Honda Vezel is a 5-door mini-SUV by Japanese automaker that was first unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. Honda launched this urban crossover for sale at the end of 2013 and initially it was for the Japanese domestic market only. Honda later launched the car with HR-V badge in the rest of the world. The Honda HRV was launched in North America in April 2014. Although Vezel was the new nameplate, the HR-V nameplate is old, and Honda basically revived the name with the new car. Besides, most of the Vezel cars are hybrid and come with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, whereas HR-V is mostly non-hybrid throughout the world and comes with a Honda CVT gearbox. Vezel is in some ways related to Honda Fit.
The Vezel name was derived from the word ‘bezel’ where b was replaced with v (v for vehicle). And it’s pronounced just like you would pronounce the word bezel, but with a V., I have heard people calling it ‘veezal’. That’s the wrong pronunciation of the name of the car. I assure you the car has nothing to do with weasel (the predatory animal).
I had the car for a limited time so I must admit in advance that I might miss a few things in this review. But before I start, I would like to thank Murree Motor in I-8 sector Islamabad, who were generous enough to lend us this almost new 2016 Honda Vezel worth PKR 3.7 million. The car had arrived to them just last night, and they washed it up and brought it to us for the review next morning. So a big thank you to them. Also, one important thing to keep in mind is that you get both 4WD and front wheel drive versions of Vezel. There are four types of Vezels; RU1, RU2, RU3, and RU4. RU1 and RU2 are both CVT where RU1 is FF and RU2 is 4WD. And RU3 and RU4 both come with 7-speed dual clutch automatic but RU3 is FF and RU4 is 4WD.
The car we had, Honda Vezel Hybrid Z, was front wheel drive with dual clutch 7-speed gearbox (RU3).
The first impression of the vehicle when I looked at it up close was how compact it looked. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a big vehicle. There is decent room inside but from the outside, the car looks kind of small and contained. And that sort of body and chassis designing has led Honda to design the suspension of the car accordingly. The car weighs around 1330 KG and its 4,294 mm long (about 14 feet). To give you a perspective, Honda Civic is 4,540 mm (almost 15 feet) in length. But it has far superior inner space (especially the legroom) than the Civic since there is no boot.
The overall shape of the car is sort of hard to explain. Looks are always subjective. You might like it; others won’t. So there is no point spending time justifying the looks of the car. However, the car has long fluid lines and curves that originate from the front of the car and go all the way to back. You have narrow yet sharp headlights in front that follow the same lines and curves of the sheet metal of the car. The front of the car looks very busy. There are a lot of curves and cuts and corners. At the bottom of the front bumper, you get a big gaping opening in the middle. On the sides, you get fog lights sitting right on top of the protruding air splitters. The front looks very sporty and aggressive. I personally think that Vezel is a distinctively a Japanese design and is like no other vehicle.
The rear of the car hunches downwards, giving it a look of a hatchback car. The rear door window is tiny just because of the swooping roof line of the car. And that increasingly falling roof line does present its challenges in the interior as well in the form of small headroom. You get a small shark fin right in the middle on the back end and massive rear stop lights that share an area on both the boot lid and the body of the car. Under the Honda logo at the rear, there is a small button that will open the boot lid for you. All the curves that started from the front of the car on both left and right side come to meet in the back of the car.
The car has enhanced wheel arches and that sort of give it a wider look. But compared to Civic, it is not as wide as you might think. Vezel is 1772 mm wide compared to Civic’s 1,755 mm width. I have used Civic’s measurement as a comparison since it’s a local car that has been widely used, and also to show that both Vezel and Civic are close to each other dimension-wise even if both have completely different body styles and are from different segments.
There is no physical key and only the key fob with lock and unlock buttons on it. The car comes with a push-start button, and as long as you have the fob with you, the car will start. And one cool thing about the key fob was that if you press the lock button for a few seconds, the side mirrors will automatically retract.
The interior is definitely a nice place to be in. I must admit, the experience was kind of overwhelming because there are so many controls and buttons staring at you that you might feel a little nervous in the start. You will find nice tangerine colored faux leather on the door panels and the dashboard. Just don’t let your kids draw stuff on that leather with a ballpoint pen. But the quality of that black plastic on top of the dashboard is absolutely horrible. Those cheap toys made in factories in Pakistan that you find people selling at signals in cities have a better feel and quality to them than that black plastic. It was scratchy and rough, and overall felt cheap. You can easily scratch that kind of material. I scratched it with my fingernails, and I could see white lines appearing on the surface.
The passenger side dash is nice and clean. You get long A/C vent in front of you and at the bottom is a decent sized glove compartment. And that is about it. The story changes in the middle and driver side of the dashboard. And the first thing that caught my eyes was that there was no head unit installed in the car. I was told by the showroom person who lend us the ride that new imported cars are not coming with head units anymore. And there is just a double-din sized hole right in the middle of the dashboard. But underneath that space, you will find a touch panel climate control. In the start, I did find the unit a bit confusing but got used to the panel soon after. You can control the temperature of both sides (driver and passenger) independently. You have one speaker in each door (4 in total), but considering the car didn’t come with a head unit, I cannot comment on the audio quality.
