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Why the Honda With Two Names Matters

Honda ZR-V SUV 2023 Test Drive Day

With regional sales lately surging by more than a quarter and UK volume alone doubling in February, Honda is back, in a relatively big way

Neither square nor jelly bean-shaped, ZR-V nonetheless manages to stand out somewhat with a distinct stance
Neither square nor jelly bean-shaped, ZR-V nonetheless manages to stand out somewhat with a distinct stance

There were those who wondered if the almost unthinkable might happen shortly after Honda shuttered its UK plant. Namely, that the company could next pull its entire cars division from the brutally competitive European region. Instead, lots of new models have arrived, certain poor performers such as the e have been culled and things are now very much on the up. Might the years of this brand as a mere minor player in Europe be behind it? If so, the UK is leading the way.

SMMT data for last month show a 57 per cent surge in registrations. We must of course be wary of direct year-on-year comparisons due to the microchips crisis and other factors. Still, when the totals are decent four-figure numbers (1,852 in Feb and 4,263 YtD), admiration should indeed apply.

How did Honda UK and Honda Europe do it? Firstly, 2023 didn’t initially look as though it would be kind to the brand in this region: sales fell by nine per cent to 60,820 cars and SUVs. That placed Honda in 28th position, a long way behind Porsche in 27, but at least Lexus (59,968, +53%) was held at bay. Then, new models began to turn the situation around.

UK remains a major market for Honda Europe

Fully one third of Europe-wide volume in 2023 was the HR-V, while the Jazz did a bit more than 16,000 units, followed by the CR-V (10,524) and Civic (8,511). The ZR-V was next – 3,498 – which was a first rate result for a model which landed out of the blue and came with an unknown name.

ZR-V, or HR-V?

So what exactly is this model? The answer is somewhat complicated. First of all, here in the UK, the ZR-V has a standard 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain. Elsewhere in the world there is also a turbocharged 1.5-litre non-hybrid and in parts of The Americas, an atmo 2.0-litre. So far, so straightforward. Particularly as it is more or less a Civic-based SUV. Oh, simple: a global model then. No, not quite.

Next we come to North America. There, the ZR-V is called HR-V, a well-known name the world over. Why not use that everywhere? Excellent question. Well, there is another HR-V. That one, available in Europe (only as a hybrid), is smaller. In Japan, this B segment SUV is called Vezel.

In China, GAC Honda has its own version of the HR-V/Vezel, plus there is an altered derivative for Dongfeng Honda, the XR-V. Guess what else? Returning to the larger ZR-V and America’s HR-V: both names are used in China. One for GAC Honda and the other for Dongfeng Honda’s similar yet not quite the same model.

e:N1 or e:NS1 or e:NP1 or e:Ny1 or…

Still with me? Back in Europe, we can also buy an electric HR-V. Only its name is…are you ready for this…e:Ny1. Oh, and that one is an import from China. As I will be reviewing it in April, specific details can wait until then. And by the way, it has other names in other countries. Of course it does.

Looks good, whichever badge it wears

As can be seen above, the ZR-V is a nice looking vehicle, designed for families with one or two young children and/or those trading up from a Jazz or HR-V. There is certainly much appeal for both demographics. The famous Honda flip-with-one-hand seating system is there, as is a large boot.

Do we also even need to mention the almost bullet-proof mechanical package? This plays a not-insubstantial part in keeping the brand’s resale values and reputation sky-high. And with UK market Hondas far from cheap – a Civic Type R for example is nowadays a fifty thousand pound car – this is very important.


The two-names thing goes to show how important the ZR-V/CR-V is at a global level. The model for Britain, EFTA markets and the EU hails from Japan (Yorii plant in Saitama), with China’s near-twins being manufactured in Guangzhou (by GAC) and Wuhan (Dongfeng). What about North America? There is localised build there too, the CR-V being sourced from Celaya (Mexico) for all regional countries. Ergo, the ZR-V/CR-V is quite a big deal.

Somehow what should have therefore turned out to be a car with lines which please-the-most-and-offend-the-least number of people has looks that are far from vanilla. There are lots of lovely curves, including one in a contrasting colour around each wheel-arch.

Front-on, not one but two glossy black grilles feature. These sit below a big H badge (encircled by a blue line) and sharp-styled headlights, while all glazing is generous and well-swept by big wipers (hurrah there is one at the back too). The tailgate stretches to bumper level – another thoughtful touch – with the handle and camera mid-way up protecting each from road grime. You can see why buyers remain so loyal to this brand and its always-intelligent design/engineering.

Tidy spec, no-gimmicks interior

British market ZR-Vs come in Elegance, Sport and Advance model grades, each being well-specified. Pricing is never bargain-basement with this brand but then why would it be? Those in the know rightly have great faith in the dealer network and how long-lasting Hondas always seem to be.

The great first impression of this SUV continues when you gently pull any door handle. There is none of this flush-and-fiddly business, just a sensible alternative. The same philosophy applies to all the interior functions: a big button for activating the motor or engine, headlights on a twisty wand, instrumentation dimming via a little wheel, gorgeous vents with easily-manipulated toggles, clicky dials and buttons for all HVAC options.

Something unusual is a sort of central spine with large D, R, N and P switches atop it. The beep for reverse is a bit annoying but not badly so. Below this ridge there is a handy shelf and then behind it a vast cubby box and at its back, two USB C slots for those in the rear seats.

All plastics are soft and look as if they will endure all manner of abuse from years of sun, spilled drinks and so on. The driver looks directly at two big circular digi dials, one of which is a power gauge, remaining fuel is in the form of a hockey stick-shaped read-out and you can change some of the other displayed functions. One of which showed me an average of 41.1 mpg over about 300 miles. As I drove at 70 mph a fair bit and had the A/C going constantly, closer to 50 mpg is surely possible at lower speeds and in less humid conditions.

And to drive?

Even one hour driving the ZR-V is enough to show why what might seem to be a fairly ordinary model is very big business for Honda. Neither bland nor flashy, it simply works. In every possible way. This is like how Kias used to be before all the unnecessary chimes and flashy too-big screens began to ruin the just-right formula. If the doors gave a thunk (Hondas tend to be admirably light though) then this Tiguan-sized SUV could almost be similar to how great Volkswagen interiors once were too.

There isn’t much by way of engine noise, the steering is nice if not geared for enthusiasts and the suspension has been expertly tuned for a comfortable-first preference.


You can easily see why families in this country would buy a ZR-V. It is never going to infuriate the owner or its occupants, the looks are distinctive enough but not EV-style bland or weird, economy is very good and it should be worth a decent amount come trade-in time. Even with the premium pricing, Honda will likely sell a decent number of these in 2024 and beyond.

The Honda ZR-V is priced from GBP39,495. It is 4,568 mm long, has a 1,589 kg kerb weight in base Elegance trim, develops a combined 135 kW (184 PS) and 314 Nm, with the CO2 average being 131 g/km.

Source from Just Auto

Disclaimer: The information set forth above is provided by just-auto.com independently of Alibaba.com. Alibaba.com makes no representation and warranties as to the quality and reliability of the seller and products.

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