DriveLife headed to Auckland for the launch of the ZR-V, a model in size between the HR-V and the CR-V. More importantly, the ZR-V represents a design change for Honda and is an icon of things to come.

Before releasing details on the new model, Nobuya Sonoda, Honda New Zealand’s Managing Director, gave us a rundown on why this car is important to him. He started off with a statement that “This is my dream day to show off the ZR-V to you.” He’s obviously proud of the model, and suggested that once we got behind the wheel we should “drive the ZR-V like a sports car”. Challenge accepted.

While there will be no EV version of the ZR-V, Nobuya showed a PowerPoint that was certainly giving the right hook to the EVs of the world, with specific models highlighted as not being a joy to drive – taking direct aim at the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Polestar 2.

It was pretty evident that Honda is still on the side of fun cars to drive, and he reinforced the statement that “the joy of driving is important to Honda” and you aren’t going to get that from an EV. Nobuya spent a lot of time on the history of Honda and the founder of the company, Soichiro Honda, making sure we understood why Honda continues (for example) to be involved in racing. “If Honda does not race, there is no Honda”, he had said.

So, what about “What Dreams Are Made Of”? This is the tagline for the all-new ZR-V and harks back to a statement from Soichiro Honda who said, “The day I stop dreaming is the day I die”. This is one of the reasons that Honda sees fit to add the word to aspects of the company’s design and passion, including on their “Earth Dreams” engines.

Honda New Zealand Online Store

We were also given an update on Honda’s online store, which today received its first major update since being launched 2 years ago

In fact, New Zealand was the first country to offer Honda car sales online. New to the store is the ability to book a service with the now fully automated system.

Much time was spent on Honda’s Price Promise, now in its 23rd year. For the online store, this means if you get a quote online to purchase a new Honda car, that quote will be honoured by any Honda dealer in the country for up to 7 days. From an overall view, Price Promise sets the price of a new Honda as the same for everyone no matter where you are in the country (or online).

Apparently, 85% of new Honda enquiries are now from the website.

2023 Honda ZR-V – Details

It was time to take a closer look at the specs for the new model, which claims to meet the following aims:

  • Sleek proportions
  • Unparalleled presence
  • Beyond its class
  • Freedom
  • Exquisite versatility
  • High-quality finishing

It was said more than once that the ZR-V is Honda’s move into a premium design and premium car, with an example of this being the soft-touch door panels.

Honda claims the ZR-V has the ride height of an SUV but a sedan-like driving position. We shall see if that’s true on the drive later. Length and height-wise, it’s dead centre between the CR-V and the currently unavailable HR-V. The car has the same wheelbase as the CR-V but is slightly narrower.

Specifications are relatively good, depending on the model; front heated seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, power seats with memories, pelvis and lumbar support in front seats, a 10.2” driver’s display and a 9” centre screen are all in the mix.

The top-spec model has a 12-speaker Bose surround sound system and 8 cup holders. Both models have an electric tailgate with a kick-to-open function. You can set the tailgate to auto-close if you walk away from the ZR-V (with the key fob in your pocket), which is a nice feature that I haven’t seen before.

18” alloy wheels are fitted to both models, as is the full Honda Sensing Suite. This safety suite includes:

  • Road departure prevention function
  • Collision mitigation braking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane-keeping assist system
  • Leading vehicle departure notification function
  • Traffic sign recognition function
  • Auto high beam – with adaptive driving beam (HNZ first)
  • Full LED headlights (daytime running lamps with auto levelling)
  • Parking sensors (front & rear)
  • Driver attention monitor
  • Agile handling assist
  • VSA & ABS
  • EPS with hill start assist
  • Electronic parking brake with auto brake hold
  • Immobiliser & security alarm

2023 Honda ZR-V: Design

You’ve got to hand it to Honda, they’ve really taken a completely fresh look at their design with this new model. I was expecting it to look more like the CR-V and HR-V to keep it in the family, but I believe this is the design the new CR-V and HR-V will match.

It’s hard to deny it’s a good-looking car. The front particular is fresh and crisp, with hints of Jaguar looming. The overall proportions are good, and it’s a ‘yes’ from me on the design of this new model.

2023 Honda ZR-V: Mechanicals

There are two models to choose from for your ZR-V: Turbo, and Sport (e:HEV hybrid).

The Turbo model has Honda’s 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT). It has a power output of 134kW @6000rpm and torque is rated at 240Nm @1800-4500rpm. It’s the same engine that’s fitted to the Civic but Honda says they have greatly improved the noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) on the engine.

The CVT has also had a new function added, “G Design Shift” which is to “avoid excessive engine revving in a CVT” Does it work? We desperately hope so. While the standard VTEC Turbo model has a conventional CTV transmission, the e:HEV Sport model has an electric CVT with 2 built-in motors.

