Honda's Newest Family Member

Eat Sleep Drive Repeat

11 November 2020

WR-V subcompact SUV takes on some tough competition

Alongside the arrival of the 8th generation Ballade, Honda introduced its newest family member: the WR-V.

A cross between the Jazz and BR-V, the WR-V offers SUV-type styling in a compact package, and will take on the likes of the Ford EcoSport and VW T-Cross. The look is generally convincing: a confident face is matched to a raised ride height topped with roof rails, and there’s plastic protection for the wheel arches, which house 16 alloy wheels. The view from the rear isn’t quite as enjoyable, with the C-shaped rear lights seeming little awkward from some angles.

Moving to the interior, it’s straight up-and-down Jazz. That means a generous sprinkling of touch controls, with no physical buttons for the air conditioning and just a few neat controls for the touch screen. The higher spec Elegance model gets a 7-inch unit that includes Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, while the Comfort model makes do with a 5-inch screen.

Both models are fitted with charcoal fabric for the seats and get rear park distance control; the Elegance has the added benefit of a reversing camera. Also part of the Elegance’s standard spec is cruise control and keyless operation.

Boot space is generous - almost a full 180 litres more than the Ford EcoSport, and boosted by Honda’s ingenious Magic Seat system. Even though it’s been around for years, it hasn’t been copied and remains one of the easiest ways to free up good amounts of space and easy access in the rear.

There’s only one drivetrain option for the WR-V: a 1.2 4-cylinder with 66kW and 100Nm, matched to a 5-speed manual gearbox. 66kW is never going to feel super powerful, but even on our short test run close to sea level, the feeling was that at higher altitudes, the little unit is going to struggle. Power delivery is linear, and the i-Vtec technology means it doesn’t mind higher revs; but it’s an unhurried affair, and spontaneous overtaking isn’t an option. That said, whilst cruising, the WR-V manages perfectly well - the only concern being higher than expected wind noise on the driver’s side, and road noise in general.

The ride setup kept things comfortable, and while handling was confident to a point, creases in the road surface became more noticeable at higher speeds.

It’s great to see Honda expanding its range in SA, and the WR-V has joined the ranks of a very popular class of car. But it is going to have a tough battle on its hands: not only will be it have to work hard to convince buyers that its a worthy competitor, even without turbo or automatic options, it’ll also be fighting the perception of Honda as a brand that appeals to an older market.

WR-V 1.2 Comfort MT R289 900
WR-V 1.2 Elegance MT R319 900