The Honda WR-V is a newcomer to the hatchback-based crossover segment, taking on the likes of Hyundai i20 Active, Volkswagen Cross Polo and Fiat Avventura. But unlike its competition which includes merely beefed up models with plastic cladding and faux silver trim, the WR-V is a result of Honda India going all-out to create a legitimate crossover based on the Jazz hatchback.
We aren’t big fans of hatchback-based crossovers as they often tend to appear and feel like the cars they are based on. Happily, the WR-V bucks this trend, with vastly different styling, some additional new features and tweaked internals as compared to the Jazz. Here’s how the newcomer fares as an urban friendly crossover.
The Jazz may resemble its predecessor in many ways but that’s certainly not the case with the WR-V. The latter does look all-new, especially when viewed head on. Following a more aggressive design approach, Honda has gone ahead with that typical SUV look with a rather high bonnet line and a tough looking bumper. The headlights, too, are entirely new and come with LED daytime running lights for added flair. As for the rear-end, there are some Jazz-inspired elements like the flat tailgate and the taillights but the rest all is new. The rear bumper, for instance, is neatly designed and is nowhere as busy looking as the Jazz’ which gets massive twin scoops and several creases.
In profile, the WR-V undoubtedly looks more robust than the Jazz, however, it’s from this angle wherein you will find plenty to draw comparisons. The van-like silhouette is still there and so is the fairly large glasshouse but Honda has done well by integrating chunky plastic cladding, roof rails and bigger 16-inch wheels.
Like the exterior, the cabin design and layout is based on the Jazz albeit with a few revisions. The all-black interior comes with contrasting materials including soft touch plastics and is accented with silver trim for bits of air vents, steering wheel and door pads. The only noticeable change comes in the form a new gear lever which looks sporty and is great to hold. If you value plenty of storage space, the WRV has you sorted – besides the usual cup holders ahead of the gear lever and bottle holders in all four doors, the WR-V also gets a cooled cup holder for the driver’s side. Then there’s a new centre armrest which can even fit an electronic tablet.
In terms of features, the WR-V is fairly loaded. The top-spec VX trim in diesel comes with climate control with touch panel, multifunctional instrument cluster, push button start, cruise control and a rear view camera with multiple angles. We would like to add that the VX trim in petrol is devoid of cruise control and push-button start. That said, the WR-V is the only model in its class to come with a sunroof. It also gets Honda’s Digipad infotainment system which includes a 7-inch display and a ton of connectivity options such as smartphone mirroring tech, two USB slots, 1.5GB of storage and an HDMI port. First seen in the recently launched 2017 City, this system is a lot more intuitive than Honda’s previous AVN units, however, it still isn’t as slick to use as we would have liked. The inbuilt navigation, too, is slow to respond overall.
The WR-V’s cabin isn’t as versatile as the Jazz as it doesn’t get the magic seat configuration which basically allows the rear seat base to be folded upwards. Nonetheless, rear seat space is enormous and there is always more than enough legroom and headroom even for tall passengers. The seat cushioning though is a little too soft, especially the contours. The overall comfort level remains the same as you move into the front seats wherein it’s easy to find the ideal position thanks to the height adjustable driver’s seat and rake adjustment for the steering wheel. Pair that with the low-slung dashboard and the large glass house and it’s quite easy to navigate the WR-V around tight spots and in traffic. The 363-litre boot, too, is impressive and fully usable thanks to its substantial width and low loading lip.
Moving on to the other end of the car, Honda has retained its familiar petrol and diesel engines, with 5-speed and 6-speed manual gearbox options. Starting off with what’s bound to be more popular of the two, the diesel-powered model gets a 1498cc, 4-cylinder turbo unit which makes 100bhp and 200Nm of torque. For the WR-V, Honda says they have worked on reducing the overall NVH levels. So has it worked? Not entirely. Although there’s less engine noise inside the cabin compared to the Jazz, the WR-V is not as refined as any of its rivals and the diesel clatter is evident nearly all the time. Honda, though, fights back with a fairly linear power delivery despite the strong mid-range punch. Better still, the 6-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use – it allows for super slick shifts and is complemented by a perfectly weighted clutch pedal.
After the 1.5-litre diesel, the 1.2-litre petrol feels pleasantly refined though we would like to add that this motor is pretty refined in isolation, too. Making 89bhp of power and 110Nm of torque, the petrol-powered WR-V is decently quick around town. Overall response can be best described as 'relaxed' and while there’s no flat spots throughout the rev range whatsoever, the WR-V does what it's told to do, just rather casually. Again, the 5-speed gearbox (with lower final drive compared to the Jazz) is a sweet thing – because the engine isn’t as punchy as some of its rivals, this revised unit makes good use of the power on offer with smooth shifts.
Hatchback-based crossovers generally make use of the same suspension set-up as the vehicles they are based on. The WR-V though is a little different. For starters, it’s got a longer wheelbase and bigger tyres compared to the Jazz. As one would expect, the ground clearance is higher, too. All things considered, the WR-V does ride noticeably better than the Jazz – the ride quality is cushier over sharp-edged potholes and less clunky too. Although the coastal roads of Goa are among the nicest in the country, we did manage to hit a few rough sections where we found the ride quality to be consistent and comfortable, albeit slightly bumpy.
The WR-V is more of a lifestyle choice than a no-nonsense city runabout. It certainly looks the part, has a versatile cabin with loads of space and a pair of tried and tested engines. That said, it doesn’t come off well as an enthusiast’s choice but that’s passable because it’s not what Honda was looking to make here. The WR-V is all about efficiency and practicality and you get plenty of it. As for the all-important pricing, we will have to wait until March 16 because that’s when Honda India will officially launch the WR-V.