REVIEW | The 2021 Honda WR-V is a light rock Jazz fusion
If you’ve never checked out the Post Modern Jukebox channel on YouTube, please take a moment to change your life for the better.
They are a talented group of musicians who do retro renditions of contemporary classics. It is mind-blowing, trust me.
From Beyoncé’s Drunk in Love performed with a Gatsby-style twist to a slowed and trombone-intensive version of Never Gonna Give You Up originally done by a stripe-wearing Rick Astley, it’s all there.
Some fusions work better than others, as we know. The same goes in the motoring world. For example, when Peugeot mixed the sliding doors of a minibus with the compact dimensions of a hatchback in the 1007, the reviews were, shall we say, mixed. Or what about when Nissan decided to make a convertible version of the Micra?
We all know how successful the mash-ups that led to the formation of the crossover segment have been. Or anything remotely echoing a sport-utility vehicle type of character, for that matter.
One fine case in point is our tester this week, the Honda WR-V. Which is basically a Jazz that gets down to a little bit of light rock from time to time.
Tougher exterior cladding gives the impression of suitability to gravel road travels. A ground clearance of 173mm is adequate for such ambitions, substantially greater than the 135.3mm ride height the manufacturer claims for the regular Jazz.
In normal conditions (city and suburban environments) that additional clearance gives the WR-V more pluck when it comes to negotiating speedbumps, especially well-concealed ones with faded markings that catch a person unawares during an early morning start.
Potholes become slightly less concerning, too. The 195/60R16 tyre and wheel combination took all manner of bumps and thwacks courtesy of road imperfections easily in stride.
After a few days in the WR-V, one was left with the strong impression of a hardy, dependable runner that goes about commuting and tackling daily life without so much as a shrug. Honda is good at this kind of thing: economy cars built to work without fuss for the entire lifespan of the average human.
One of the unexpected surprises was the gearshift action, which would have felt more at home in a sports car. No, seriously, short throws, precise engagement, it gave off the vibe that put us in mind of another favourite Honda, that Civic Type R.
On this subject of performance, when we first drove the WR-V at launch in the Western Cape last year, we anticipated it might find the altitude of Gauteng to be a struggle.
Aside from being rather noisy when you wring it out (which is most of the time), the pace of the normally-aspirated Honda is okay so long as you keep the tachometer needle up. Feels like it could benefit from an additional gear for cruising because the strained sound it produces at 4,000rpm doing 120km/h in fifth does not make for easy listening.
At 1,100kg, it is a lightweight. The 1,199cc, four-cylinder, petrol makes 66kW and 110Nm. The carmaker claims a combined consumption figure of 6.4l/100km. At the end of our test mileage at 350km, we recorded 7.6l/100km.
Versatility has always been a strong suit of the Jazz, largely thanks to its van-like properties, and the WR-V retains that virtue. With the rear seats up, boot space is a fair 363l, but fold them and total storage space is an impressive 881l.
The interior is basic, but tidily assembled with a robust feel. Not much in the way of soft-touch garnishes though. Even the steering wheel in the range-topper Elegance we drove is of the standard urethane variety. The seats are upholstered in fabric, not leatherette. And you get a rather dated-looking infotainment system. No touchscreen ease-of-use there.
The cabin area is where the WR-V falls especially short. Also hurting its aims is the presence of recent rivals like the polished Kia Sonet and spiffy Nissan Magnite, built from the ground-up as compact sport-utility vehicles, not merely remixes of an existing B-segment hatchback.
They are priced in the same ballpark as the WR-V, with entry-level derivatives undercutting it dramatically, too. The Honda will set you back between R289,900 and R327,300 and includes a five-year/200,000km warranty and four-year/60,000km service plan.
Those gripes aside, if it is a feeling of simplicity and long-term durability you want, you could do a whole lot worse than the WR-V. It’s a catchy little ditty that grows on you.