather have the 2-liter hybrid the UK gets. Here, all HR-V trims are FWD, with AWD as an $1,500. option. Not counting monochromes, it’s currently only available in one or at most two colors depending on trim level (Milano Red and Nordic Forest Pearl, which is a dark metallic blue-green and a $455. upcharge).

I really kind of liked the first-gen HR-V (first gen in the States I mean… the one built on the Fit platform that had that Magic Seat in back like the Fit). Plus, it was actually available with a manual transmission for the first three years. Yes, it was far from fast, and NVH weren’t quite as low as I’m sure they are in the new model, but for the price and what it was, I thought it wasn’t bad. I drove both the CVT and manual, and with the manual to keep you busy, there was even a degree of driver involvement, albeit modest.

I don’t dislike the new HR-V and your review is appreciated Adrian. I’m sorry the new one loses the Magic Seat (it was really a good selling point for utilitarian users who actually haul stuff often) and of course, I’m not wild about the increase in size, luxe, and price (I think the base MSRP for the original/prior version was just under $21K for a few years when it came out). I’m also sorry that Honda doesn’t see fit to offer the hybrid to Americans… like: WTF? And of course, despite it being a pipe dream, I wish the new HR-V was still offered with a manual transmission (Honda makes decent ones, and I loathe pretty much all of the CVTs I’ve tried so far) and in more colors.

So, my ideal HR-V doesn’t exist in the states, though I could get closer in the UK: hybrid engine, blue/green paint, base or maybe Sport trim. While I’m fantasizing, let’s spec a manual transmission (nothing crazy, a six-speed would be fine) and until the hallucinogens wear off, let me also specify that 2WD HR-V should be RWD, not FWD. A hybrid/manual/RWD crossover in a decent color is something I could get excited about at a base MSRP in the mid-$20Ks. No such animal of course. 🙁

Still, it seems very far from awful and probably undercuts the Rav4 in price (a bit?). I’ve seen more than a few new HR-Vs around, but TBH, not nearly as many as the first-gen HR-V when it came out. And of course, brand-new Rav4s are literally everywhere (my neighbor just spent $45K on one in that dark Blueprint blue).

Well, at least the new HR-Vs interior is light black (as opposed to dark black, at least in these photos). And the red and upcharge blue/green colors are both decent. So there’s that. Still, were I in the market for a small crossover, I’d have a hard time rationalizing getting a new one that wasn’t a hybrid, unless it was super-cheap, which the new HR-V is not.

Last edited 2 months ago by Scott
Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
2 months ago

Was going too look at one of these with my partner seems like a good car for her DD/our trip car, but they dont’ offer the hybrid in the states so far and the base engine seems underpowered for my tastes, sigh.

2 months ago

My wife had the 1st Gen HR-V, which was a decent little commuter with a unique look. This generation looks like all the 1990’s cars that seemed to pop out of a Jell-O mold. There isn’t a single belt line, crease, or defining visual feature to it except for that catfish Camaro grill. It reminds me of what a CUV would like if I told an AI image generator to make one.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
2 months ago

> it is a bit unremittingly black in there

> more importantly aren’t all black

What have you done to the real Adrian??! Is he OK?

The mindless ragging against crossovers is tiresome. Nobody is making wagons that aren’t complete dog shit like Audis. Minivans are too big. What is somebody to do when they want to carry people and things that don’t fit into a sedan?

It’s not like there’s a paucity of other kinds of vehicles if you want them.

Last edited 2 months ago by Harvey Park
2 months ago

The HR-V is built on the Honda Global Small Car platform, just like the Fit, but the Fit has more headroom and foot room and substantially better gas mileage. The only negative is that the Fit less trunk space because it’s shorter, but with the seats down there isn’t much difference.

CUVs are a real compromise. Most buyers might not notice the difference, but I’m moderately tall and fit in a Fit with 3 other adult family members. We can’t squeeze into an HR-V— it’s a real step down on almost every measure.

2 months ago
Reply to  Headfullofair

This is all well and good, but here in the US the Fit isn’t available so it makes little difference. If they brought it back….. Well, that’s a different story obviously.

Last edited 2 months ago by lastwraith
2 months ago

A great critic will give you a very clear view about what something is that will tell you whether or not you’ll like it, agree with them or not.

This review tells me I would absolutely hate this car, and that I could understand why someone might buy one.

Dennis Birtcher
Dennis Birtcher
2 months ago

I hate to admit it, but that is a handsome little vehicle. I still don’t want a crossover; eight of the nine cars I’ve owned have been coupe, convertible, or two door pickup (and the only reason #9 isn’t one as well is the impossibility of finding a Miata or Toyobaru in Chicago in winter), but I’m sure it’s fine.

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