Driving report: Honda ZR-V e:HEV: Right in the middle instead of just being there

If you look at the front of the new Honda ZR-V, you can see an interesting mix.

Driving report: Honda ZR-V e:HEV: Right in the middle instead of just being there

If you look at the front of the new Honda ZR-V, you can see an interesting mix. The grille is similar to that of the Ford Kuga, while the rear quarter panel has something of a Porsche Macan in it. The 4.57 m long ZR-V positions itself in the gap between the HR-V (4.34 m) and CR-V (4.71 m). It's made in China, where it's been on sale since the beginning of the year, and is also available in the United States, where it's called the HR-V, as the European HR-V is too small for that market.

Details such as the dashboard are already familiar from the compact Civic. The horizontal design is characteristic, which is only interrupted by the central touchscreen. However, nine-inch screen diagonals are not large and the graphics look quite outdated. Some of the plastics used are hard, some soft, and there are more physical buttons than most new cars introduced in recent years. Unusual: the digital instrument panel with a diagonal of 10.2 inches is only available on the top versions; otherwise seven inches or even analogue instruments will have to suffice. After all, there is an optional head-up display. The area between the front seats is open and there is no gear selector, as it is operated via buttons D-R-N-P as in the CR-V and Civic. The area for wireless phone charging is large, but the glove box is only medium in volume, and there are multiple USB ports for charging smartphones or tablets. In the second row of seats, two people up to a height of 1.85 m can sit comfortably without any problems, but with three passengers it gets quite tight in the shoulder room; not uncommon in the middle class. However, the second row of seats can neither be moved nor can the inclination of the backrest be adjusted, which is something that several models in this league offer. Behind its electric flap, the trunk offers a smaller volume than the direct competitors with a capacity of 380 to 1,313 liters.

The ZR-V is only available with the hybrid powertrain we already know from the Civic. It consists of two electric motors and a two-liter four-cylinder petrol engine, which provides a peak output of 135 kW / 184 hp and a maximum torque of 315 Nm. Kotaro Yamamoto, Technical Advisor at Honda Europe: “The special thing about this hybrid is that the logic of the interaction between the petrol engine and the electric motor is reversed, i.e. the more powerful electric motor is mainly responsible for the drive, while the combustion engine mainly acts as a generator. The petrol engine operates on the efficient Atkinson cycle, powering the smaller electric motor to generate electricity and power the high-voltage battery. The thermal efficiency of the internal combustion engine is 41 percent, making it one of the highest of any internal combustion engine car on the market. The very small battery with an output of just one kilowatt hour is responsible for recuperation and temporary energy storage and can give the drive a small boost under certain conditions. The continuously variable automatic transmission controls torque by varying the current between the generator and the electric motor. The top speed: moderate 173 km/h.

In the city center and at moderate speeds, the Honda ZR-V e:HEV is primarily electric. If the driver needs more acceleration, it automatically switches to hybrid drive, which switches on the petrol engine. When driving more sportily or at higher speeds, the system switches to Engine Drive and the wheels are driven directly by the petrol engine, while the electric motor provides support when required. However, the driver cannot choose which of the two drive programs is working at the moment, because the car makes this decision itself. There are also no shift paddles for the transmission, because the paddles behind the steering wheel are used to divide the strength of the regenerative brake into four change at different levels.

The driver can choose one of the four driving modes to vary the response of the steering and accelerator pedal. In practice, there is almost no difference in steering behavior and engine response, leading users to stop using these modes after a short time. Acceleration, on the other hand, benefits from the electric boost, which contributes to the fact that the e-CVT transmission has no kickdown and is slower on intermediate sprints. The chassis tuning of the ZR-V can please. The steering is pleasantly precise, even if the front drive wheels lose grip too quickly in tight corners. The crossover has no trouble simply ironing out bad road surfaces. The chassis has a lot in common with that of the Honda Civic, which is explained by the same platform with a MacPherson axle at the front and a multi-link axle at the rear.

At the end of the test drive, the on-board computer showed an average consumption of 6.5 liters per 100 kilometers, which is higher than the factory specification of 5.7 liters, but is still acceptable. The proportion of purely electric operation in the city center is surprisingly large. The Honda ZR-V starts at €43,900 for the Sport version, while the Advance version including leather interior, head-up display, 12 speakers, power driver's seat and 10.2-inch instruments starts at €46,900.