An affordable lifestyle vehicle that serves multiple needs is where manufacturers are now seeing a lot of potential. It is one of the fastest growing segments in the country and it is fair to say that just about every automobile manufacturer that operates in the mass product market wants their share of the pie. The latest to join the bandwagon in Honda with their WR-V.
Based on the same platform as the Honda Jazz, the WR-V has been given enough tweaks to set it apart from its premium hatchback cousin. It is a vehicle that has received extensive inputs from Honda’s R&D wing in India and it has been conceived keeping the aspirations of Indian customers in mind. In fact, India is the first country to get the WR-V and that does stand as a testament to Honda’s commitment to our market. In order to get things right, Honda has benchmarked the WR-V against the competition in every aspect, as they rightly pointed out to us during the product briefing prior to the drive.
The design of this compact crossover follows a similar edgy language that we see on all Honda products of late. Though I have not been a big fan of such design, I guess the younger generation seems to like it, and since they are the prime audience for a car such as this, I really don’t have any right to complain. Adding to the edgy the design theme are the large headlights with LED DRLs, massive chrome grille and neat looking 16 inch alloys. The WR-V also gets enough plastic cladding all around in order to give it that ‘SUV’ touch. All these bits have resulted in the quirky looking WR-V and while some might refer to it as a compact SUV; I felt that it possesses a stance and style that is more comparable to what we’ve come to know as crossovers. All said and done, the WR-V did attract a lot of attention while we were out on our shoot and interestingly it was the women that really praised its looks (maybe Honda is onto something here)!
Sticking to their ‘man maximum, machine minimum’ mantra, Honda’s engineers have managed to free up a lot of space on board the WR-V and I personally believe that they deserve an award on this front. The space up front is perfect (as expected); however it is the leg space for those on the back bench that is just out of this world. I am a rather tall bloke and considered to be well above the average Indian male height, yet I could easily fit in the back without knocking my knees out, even with the front seat pushed all the way back. Even with such an airy and spacious cabin, the WR-V still manages to offer 363 litres of cargo space.
The cabin is well appointed and neat. The plastics look upmarket and the highlight has to be the touch controls for the climate control air conditioning and the large touchscreen infotainment system that allows you to access a plethora of data. Known as the Digipad, the 17.7cm touchscreen infotainment system comes with satellite linked navigation, voice recognition, audio streaming, 1.5 GB internal memory, 2 USB slots, 2 microSD slots and a HDMI slot (which did have me a little perplexed). For smartphone connectivity, the system offers a mirror link support and in today’s day and age of connectivity needs the system also comes with Wi-Fi support for Internet access. Apart from all the gizmo-gadgetry on board you also get a sunroof. If you opt for the top of the line diesel version, then you also get the start/stop button and cruise control.
Honda is offering the WR-V with both petrol and diesel engine options. The petrol variants get the 1199cc, 4 cylinder i-VTEC mill which generates 90 PS @ 6000 rpm and 110Nm of torque @ 4800 rpm. Mated to a five speed manual transmission, the petrol engine powered WR-V delivers a claimed fuel efficiency of 17.5 kmpl. The diesel motor is the tried and tested 1496cc, 4 cylinder i-DTEC mill that delivers 100 PS @ 3600 rpm and generates a rather decent 200 Nm of torque @1750 rpm. The diesel variants also get the added benefit of a six speed manual transmission and the claimed fuel efficiency is said to be 25.5 kmpl. Both engines sound really good on paper, however in reality it is the diesel version that holds the maximum promise for Honda.
To be honest, the 1.2 litre i-VTEC didn’t offer the spirited driving experience that one associates with a Honda. Sure, 90 PS on tap sounds great, but in reality, the power kicks in only at higher rpms and therefore the car feels sluggish and slow while driving around the city. It also struggles with steep inclines and that might prove to be a big deterrent for many. My opinion on this front was that Honda has tried to go all out on the efficiency front and this has resulted in the engine being tuned in such a manner that doesn’t delight when it comes to performance. What Honda needs to understand is that their City has set the benchmark in terms of what customers expect from a Honda product. The brand does enjoy a premium over its other Japanese counterparts in the market and they really need to know how to use this to their advantage. The WR-V would have been a blast with the 1.5 i-VTEC out of the City. Sure, it wouldn’t conform to the ‘small-car’ segment and therefore wouldn’t attract the lower excise duty; however it would have been a blue-blooded Honda!
Luckily the WR-V with the 1.5 litre i-DTEC diesel heart proved to be a very different story. It delivers on all accounts and there is no doubt that this will be the model that rakes in the moolah for Honda. It has the pep, the pull and tractability. The only downside being that the engine is a bit noisy and the clatter does seep into the cabin just a tad bit at lower speeds. Having said that, you get the diesel WR-V going and it is a joy to drive.
Honda has always had a strong focus on safety standards and keeping with that they have ensured that the WR-V gets enough equipment on board to keep the occupants well protected. To start with, the WR-V gets Honda’s advanced compatibility engineering (ACE) body which offers a high level of structural rigidity. The structure is designed in a manner to disperse collision energy while keeping the occupants protected. The WR-V has been tested for full front, front offset, and rear crash tests and it has passed on all accounts. Further to that, the car comes with impact mitigating headrests, ABS, driver and front passenger airbags and an intelligent brake override system which allows the ECU to override the accelerator signal if the driver accidentally presses the accelerator and brake at the same time in a state of confusion. Last, but not the least, the WR-V also gets a multi-angle rearview camera to help you park it safely.
With the WR-V, Honda is undoubtedly looking at grabbing a bit of the pie that the Suzuki Brezza and Ford EcoSport enjoy. It does have its merits and enough going for it to stand out against the competition, however this segment is a tough one to crack and customers tend to be rather price sensitive as well. For Honda, the real challenge lies in pricing the WR-V competitively and on that front, my advice would be to undercut the pricing of the Brezza if Honda really wants to see the sales counters tick. As for which version to buy, my money would be on the diesel variants.