A choppy ride takes the shine off an otherwise frugal and practical SUV

We are not sure what the letter ‘Z’ in ZR-V equates to at Drive NI – but our best guess would be ‘Zippy’. During our time with a car that promises a “sporty design and bold road presence”, it proved to be potent and playful.

Built solely to steal sales from Nissan’s Qashqai, Skoda’s Karoq, Volkswagen’s Tiguan and many more besides, it joins the smaller HR-V, the larger CR-V and full electric e:Ny1 in Honda’s family mover line-up. 

Purely a hybrid affair, the ZR-V borrows the petrol-electric set-up used by the current Civic hatchback – the very model on which it is based. Therefore, a two-litre, four-cylinder engine serves as a generator for the onboard 1.05kWh battery pack which, in turn, feeds the electric motor on the car’s front axle.

The instant torque hit from the electric motor amounts to proper get-up-and-go – whether you choose ‘Economy’, ‘Normal’ or ‘Sport’ – for simple, stress-free overtakes. And when the petrol needs to lend a hand, the chatter from underneath that long bonnet is largely suppressed through a combination of a clever Continuously Variable Transmission and sound deadening materials. For the record, you can easily arrive at 62mph from rest in under 8 seconds with four adults on board. 

In ‘EV’ mode, the ZR-V wafts through town with not so much as a whimper, although 18-inch wheels hurt refinement in part due to the road noise they drum up; it is all-too-apparent in a spacious, logical and otherwise very well constructed cabin. Another drawback are the giant-sized wing mirrors. Like us, prospective owners will find these create an unnecessary blind spot and attract the wind like a magnet does iron fillings. 

We are big fans of the Civic, especially the way it can deal with almost every road without breaking as much as a sweat and the way it leaves you feeling refreshed even after a long journey. It is brilliant. So inheriting its smaller sibling’s platform, you would expect the ZR-V to do the same – except, it doesn’t.

For the most part the ZR-V’s ride never settles as it fidgets about over surfaces that are anything but smooth. Rather than ironing out potholes, broken or sunken Tarmac, this energy is sent into the cockpit and through the electrically operated front chairs in spite of these being very well bolstered. 

Surprisingly, the ZR-V redeems itself from an enjoyment perspective and lives up to the “dynamic drive” promise. True, this is no performance SUV but it can bring a wry smile because it feels better to pilot than many of its rivals. There are multiple reasons for this, with talkative steering that gains weight as you turn the wheel and a planted front end that divvies up reassuring grip the two that really stand out. 

All the important information you need is housed within a configurable 10.2-inch driver display that is standard across the three-model range as is the 9-inch central touchscreen. Op for middle level ‘Sport’ – which sits either side of ‘Elegance’ and ‘Advance’ – and you also get a wireless charging pad for your smartphone, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate and styling tweaks that include lashings of piano black trim for the wheel-arches and belt-line, and matt black alloy rims. 

Speaking of how it looks, the ZR-V’s proportions are sure to cause debate, much like the starting price of £39,450. From the front, side-on, there is something very Lamborghini Urus-esque about those LED headlights with their J-shaped directional indicators, and that pointed nose. Move around to the back and you are greeted with a rear that is not too dissimilar in proportion and outline to MG’s HS.   

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