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2023 Honda ZR-V to be CX-5-rivalling family SUV, will slot between HR-V, CR-V

The ZR-V is expected to hit Australian showrooms, slotting in between the HR-V and CR-V SUVs.

Honda’s European arm has confirmed that the brand’s new C-segment SUV will wear ‘ZR-V’ badges on its tailgate when it launches in 2023. 

And it’s probably the same SUV that’s been confirmed for Australia, with Honda’s local boss telling CarsGuide that the compact soft-roader will indeed be rolling into Australian showrooms in due course.

For us, that car will most likely sport the ZR-V nameplate as well.

Also confirmed for the Chinese market, where it will use a conventional 1.5-litre powertrain and CVT transmission, the ZR-V will adopt a more heavily electrified posture in Europe. Whether our ZR-Vs also take a hybrid-heavy posture remains to be seen, but with the new-generation HR-V seeing a return to petrol-electric options for Honda Australia, it would be reasonable to assume a similar strategy would be employed for the ZR-V.

But precisely which engines would get the nod isn’t clear. The HR-V’s 89kW/145Nm 1.5-litre petrol and 96kW/253Nm petrol-electric hybrid would likely be insufficient considering the ZR-V is expected to be sized similarly to the Mazda CX-5. Instead, the Civic’s 131kW/240Nm 1.5-litre turbo petrol and 135kW/315Nm e:HEV hybrid seem like better fits, especially as the ZR-V is expected to be built atop the Civic’s platform.

Adding the ZR-V to the local line-up would help Honda better compete in the Australian market. The brand only has two SUV models in the form of the CR-V and HR-V, versus rivals like Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen, which all run very SUV-heavy showrooms. 

Honda needs all the help it can get in boosting its SUV market share, and additional product will certainly help achieve that goal. It also opens the possibility of moving the CR-V further up, potentially allowing the replacement for the current CR-V to grow from being something akin to an X-Trail, to being more of a Kluger rival.  

And with the CR-V being positioned as a family-centric offering, the ZR-V will be free to chase a broader demographic that encompasses new families, child-free professionals, empty-nesters, downsizers and more. With a greater variety of buyers in its catchment, the ZR-V could well become a volume-selling core model for Honda Australia.

But its fortunes will largely depend on how it’s positioned within the mid-size SUV segment. With the HR-V’s pricing window spanning $36-45K, the ZR-V will likely add a few thousand on top of that.

The CX-5, meanwhile, kicks off at $32K, though that’s for a base model front-wheel drive manual – AKA, the model almost nobody is interested in – and the CX-5 is approaching the end of its lifespan too. Whether Honda offers the ZR-V in a single high-feature, high-price spec like the Civic is not certain at this stage. 

Timing is also hazy, but with Honda Europe confirming that sales of the ZR-V aren’t due to begin until sometime in 2023, we wouldn’t bank on seeing it on our shores this year.