The Sport has a 2.0 direct injection engine with no turbo but instead with 2 electric motors as part of Honda’s e:HEV system. On its own, the 2.0-litre engine manages 104kW of power and 182Nm of torque but when you add two electric motors, this means 135kW of power and a meaty 315Nm of torque.

For the first time in a Honda, the ZR-V is fitted with Hill Descent Control, which will keep the car between 3-20kmh downhill when the grade is over 7%.

2023 Honda ZR-V: Honda Connect App

In another first for Honda, there is now an app that allows the ZR-V owner to do certain things with their car. The app is free for the first 3 years, although pricing after that is not yet finalised. The app will be available on all new Hondas at some point.

With the app you can pre-set the AC temperature, lock or unlock the car, and check the fuel level or battery voltage, among other things. On the safety side of things, Honda has teamed up with the AA as an emergency point of contact. This means if a collision is detected (by the airbags going off), the AA will be called automatically. If you do not respond, they will contact emergency services and direct them to your ZR-V. You don’t have to be a member of the AA for this service.

Another feature of the app is that the owner will be notified if the security alarm goes off, and you can also locate the car if you can’t find it in a car park – it will flash the lights and taillamps for you.

There are other items in the app, like geofencing (so you can keep tabs on your kids and where they are driving, for example), remote diagnostics, and a driving log for the last 25 trips in your ZR-V. All handy stuff!

2023 Honda ZR-V: Pricing

As mentioned, there are two models available, and there is a range of six colours for either model.

  • Turbo $47,000 (+ORC)
  • Sport (e:HEV) $55,000 (+ORC) – eligible for a rebate of $2,130.

Honda New Zealand expects to sell at least 1,500 ZR-Vs this financial year and is off to a good start with the entire first shipment sold out. In fact, they presold 100 ZR-Vs on launch day (most of these were the Sport e:HEV model).

More stock is coming, they say.

2023 Honda ZR-V: Drive Time

With all the talking and presentations over, it was time for some driving in the all-new ZR-V. There would be no set route – just grab a car and go for a drive.

I jumped in a base model. The feeling of luxury is there – even for a base model, it feels premium. Looking about the cabin, there are all sorts of storage cubbies dotted about the place, so no shortage of space to store your stuff. Rear legroom is very reasonable, even with the front seat set back as far as it will go.

The new dash is excellent; clear gauges, and I like that Honda has improved the fuel and temp gauges to make them much more readable compared to the HR-V and CR-V.

Hitting the road, there is a sense that the car is indeed quieter and smoother than the CR-V or HR-V. The engine is quite muted until you wind it out, and all other times seems very civil. We were told by Nobuya to drive the car like a sports car, and I can see why he suggested that. The ZR-V sits very well on corners and has almost neutral handling characteristics. It may only be front-wheel drive, but you can’t tell that – at least in the short, 15-minute drive I had.

And what about the G Design Shift CVT transmission? On an initial drive, it’s excellent and is perhaps the base level that all CVTs should aspire to. It doesn’t feel like a CVT at all, and will change down a ‘gear’ when needed without lots of CVT flaring. I know others are doing the same sort of stepped system in the CVTs but the one in the ZR-V could be the benchmark.

Enough of the base model, I headed back and swapped into an e:HEV. Without a doubt, this will be the biggest-selling model. The trip meter showed an average of 6.0L/100km, not bad for a 2-litre, and no doubt not an accurate day-to-day figure, so a promising number to see. With half a tank of fuel, the range was showing as 569km to empty, so again, good to see. Getting 1,000km on a tank of gas can’t be a bad thing.

The luxury is evident in the e:HEV model; QI wireless charging, heated leather seating and a heated steering wheel are just some of the items I spotted that are missing in the base model. The doors look and feel fantastic, with soft materials over the top 2/3 of the panel. There’s a good mix of materials on all touchpoints, all over the cabin.

By this point, Auckland decided to dump a load of rain on the launch, so it was wipers on full for this drive. Again, only front-wheel drive but boy this Honda can handle wet roads well. The handling still impresses, and the grip is excellent for the weather we were experiencing. Wet or dry, you can really punt this ZR-V around the bends.

The extra torque and performance of the e:HEV model is obvious; it is far peppier than the base model, which in all honesty was pretty good too. I can see that figures of the e:HEV over the base model hit the 70/30 mark quite easily. It’s worth the extra cash to go for the hybrid version.

Drives over, I can’t wait to get the new ZR-V in for a week’s test. This car could be the car to propel Honda along in the race for market share in the small-medium SUV segment. First impressions of the car are excellent.

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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


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