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