The Vezel is the go-to compact SUV for Bangladesh right now. It's small enough to park in all our congested apartment parking spots. It's tall enough to tackle our monstrous speed breakers and manhole covers with ease. And it is priced right, considering the amount of kit you get.
We've reviewed the standard second generation Vezel before (known as the HR-V in other markets). It drastically changed from the original egg carton first-gen to a swoopy low-slung estate in high-heeled shoes.
Our test unit has an excellent combination of interior colours - dark olive green, black and tan. It's a classic colour combo that works on any car. It has one of the biggest trunk spaces in the subcompact crossover class. The interior has plenty of space for the driver, though very tall people may feel a little claustrophobic in the rear considering the small windows and the roof sloping down towards the back.
The dash is standard Star Trek level of display wizardry. All the climate and seat heater controls are via a neat touch panel. The switchgear is definitely very upmarket and classy with a solid feel in how the buttons operate. The instrument cluster features a neat halo effect that changes to red when you select Sport mode. What does that do in a hybrid?
There's a 1.5 litre engine paired with an electric motor that gives a combined 150 HP and about 140 lb-ft of torque. That's in comparison to the standard petrol Vezel pumping out 130 HP and 114 lb-ft torque, but in the hybrid Vezel Z the electric motor alone adds 29 HP and 115-118 lb-ft of torque. The 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) comes with paddle shifters if you're in the mood to feel like a race car driver swishing through rickshaws. Initially the acceleration feels slightly sharper than the standard Vezel. When you press Sport, it lets you run the car without a nanny controlling your fuel efficiency. Throttle response is instant courtesy of that DCT sending power to the front wheels.
This is based on the superb Jazz so all the packaging benefits are transplanted here. There's plenty of space for the average height and width of a Bangladeshi. And in this case, I am considering quite a lot of width thanks to biriyani and no intention of climbing stairs. Saying that, rear seats will accommodate three people but with a bit of elbow and shoulder rubbing. Front seats are heated and apparently a lot of older folk love that for the warmth it provides for aching backs. The ride on the other hand is stiff like the standard Vezel. Body lean is well managed during quick turns but potholes will be felt by everyone. The steering has a decent amount of weight to it but it surprisingly detached from the road. While enthusiasts would want some sort of road feedback, for everyone else, it's great in the city where you just want to point and go.
WHAT ABOUT THAT HYBRID SYSTEM?
It's relatively unobtrusive. It starts with petrol power and quickly brings in the electric motor for assists while cruising or when you need additional power. While you sit in traffic it shuts down while still running your AC and all other lighting and audio equipment. Mileage has been tested as high as 27 km/litre. There are worries about the battery pack that eventually needs replacement. As it turns out, instead of replacing the entire battery, only a few modules that become old and malfunction need replacing. The importers of this particular test car are already working out how to provide the service required several years down the line. And there lies the biggest concern. These new hybrids are quite reliable if you get it almost new and drive it with care. We're still waiting to see how all this turns out as chauffeurs use them like 20 year old Honda Civics.
It looks great and will seat five adults quite easily. The car comes loaded with all the tech you need, especially the top of the line, fully loaded model we tested. It also received a 5 star rating in the NCAP crash test, making it very safe for occupants during an accident. I like the ride although on the terrible, terrible road conditions of Dhaka, I would have preferred a bit more softness. The compact dimensions mean easy maneuverability in traffic. Parts should be relatively available as hundreds of Vezels have already been sold here.
This particular 2014 Honda Vezel Z is available at Nippon Auto Trading for a price of TK 31 Lakh.
What does the rest of the team think?
I love Honda and all that the big upright H stands for, so this will be a little biased. One thing is for certain though, and it will be clearly evident to anyone who spends some time with the Vezel or HRV, in petrol or hybrid form – there may be things that its competitors do really well, but where the Honda stands out is in attention to detail. In the materials it has in the interior, the neatly placed interior storage pockets, the ergonomic layout of the dash, the Honda delivers on pretty much every front. The Vezel Z, the hybrid in the range, bumps that up with an added zing in driving dynamics and fuel savings, so what's not to love? The electric motor coming in just as the petrol motor reaches its peak means the acceleration is much improved over the X or S Vezels, but that's a fact that you'll only realize if you really commit to it. Otherwise, the Z is a standard hybrid of the standard definition of a good car, and another successful notch under Honda's belt.
– Shaer Reaz, In-charge of Shift, Ruiner of Perfectly Good Golden Toyota Camrys and Basic Blue Honda Civics
Engine: Sport Hybrid i-DCD - 1.5 litre direct injection petrol 4 cylinder (130 HP, 114 lb-ft torque) + electric motor (30 HP, 118 lb-ft torque).
Gearbox: 7 speed DCT automatic with paddle shifters, Front Wheel Drive.
Features: Patterned fabric seats, touchscreen infotainment system, touch panel air-conditioning, dual zone climate control, surround sound stereo, multi-function leather wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry, push start, reverse camera.
Price: TK 31 lakh. For details, contact Nippon Auto Trading.
Photography: Farhan Ahmed