Honda WR-V Lives Up To Expectations in Langkawi

By Lee Pang Seng

HONDA appears to have struck gold here with its entry-level WR-V, completing the SUV (sport utility vehicle) family. Since its launch in July, more than 3200 Winsome Runabout Vehicles (WR-Vs) were delivered to eager owners desiring a compact SUV to reflect their mobile lifestyle. This is slightly less than half of the 7000-plus bookings that were received.

It might be of similar body dimensions as the Perodua Ativa and costs more than RM20,000 but that’s not stopping car buyers from putting their hard-earned money down for a WR-V. Being a Honda has its status merit and there is confidence of a well-developed model with sound engineering.

We got a better insight into what makes the WR-V tick during a media drive Honda Malaysia organised in Langkawi. As is often the norm, only the top model is provided and that is the WR-V RS. The idea is to get the best media impression and in this instance, the drive impression desired was relevant as more than 60 per cent of the WR-Vs delivered over the past two months were the RS variant.

It is the only model variant with 17-inch stylish dual-tone alloy wheels that are paired with 215/55 R17 Continental UltraContact UC6 tyres. According to Nattawut Sasitorn, the Assistant Large Project Leader (Dynamic Performance) of the WR-V, the gas dampers are tuned to be stiffer to complement the tyre size for a sporty performance.

For the other three models in the WR-V range (S, E and V) that run on 16-inch alloy wheels with 215/60 R 16 tyres, the gas dampers are tuned softer to achieve a more comfortable ride without sacrificing handling performance. So there you have it, the WR-V RS is the sporty one to have.

Firstly, the WR-V is a good looker with a streamlined well-profiled body with a distinctive face; the glittering grille is exclusive to the RS while the other models have a simpler pattern. Complementing the forward grille are the sleek LED headlamps and distinctive scuff plates below. The rear door handles are similar to that for the HR-V being located next to the C-pillars.

Honda has taken the sporty touch in the interior for the WR-V RS to a distinctive level with red trims and stitchings for the leather/fabric seats; the other models (E and V) have blue accents. The driver has sport foot pedals. However, being the entry-level model, the WR-V RS does not come with electronic driver seat adjustments. Maybe, should an e:HEV variant comes along, the standard equipment could be higher as well? Honda Malaysia says there is no decision on that yet.

Nevertheless, we could get a comfortable driving position all the same with some manual effort. The interior looks spacious enough for four adults as it allows those sitting at the rear to enjoy using the foldable centre armrest. Five is possible too but with a bit of a squeeze at the rear. We found headroom, legroom and elbow room ample for four on board.

The 1.5-litre (1498cc) engine is basically the same unit as that in the City with a difference in engine tuning and exhaust manifold to accommodate the different body dimensions. It delivers 89kW (121PS) at 6600rpm and 145Nm of torque peaking earlier at 4300rpm against 4600rpm for the City. A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is also used to channel power to the front wheels.

Against the City, the WR-V is dimensionally shorter due to it being an SUV; its wheelbase is 2485mm (City 2600mm) and overall length is 4060mm (4442mm). The WR-V is, however, wider at 1780mm against the City’s 1694mm and taller at 1608mm (1477mm). Being an SUV, it also has a higher ground clearance of 207mm (135mm).

Naturally, that makes the WR-V heavier too across the range from 1108kg (WR-V S) to 1145kg (WR-V S) against the City’s 1084kg to 1112kg. As a compact SUV, the WR-V loses to the City in luggage space with 380 litres against 536 litres. By the same token, the WR-V could have its luggage room increased by more than double by folding the 60:40 split rear seatrests to suit one’s accommodation needs.

On the go, there is no lack of punch and momentum even though the WR-V is a slightly heavier vehicle against the City. If you work the accelerator with gusto, you could achieve the same quick pace, even along winding stretches that Langkawi has plenty of. It has the same sure footing that the common MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension system is tuned to provide.

We found the WR-V confidence inspiring to push that bit faster through the corners as body roll was nicely controlled and the electric power steering giving us good directional feedback to tell us how the SUV was heading. The good ride comfort was appreciated too despite the harder gas damper settings and we could vouch for that as a rear seat passenger. Over hard bumps, there were no jolts but mild thuds that indicated the bad road surfaces we were riding over.

We could carry a good turn of speed along clear and open stretches and the slight engine roar during hard initial acceleration was easily tolerated. This CVT characteristics had been significantly improved from earlier systems that had engine roar that was a lot louder and intrusive. It was as good as driving an SUV with automatic transmission.

Body aerodynamics were also good as the smoothly carved body outline reduced air turbulence noticeably as we drove along at robust speeds. Road rumble picked up by the tyres was also nicely dampened and this led to a reasonably quiet ride for the round island drive.
Its urban manners are also made likeable for a compact SUV and the small turning circle of 10.4 metres allowed us to manoeuvre the WR-V in tight spaces. Parallel and rear parking was a cinch with its smaller frame and driving in urban traffic was hardly a sweat.
The WR-V RS carries a premium price of RM117,900 on the road without insurance but the high bookings suggest that it is not short of admirers. Indeed, it appears that many Honda enthusiasts have been waiting for a compact SUV to show up and this Thai-developed WR-V fits the bill excellently.

Being the top model, the WR-V RS has a six-speaker audio system to enjoy the music that much better and Honda Connect, with which you could start the vehicle remotely via a smartphone, build a Geo-Fencing Alert to warn you of possible vehicle burglary or theft and make automatic call for assistance in an accident, among others.

There is also the walk away auto door lock feature that is common to all four WR-V models as well as the Honda Sensing active drive package (except the WR-V S) that makes this Honda entry-level model a good buy. The WR-V is definitely a good start to the Honda world of SUV motoring.