More than just a Jazz on stilts, it’s a proper com­pact cross­over

Car India - - CON­TENTS - Story: Sar­mad Kadiri Pho­tog­ra­phy: San­jay Raikar

THE NEW HONDA WR-V MIGHT TAKE many car-buy­ers in In­dia by sur­prise as there weren’t many spy pics or pre-launch buzz about the car. Those still won­der­ing about what it is, here is a quick look at the lat­est cross­over from Honda Cars In­dia.

We were in­vited to get a taste of the sun, sea and sandy beaches of Goa and, of course, the new WR-V. Based on the pre­mium hatch­back, Jazz, this mus­cu­lar, sporty and spa­cious cross­over comes in to fill the void for a com­pact SUV/cross­over in Honda’s car line-up in In­dia. So what the i20 Ac­tive is to Hyundai and Etios Cross to Toy­ota, the WR-V hopes to achieve the same for Honda. A unique look­ing car that caters to the grow­ing needs and as­pi­ra­tions of ur­ban In­dia.

How­ever, un­like some of its com­peti­tors which have kept the changes more cos­metic by sim­ply in­cor­po­rat­ing plas­tic cladding and a roof-rail to the ex­ist­ing hatch­back to give it a more butch look, Honda have done a more thor­ough up­grade on the Jazz to make it evolve into a proper cross­over in the shape of the WR-V. Apart from the su­per­fi­cial up­grade, Honda en­gi­neers have tweaked the sus­pen­sion setup, in­creased the ground clear­ance and even elon­gated the wheel­base. Com­pared to the Jazz, the WR-V, at 3,999 mil­lime­tres, is 45 mm longer, taller by 57 mm and the wheel­base has been stretched by an­other 25 mm.

The front and rear de­sign of the WR-V is all new and much bolder, and right­fully makes it ap­pear like a com­pletely new car. It looks more rugged and SUV-like with the raised bon­net and taller pro­file. The new swept­back head­lights with LED day-time run­ning lights, re­designed bumper and chunky grille com­plete the SUV­like im­per­son­ation. Then there’s all-round plas­tic cladding and sil­ver sump plates to fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ate the sportier stance. The side pro­file is very sim­i­lar to that of the Jazz but the WR-V can be dif­fer­en­ti­ated with its roof-rails, sun­roof and larger 16-inch al­loy wheels with wider tyres.

The rear de­sign sets it apart from its hatch­back sib­ling as well. There is a new bumper, a slightly re-de­signed boot-lid and new tail-lights.

Be­ing based on the Jazz, it shares a lot of parts with the large hatch­back, which will help in achiev­ing a com­pet­i­tive price. Just like the Jazz, the new cross­over gets the same 1,199-cc i-VTEC petrol en­gine pro­duc­ing 90 PS at 6,000 rpm and 110 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm. How­ever, Honda have worked on the five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion which, ac­cord­ing to Honda, has been tweaked to of­fer bet­ter per­for­mance. As ex­pected from a Honda, the petrol en­gine is very re­fined and smooth.

Driv­ing the car through the lanes and by-lanes of Panaji, the power felt ad­e­quate for city driv­ing and the gear-shifts were smooth and ef­fort­less. The elec­tric power steer­ing is light and easy. More­over, the WR-V steer­ing po­si­tion can be ad­justed for rake and reach, so you can get the ideal driv­ing po­si­tion.

Once we hit the wider roads that led to the scenic Verna beach, I got a chance to whip the horses and up the speed. Soon the small 1.2-litre mo­tor started to feel un­der­whelm­ing for a car this large and heavy. The petrol ver­sion of the WR-V is about 60-80 kg heav­ier than the Jazz (de­pend­ing on the vari­ant) and a big­ger petrol en­gine would have worked won­ders for this cross­over. Sadly, due to the skewed norms in In­dia and to avail of tax ben­e­fits most car man­u­fac­tur­ers have to play it safe, keep­ing the en­gine size be­low 1.2 litres. The good news is that Honda claim a fuel ef­fi­ciency of 17.5 km/l.

Mid­way to Verna, we got a nar­row path­way, just wide enough for the car, which led us to the beach. The raised ground clear­ance along with the re­vised mount­ing points of the MacPher­son struts and op­ti­mised twisted tor­sion beam setup, the WR-V took the bro­ken road with­out break­ing into a sweat. Soon we had the cross­over on one of the many golden beaches of Goa. We city-dwellers would have loved to spend more time there to detox, lose the sense of time and to let the whole “live for the mo­ment” feel­ing sink in. But soon enough we had to quickly re­treat as the Ara­bian Sea started to en­croach on our photo shoot lo­ca­tion.

Once done, we dashed back to­wards our ho­tel in Panaji, this time cor­ner­ing harder on the hilly roads, we could feel some body-roll also fil­ter in at higher speeds, but none that can be termed as alarm­ing. The steer­ing feel and feed­back is pretty ac­cu­rate and, although on the lighter side, it com­mu­ni­cated well. Af­ter a quick lunch of some Goan del­i­ca­cies (in­clud­ing the chef’s over-spicy take on mut­ton vin­daloo) we headed out again. This time in the diesel ver­sion of the WR-V.

