Driven - Apr 2021

Honda’s WR-V wants a piece of the compact crossover cake

Honda recently launched their WR-V model, which wants a piece of the most competitive segment in South Africa, but is their newcomer the right car for the job? We recently got to experience the liveability of the affordable 1.2 Comfort model. 

The Tokyo-based automaker is no stranger to SUVs, with a broad range on offer from the modest BR-V to the more luxurious CR-V models – this was Honda’s induction into the world of sport utility vehicles in 1995. Suffice to say, they have an impressive history and current portfolio with extensive experience in the field, more than most of their competitors. Dinesh Govender, Honda GM states that the WR-V is positioned below the HR-V and alongside the BR-V, making it their most affordable five-seater compact SUV to date. Partly thanks to components and underpinnings being shared with the popular Jazz model.

That being said, Honda has followed the typical recipe of creating a compact SUV by taking one of their most popular, compact, FWD commuter vehicles and putting it through a stringent routine to get it buff enough to take on market leading bullies such as the dominant Ford Figo Freestyle or Renault Sandero Stepway. This, on paper at least, is a good thing – the Jazz (of which it is based) is a nippy little runabout that is comfortable and usable with a smooth drivetrain and an excess of spaciousness. 

On the outside, the silhouette remains unmistakably that of the current Jazz model with a similarly strong shoulder line feeding into the rear taillights while the rear-end exudes a similar busy-looking Asian-esque aesthetic. The extremities of the car are moulded in durable looking black plastic trim and the bottom of the front and rear bumpers feature butch looking silver diffusers. Honda is confident with the 173mm of ground clearance and short overhangs on the model since scratches and rashes on the low lying silver painted features would be visibly prominent. The front grille makes use of horizontal slats that allude to a widened track, rendering the perception of it being a capable SUV while the 16” alloy wheels finish the four corners of the car.

While this compact WR-V’s styling may not have been designed to win any beauty pageants, what it does succeed with is interior spaciousness and undeniable Honda reliability. Again, the interior arrangement is almost identical to that of its shorter Jazz sibling, with the layout of all dials, center console and vents positioned similarly. Both driver and passengers are afforded with ample leg, head and shoulder room which makes this a great option for longer journeys. 

Additionally, the ‘Magic Seat’ system makes light work of configuring the rear seats to swallow any parcels, bicycles or obscurely shaped luggage with an admirable 881 litres of cargo space once the seats have been folded into their most compact position. In a conventional configuration with 5 passengers, the boot can hold an equally suitable 363 litres, which is impressive on a sub 4-meter vehicle which has ample second row seat legroom. 

The driver dials consist of an analog rev counter and speedometer as well as a digital display with other crucial information. The Comfort model is equipped with a 5” touchscreen which has access to radio, bluetooth and the reverse camera which is quite un-useful due to its minute size. However, for what the small reverse screen fell short in displaying, the PDC equipped on the car assisted comfortably with. We would opt for the more suitably sized 7” infotainment screen found on the Elegance model. 

The WR-V range comprises two derivatives, Comfort and Elegance, both only employ the same punchy and fuel efficient 1.2-litre powertrain and five-speed manual transmission that is proven in countless other models. The ratings of 66kW and 110Nm did not struggle to move the 1081kg mass nimbly forward but the lack of a 6th gear for highway speeds impeded its comfort and efficiency at the maximum national speed limit. A combined fuel consumption figure of just 6.4 l/100km is claimed however we achieved 6.8 l/100km with our journeys being dominated by urban routes. As in the Jazz, the drive is comfortable but does not reward more exciting driving habits. 

Honda employs their tested Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure which allows for the even distribution and redirection of collision energy away from the passenger compartment in the scenario of an accident. Additionally, six SRS airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors as well as an ABS with EBD are included as standard safety equipment across both models. 

In terms of pricing, the 1.2 Comfort model as we tested costs R 289 900 and the 1.2 Elegance coming in at R 327 300. This is unfortunately on the pricey end of the spectrum in comparison to the Ford Figo Freestyle, which tops out at R268 500 while the Renault Sandero Stepway maxes out less than both with a retail sticker of R251 900. Both models also come with Honda’s five-year/200 000km warranty, backed by a four-year/60 000km service plan.

A portion of the success of this SUV hangs on the reputation Honda have established in their extensive people carrier range. The WR-V garners inspiration from two of its best-selling siblings, the Jazz and BR-V yet the cheaper Jazz (which also includes a derivative equipped with a CVT) may still seem like the most logical option if you are looking for a reliable 5-seater that will comfortably get you from A to B.

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