Honda WR-V: First Drive Review
Honda combines the practicality of the Jazz with the tough design of the BR-V. Is it a cocktail you should order?
Watch Honda WRV in action:
Distinctive – that’s the first word that comes to mind when you look at the WRV. Honda has taken far too long to launch its first sub-4 metre crossover, but as we have come to discover, this isn’t just a Jazz with some styling tweaks. The WR-V has a persona of its own, but is that reason enough to choose it over the Jazz or indeed, its rivals?
Butch design and Honda – two terms you generally don’t put in the same sentence, but the WR-V is fairly rugged looking, despite being based on the Jazz. Thanks to its extensive design changes, the WRV has great road presence for a hatch based crossover.
Sleek headlights are skipped for an angrier and chunkier set of headlamps that get crescent moon-shaped daytime running LEDs at the corners. The car’s face is flat like a traditional SUV and is adorned by a fat chrome grille that makes the front look beefier. Additionally, the bonnet sits quite high and gets flared edges, but even so, Honda claims the WR-V complies with pedestrian safety norms.
Of course, there’s black cladding all around, plus plastic silver skid-plates, but the quality here feels average at best. To the sides, the door panels and character lines do remind you of the Jazz, but there’s a greater sense of road presence. In fact, the WR-V is 44mm longer and 57mm taller than the Jazz. It’s wider by 40mm too and even the wheelbase is up by 25mm!
Everything about the WR-V follows a bada hai tho behtar hai (bigger is better) theme. So even the wheels are bigger, 16-inch sets with 195/60-section tyres. Yes, even the ground clearance has been raised to 188mm (23mm more than the Jazz). Not segment-leading, but good enough for our roads, even with a full passenger load.
The boomerang-shaped tail lights slice into the tail gate and the low placement of the number plate and chrome applique above it actually remind you of the Hyundai Creta. Admittedly, the overall styling is quite busy, but the WR-V pulls off the SUV look convincingly – just don’t let that make you think you can actually go off-road with it.
Trivia: The Brazilian WR-V is no different than the car we get, but its ground clearance is rated at 200mm. This is because Brazil uses a different measuring method where the ground clearance is measured at the centre of the car – not the minimum clearance.
As distinctive as the exterior is, the cabin is quite familiar. The WR-V gets the same quirky dashboard as the Jazz, but the infotainment system is from the Honda City facelift (more on the infotainment system here: 2017 Honda City review). Even the steering is adjustable for rake and reach (40mm of travel for both).
It also gets cruise control and a push button starter, but that’s only if you opt for the diesel. A big draw for many buyers will be the sunroof that, like the new City, gets the one-touch operation. There are even unique bits like the new and smaller gear lever that’s quite fun to use.
Like the i20 Active, there are two interior colour options – Black and Bluish Gray and Black and Silver – albeit the colour differences apply only to the seat and door pad upholstery.
As we saw in the Jazz, the cabin space is super-generous and taking the whole family for a trip will be no hassle, especially since you get plenty of bottle holders, two rear seatback pockets and a 363-litre boot (Jazz = 354-litre).
But, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away.
While Honda has added some good features, including a central armrest with storage, the Jazz’s Magic Seats have been skipped, nor does it get 60:40 split seats. You don’t even get adjustable rear headrests on a car that will easily cost Rs 10 lakh and above on road!
Additionally, the overall fit and finish quality could have been better, especially when you consider the fact that the WR-V will cost more than the Jazz. Another disadvantage is that unlike the Vitara Brezza, you don’t get that commanding driving position, which just adds so much to the SUV experience.
(In Picture: Magic Seats of the Honda Jazz)
Engine and Performance
The WR-V gets the same powertrain options as the Jazz, except for the optional CVT automatic offered with the Jazz, while the 1.2 petrol gets a new five-speed manual gearbox. Honda says this transmission is based on the gearbox you get in the BR-V and it has been tuned to improve acceleration, but any gains were imperceptible on our standalone drive of the WR-V.
The fact is, the 90PS petrol engine feels a bit lethargic. If you are driving alone, the motor gets the job done, but with all the seats occupied, you will have to rev the engine hard and make frequent downshifts. Thankfully, the engine is smooth and sounds nice too. The 110Nm of torque is delivered at nearly 5,000rpm, makes climbing up slopes a bit tricky and it will struggle in hilly areas. The WR-V petrol is also up to 62kg heavier than an equivalent Jazz variant and along with the revised gearing, the fuel economy dips a bit, to 17.5kmpl.
The 1.5-litre diesel engine makes the exact same 100PS of power and 200Nm of torque and comes paired with a six-speed manual transmission. The motor offers great low-end torque and loves low-rev with high-gear combinations. Power delivery is smooth and linear at all times, but it’s only easy to drive, not enjoyable.
Hard-revving makes a lot of noise with no equivalent gain in speed, but if your driving style is relaxed, you won’t have any complaints in the city or cruising down the highway. For family-car buyers, it is the better engine. Depending on the variant, the WR-V diesel is 31-50kg heavier than the Jazz, but there’s no noticeable difference in performance. However, at 25.5kmpl, the fuel economy dips by 1.8kmpl.
Ride and Handling
Honda says the WR-V’s suspension uses components taken from their mid-sized SUV, the HR-V. Blessed with more wheel travel and larger wheels, the WR-V pummels potholes without a fuss. The crossover’s rough road ability is certainly better than the hatchback it’s based on. However, the overall suspension setup is a bit soft, especially on the lighter petrol-engined version.
As a result, there is a constant vertical bobbing and slight side-to-side rocking movement too. This will eat into the sense of calmness while cruising at higher speeds. Through corners, the WR-V also has obvious amounts of body-roll. So, it isn’t particularly entertaining, but the WR-V feels safe and predictable at high speeds thanks to its greater wheelbase and wider tyres.
The handling is decent too. Despite its SUV-esque changes, the WR-V still behaves more like a hatchback. If the steering offered more feedback, it would be good fun to drive too, so while it is one-finger-light in the city, it’s no enthusiast-pleaser.
All variants of the Honda WR-V get dual front airbags and ABS with EBD as standard. It also gets a rear camera with multiple viewing angles, but like the City and Jazz, you don't get rear parking sensors.
Is the WR-V worth considering over the Jazz? Yes. Apart from its distinctive styling, it gets some nice features, many of which, are shared with the Honda City. We expect and we’d accept a price premium of Rs 70,000-1 lakh over the Jazz, which is good value for the added kit. Pay anything more than that and you’re only making your pockets lighter for the looks.
Arguably, it also looks unique among its rivals like the Hyundai i20 Active, VW Cross Polo, Toyota Etios Cross or Urban Cross. However, given its expected pricing, it’s a hard sell when compared to more convincing crossovers like the Ford EcoSport or the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza.