REVIEW | Capable 2021 Honda WR-V blunted by tepid engine

25 February 2021 - 12:55 By Phuti Mpyane
Honda’s newest car is a small crossover based on the Jazz hatchback.
Honda’s newest car is a small crossover based on the Jazz hatchback.
Image: Picture: SUPPLIED

You have to hand it to Honda. Not only does it manufacture a wide variety of machinery, from water crafts to motorbikes and an aeroplane, it also never needed to prove that it can match most car market standards. This is the new Honda WR-V, a crossover that’s loosely based on the long-serving Honda Jazz hatchback.

There is a pronounced pseudo off-road car stance to the WR-V. Its tapering roofline is designed to create a coupé look, while a raised road stance and sharply defined face and rear with large headlights are intended to give the car a cutesy aggression.

With 77mm more height, 38mm more ground clearance and 125mm extra wheelbase than the Jazz, the WR-V is offering compact SUV practicality and small hatchback levels of nippiness.

If you need to carry large items, then the vehicle is formidable in this area. Its foldable rear seats are easy to flip and the resultant space can swallow 1,88ll, about 100l more than a Jazz. It is also in this interior where Honda’s belief in its legacies is also seen and felt.

The fit and finish has the same precision, style and wise choice of materials as you’ll find in almost all other Honda products.

Equipment levels are excellent for the niche. The standard equipment list on the top-spec 1.2 Elegance model has ABS brakes, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and keyless access in its repertoire.

There are plenty of convenience items in the roomy interior.
There are plenty of convenience items in the roomy interior.
Image: Picture: SUPPLIED

As to the drive, a superficial interrogation quickly reveals it’s an easy steer with predictable handling. But it isn’t vice-free. The naturally-aspirated 1.2l four-cylinder engine with 66kW and 110Nm is too weak to pull 1,108kg of Honda crossover. To get it going you need to pile on the revs to about 4,500rpm where its iVTEC rewards with a mild burst of speed, but below that mark it’s frustrating.

Solace can be found in the lightness of its clutch operation and steering action. Flip the script and the lack in power should translate to fewer litres of fuel quaffed when pootling about urban areas.

Honda claims 6.4l/100km but I couldn’t match that figure, instead expending numerals closer to the 8l/100km mark due to its constant need of revs to get moving. Stick to town driving where it feels happiest and should you need to use freeways, then head directly to the slower lanes, activate the cruise control and crank up the volume as it has a decent-sounding entertainment system.

Price rivals are the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Venue, Mahindra XUV 300 and Suzuki’s Vitara Brezza and the segment is growing steadily with new contenders such as Renault’s Kiger and Kia’s Sonet lining up to fill in the gaps. 

Nonetheless the WR-V represents a bold leap forward from a brand that seldom panders to mass market whims. It’s attractive to look at and, above all, decent value for Honda people who want to upgrade towards soft-roader ownership.

Tech Specs


Type: Four-cylinder petrol

Capacity: 1.2l

Power: 66kW

Torque: 110Nm


Type: Five-speed manual


Type: Front-wheel drive


Top speed: N/A

0-100km/h: N/A

Fuel Consumption: 6.4l/100km (as claimed); 7.8l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 149g/km


ABS brakes, six airbags, USB port, air-conditioning, keyless access, park distance control rear with camera, climate control, Bluetooth, LED lights with daytime driving running lights, cruise control, front fog lamps, electric windows, multifunction steering wheel 


Warranty: Five years/200,000km

Price: R319,900

Maintenance plan: Four years/60,000km

Lease*: R6,891 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months, no deposit

Honda WR-V 1.2 Elegance

WE LIKE: Looks, spacious interior, build quality

WE DISLIKE: Tepid engine

VERDICT: Good buy for young urban families

Motor News star rating

Design * * * * *

Performance * *

Economy * * *

Ride/handling * * * *

Safety * * * *

Value For Money * * *

Overall * * * *


Ford EcoSport 1.0T Trend, 92kW/170Nm — R339,300

Haval H1 1.5, 69kW/130kW — R202,900

Hyundai Venue 1.0T Motion, 88kW/172Nm — R307,500

Mahindra XUV300 1.2T W8, 81kW/200Nm — R316,999

Suzuki Vitara Brezza 1.5 GLX, 77kW/138Nm — R289,900