Honda WR-V First Drive

Compact crossovers are a fairly new segment in the Indian automotive industry, with OEMs providing SUV-inspired design cues and making relatively minor styling changes to their hatchbacks to create such models. Such crossovers – cars like the Hyundai i20 Active, Volkswagen Cross Polo, Fiat Urban Cross and Toyota Etios Cross – have not done too well in the Indian market, but that hasn’t stopped Honda from trying their hand in this segment.
Enter the new Honda WR-V, a ‘Sporty Lifestyle Vehicle’ that’s based on the Honda Jazz hatchback. The WR-V uses the Jazz’s underpinnings, including the chassis, most of the bodywork, engine and transmission. Yes, there are some design changes to the car’s bodywork, especially at the front, and the addition of the inevitable cladding on the wheel arches, which is supposed to give the vehicle some off-road cred. The WR-V compact crossover has been designed locally by Honda’s R&D team in India, and this is the first market where the WR-V will make its global debut.
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The new Honda WR-V is available in petrol and diesel variants, featuring the same engines that power the Jazz. The petrol variant is powered by a 1.2 l, four-cylinder, i-VTEC unit delivering 90 hp at 6,000 rpm, along with peak torque of 110 Nm at 4,800 rpm. The diesel version comes with a 1.5 l, four-cylinder, turbocharged, i-DTEC engine delivering 100 hp at 3,600 rpm, and 200 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm. While the petrol engine is the exact same unit running on the Jazz, the diesel engine has been tweaked to help increase efficiency and reduce emissions.
The WR-V’s 1.5 l, i-DTEC diesel engine is a double overhead cam unit, which is from Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ series. The engine is claimed to deliver a best-in-segment fuel economy of 25.5 km/l, which is enabled by friction reduction of all components, offset oil supply crankshaft, eccentric groove main bearing and an improved cooling system. Emissions have been reduced by using various new technologies, including a high swirl head port, high intake flow and compression ratio, and, for the first time in Honda’s India line-up, a Lambda Sensor (LAF sensor or oxygen sensor), which is applied before the catalytic converter. This LAF sensor is essentially an electronic device that monitors the level of air-fuel mixture being fed to the engine, and provides this information to the vehicle’s engine management system. It enables the engine to supply the most efficient ratio of air and fuel, thus enabling the car to run efficiently, while keeping emissions to a minimum.
The WR-V will be available with manual transmissions only on both the engine variants, with the company not looking at offering the CVT that is currently available on the petrol variant of the Jazz. The petrol variant of the WR-V features a five-speed manual transmission, while the diesel engine gets a six-speed manual gearbox. The five-speed manual transmission on the petrol variant is claimed to be a newly-developed transmission, which is said to be a heavy-duty unit for a higher weight category than that of the WR-V. The transmission features a gear ratio that is 10 % lower than that of the Jazz to enable improved acceleration.
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We drove the turbo-diesel variant of the Honda WR-V first, and a point worth mentioning is the way the power is delivered by this engine. With the turbo kicking in at 1,500 rpm, turbo lag is so minimal that this can be easily mistaken for a naturally-aspirated engine. The lack of lag in power delivery means the car is easy to drive in city traffic as well as on the highway, where overtaking manoeuvres are never a challenge. The 200 Nm of torque that this engine delivers makes the driver’s life easy, and frequent downshifts are not required. The transmission itself is slick and provides smooth, precise shifts.
The 1.2 l petrol variant, meting out power to the front wheels via a slick 5-speed manual transmission, lacks the sheer torque of the diesel, but the car still feels peppy across the engine’s rev range and drivability is never an issue.
According to Honda, the The WR-V’s suspension has been tuned to handle the car’s increased wheelbase (as compared to the Jazz) for improved stability. The suspension also features a larger stabiliser bar to improve roll stability, and higher rigidity lower arm and knuckle for better handling. The increased tyre size and higher ground clearance also help the car over rough, broken terrain.
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The exterior of the new Honda WR-V has all the typical features of a compact crossover. It includes plastic cladding around the car, with skid plates at the front and rear giving it a butch, SUV-inspired stance. The front facia is in line with Honda’s new front-end design that can be seen on most of its other models, featuring a dual chrome and black front grille, with sculpted front housing fog lamps. The crease lines on the bonnet and headlamps make the car look beefier and more SUV-like at the front.
The rear of the new Honda WR-V has some resemblance to the Jazz, but a lot has changed here. The car features a re-designed tail lamp cluster that extends onto the hatch lid, for an ‘L-shaped’ design. The design of the hatch lid itself has been changed, with the number plate cluster now moved towards the lower end. The rear gets its share of chrome in the form of a bezel above the number plate area. The side profile of the WR-V carries resemblance to the Jazz, with the addition of the side-cladding, black and silver dual-tone roof rails, chrome door handles, smaller rear spoiler and new 16-inch alloy wheels.
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The interiors of the WR-V are almost identical to that of the Jazz, with the same dashboard design, instrument cluster and buttons, in addition to a steering wheel with tilt and telescopic adjustments. The dashboard features silver accents that add a premium look to the interiors of the vehicle, and the top-end variants also come with an electric sunroof. The only difference inside the car between the two engine variants is that top-end diesel models get push-button engine start/stop and cruise control. The WR-V, has ample space for its occupants, with comfortable leg room in the front and rear rows, along with a 363-litre boot. However, under-thigh support for rear passengers could have been better, which would make longer journeys more comfortable. The car also has a number of storage spaces and cubby holes that can be used to store all kinds of knick-knacks while on the go. The seat fabric, dashboard and door plastics are all high-quality, and feel good to the touch.
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The highlight of the interior is the DIGIPAD capacitive touchscreen audio, video and navigation system of the top-end WR-V model, which was recently launched with the 2017 Honda City. The DIGIPAD features Wi-Fi support, voice recognition for media, navigation and phone, as well as multimedia playback through two USB ports, two microSD card slots, an HDMI port and 1.5 GB of internal storage memory. The WR-V also gets the touch-panel automatic climate control, and all these systems on the centre of the dashboard are angled slightly towards the driver for ease in use.
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The Honda WR-V is a capable compact crossover and with its finely-tuned driveline, reduced NVH, very good ride and handling, extensively reworked exteriors (as compared to the Jazz) and standard safety features like ABS, dual front airbags, EBD and multi-angle reverse camera, this is a well thought out product that could do well in the market. Honda will launch the WR-V on 16 March, and we hope the vehicle is priced in a way that makes it attractive for buyers.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay