DRIVEN: Honda’s new WR-V crossover is a pleasant surprise
CAPE TOWN - With the market continuing its buying trend towards SUVs and especially compact crossovers, you better get into the game, especially if your name's Honda.
The Japanese company has an almost enviable position in South Africa with a history of producing cars that, like its countryman Toyota, are reliable and just keep on going.
It's no surprise then that with the launch of their WR-V they go head to head with the Ford EcoSport, VW T-Cross and Hyundai Venue.
It's a very competitive market with the EcoSport topping the charts but considering Honda's reputation for quality and dependability it wouldn't be a surprise to see the WR-V ruffle a few feathers.
And like most compact crossovers it's quite funky looking as well with a short, wide bonnet flowing into the grille, colour-coded wheel arches housing 16-inch alloys, slim roofrails and a rear dominated by a large C-shape tail light cluster.
Under the bonnet there's a 1.2 litre normally aspirated petrol engine using Honda's i-VTEC intelligent valve timing management system producing 66kW and 110Nm. Both the Comfort and Elegance models get a five-speed manual gearbox.
Suspension comes in the form of independent MacPherson strut-based for the front and a torsion beam rear set-up.
We drove it around the Swartland area in the Western Cape and came away pleasantly surprised by it's driving dynamics and handling.
The little 1.2 litre motor doesn't mind being pressed hard although there's some noise resistance inside the cabin and substantial over-revving when changing gears but the odds of an owner regularly giving it a thrashing are virtually nil.
We managed to give it a fair whack at speed both on straight bits of tar and a couple of bends and found it to be surprisingly sure-footed and although there was a fair bit of wind noise at speed it was probably not helped by a strong south easter blowing.
We'll be able to give a better review of the engine when we get to test it at altitude but down at the coast it was ample considering the segment it's fighting in.
Inside it's scattered with soft touch finishes and silver accents, the seats are very comfortable, there's enough space at the back for the passengers and lots of nooks and crannies to store odds and ends.
Luggage capacity comes in at a handy 363 litres and with the seats down 881 litres while it also copies from it's Jazz sibling the "Magic Seat" system that can be configured in several different ways to accommodate a variety of tall and long objects.
Also from the Jazz is the instrument panel with three dials with blue backlighting.
In the centre of the dash the Comfort model features a five-inch LCD audio system with Bluetooth, USB connectivity and four loudspeakers.
The Elegance comes with a seven-inch touchscreen display audio system that's Andoid Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible and is equipped with an extra two speakers. Both have rear parking sensors and the Elegance an integrated reverse camera.
First impressions of the WR-V are very favourable and it will be interesting to see how the buying public responds given the dominance of Ford and VW.
WR-V 1.2 Comfort MT: R289 900
WR-V 1.2 Elegance MT R319 900
The WR-V comes with a five-year/200 000km warranty, a four-year/60 000km service plan and three-year AA Roadside Assistance.