Es­sen­tially, it’s the same oil-burner that does duty on the Jazz. But here Honda ex­ec­u­tives have worked on

the 1.5-litre i-DTEC to im­prove fuel ef­fi­ciency and it now claims to re­turn an im­pres­sive 25.5 km/l. With a fuel tank of 40 litres (same as the petrol vari­ant), it has the po­ten­tial to take you on a trip of close to 1,000 km with­out stop­ping to re­fuel.

As seen on the Jazz, this en­gine comes mated to a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion but the gear ra­tios have been al­tered to bet­ter fuel econ­omy and, as Honda put it, “im­prove up­hill climb­ing abil­ity and smooth ac­cel­er­a­tion”. The i-DTEC pro­duces 100 PS at 3,600 rpm and the 200 Nm of torque starts to flow in as early as 1,750 rpm. Since there is abun­dant torque at lower revs, the diesel feels a lot more driv­able and has enough grunt that you would want from a com­pact but sporty car.

The clutch feels heavy and, when driven in bumperto-bumper city traf­fic, could get tire­some to use. En­gine noise at idling is quite well in­su­lated and can be only heard when pressed harder. Also bear in mind that the diesel ver­sion is about 90-130 kg heav­ier than its petrol sib­ling, so there is a slight hint of wal­low­ing when you’re gun­ning hard over patchy roads.

But this is the ver­sion to buy if you make up your mind to go for the WR-V. Also be­cause the diesel ver­sion has more equip­ment on of­fer. Like the key­less en­try (‘Smart En­try’, as Honda say), Push But­ton Start/ Stop, and Cruise Con­trol are only of­fered in the diesel WR-V. But petrol lovers don’t need to de­spair, as safety aids like dual airbags, ABS with Elec­tronic Brake Dis­tri­bu­tion (EBD), and even a multi-an­gle rear-view cam­era come as stan­dard equip­ment across vari­ants.

Also a good ad­di­tion is an elec­tric sun­roof which is a seg­ment first and, as seen on the Honda Jazz and City, you get touch panel for the air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem. An­other must men­tion is the seven-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem which gets a whole set of fea­tures. This in­cludes Mir­rorLink for smart phones, sat nav, au­dio stream­ing and voice recog­ni­tion sys­tem. You also get two USB ports, a cou­ple of mi­croSD card slots and even an op­tional Wi-Fi sup­port. Maybe, hav­ing some fo­cus on rear seat pas­sen­gers would have helped some more, with things like rear a-c vents and a charg­ing port at the back as well.

The cabin is ex­tremely sim­i­lar to that of the Jazz and, once in­side, it’s dif­fi­cult to guess which Honda car you’re in. But since the WR-V’s cabin is higher, get­ting

in or out is ex­tremely con­ve­nient. The all-black cabin en­sures it won’t get dirty that eas­ily, plus there are a lot of chrome bits to make it look plush. De­pend­ing on the vari­ant you can get two com­bi­na­tions to pick from: ei­ther black and sil­ver or you can go for blue and black.

There’s a new and sleek gear knob and a cen­tre arm­rest as well which has a USB and a mi­croSD slot in it, in ad­di­tion to the ones on the dash­board. There are more than enough cubby-holes to store bot­tles and cof­fee cups, in­clud­ing a fold­able one for the driver on the ex­treme right of the dash­board. With a well de­signed glasshouse, the vis­i­bil­ity is good from within. This is es­sen­tial for a car with a back cabin.

Now with the stretched wheel­base, there is abun­dant space for pas­sen­gers in the front and back. And even with the lower cross­over pro­file (not as tall as an SUV) there’s de­cent head­room even at the back and more than suf­fi­cient shoul­der-room. Sur­pris­ingly, the fan­tas­tic “Magic Seats” from the Jazz have not been car­ried for­ward in the WR-V; prob­a­bly to meet the price ex­pec­ta­tion of In­dian cus­tomers. So the rear pas­sen­ger seats do not get split back­rest and also fall short on un­der-thigh sup­port. There’s a mas­sive boot space of 363 litres which can be in­creased fur­ther by tum­bling down the back­rest of the rear seats.

The WR-V is a spe­cial car for Honda Cars In­dia be­cause it’s the first car model to be devel­oped by their R&D cen­tre which has worked closely with Honda Ja­pan to come up with the pro­duc­tion model. An­other note­wor­thy fact is that the WR-V will be launched in In­dia first, long be­fore any other county around the world.

Honda have po­si­tioned the WR-V be­tween the Jazz hatch­back and City sedan, with a start­ing price of Rs 7.9 lakh (ex-show­room Pune) for the base petrol vari­ant of the cross­over. The top-spec VX we drove costs Rs 9.23 lakh (petrol) and Rs 10.26 lakh (diesel), which is on a par with Maruti Suzuki Vi­tara Brezza and Ford EcoS­port (ex-show­room Pune).

There’s am­ple space at the back, with room enough for three

The diesel feels a lot more driv­able and has enough grunt that you would want from a cross­over

The WR-V is a spe­cial car for Honda Cars In­dia be­cause it’s the first car model to be devel­oped by their R&D cen­tre, and In­dia is the first coun­try glob­ally to get this cross­over

The elec­tric sun­roof is a seg­ment first, and has tilt func­tion and pinch guard

Top-end diesel gets more fea­tures like cruise con­trol

For now just the diesel VX vari­ant comes with start/ stop but­ton

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