The material and fabric on the doors is however quite nice. You get nice finish and combination of cloth and that artificial tangerine leather with white stitching. The interior of the car is spookily quiet. You do not hear much of the outside world. When battery powered, the car just quietly glides over the road. However, the 1.5-liter engine makes a nice noise when you tap the accelerator hard.
The front seats are a bit sporty and hold your body quite nicely. You won’t roll over them when cornering fast. The seats are a combination of fabric and leather. Considering the heat in Pakistan, it’s a good thing the seats are not all leather. The day we had the car, not once did I feel the seats getting hot and uncomfortable. You get nicely stitched leather and fabric upholstery throughout the car. The feel of the material and craftsmanship feels premium. Also, the front seats are electronically heated.
I liked the way the steering felt in hands. It’s rather a small wheel, but grips nicely, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all holding it at 10-10 position. The material felt pleasant and even in the heat, it didn’t get hot and tacky. You get a bunch of buttons on the wheel, though. On the left side, you have audio control buttons, and on the right, you have cruise control. You can engage, disengage, and increase or decrease the cruising speed through that control. Right under the cruise buttons, you have vehicle information system. Keep pressing the button that says ‘i’ and information on the instrument panel changes. From fuel average to trip meter to hybrid information to race pedal position, it will show you various settings and information. It even shows you G-Meter. The mission is to keep the car in the green zone for better fuel economy (don’t race or brake too hard).
There are loads of small storage place inside of the vehicle. Since the center console is raised, you get some nice storage place underneath it. You will also find ports for your USB, HDMI and a 12V power outlet under the center console. The surface of the console is made up of shiny material that loves to catch dust and fingerprints. You get two adjustable cupholders in the center console if you slide the center armrest backward. Other than that, you get small pockets to store things everywhere in the car. Even rear seats are like a bench, and you have space to store small things underneath the rear seats.
As far the gadgets are concerned, you get almost everything you could name. From power windows to power mirror, and keyless entry, and start-stop button, and Eco mode, and LED light, and touch climate control, and EPS to name a few. As I said before, the first 10 minutes in the car were quite overwhelming, and I needed a rundown to know how everything works. Both sun visors have vanity mirrors and lights. You get electronic handbrake, and also the brake hold. Brake hold lets you descent or climb uphill without worrying about switching between brake and race paddle. The Vezel comes with a tilting steering wheel, but it is not telescopic.
The gear lever is tiny. But it does what it’s supposed to do. I guess this is the future of the cars; no more massive sticks poking from the floor of the car. The gear lever gives four options. Push it straight down and you will engage the low gears of the car. Whereas if you slide it to the right, you have options to put the car in reverse, neutral or, in the drive.
Honda Vezel comes with a twin-cam 1.5-liter internal combustion engine (Earth Dreams) along with an electric motor. The battery is placed in the trunk where your spare tire usually is. One thing that I found kind of peculiar were the welds of the battery housing. They were naked and looked fresh. I was told this is how it is in all Vezels.
The ICE (internal combustion engine) is rated at 130 BHP, and electric motor makes 30 BHP. According to Honda Motor Japan, combined power is rated at 150 BHP. That is significantly more than the Pakistani Honda HR-V’s 128 BHP. The ICE provides 156 N.m of torque, and the electric motor is rated at 160 N.m of torque.
Trivia: The turbo engine in the 2016 Honda Civic is the same Vezel motor with some adjustments for turbocharging.
The hybrid system used in Vezel is known as a parallel hybrid system. In this particular system, the electric motor which also works as a generator is in situated between the engine and transmission. Vezel has Honda’s dual clutch 7-speed automatic gearbox which is quite good in my opinion. But I did find the flappy gear paddles behind the steering wheel a bit clumsy.
You get a three generic driving modes:
In Econ mode, the car lowers the output and prefers the electric motor over the internal combustion engine. I felt the change in the behavior of the car as soon as I turned the Econ on. The sound of the engine changed, and it immediately became docile. The Econ optimized the shift point of the transmission. The car started to change gears immediately without revving the engine high and the A/C system also slowed down. In Econ mode, the 40-liter fuel tank will last you quite a few hundred kilometers. In Econ mode, the car changes the throttle response of the engine. The Econ also changes the way you engage your cruise control. The point is to provide you decent fuel economy, and that’s it.
In Normal mode, as you would expect the car drivers normally. There is as such no button to turn the so-called normal mode on. But as soon you turn the Eco mode off, the car goes in normal mode. In this mode, the car doesn’t favor as such any system but manages between the electric motor and combustion engine power.
In Sports mode, the moment you press the button situated right behind the gear lever, you will hear the engine rev and sound aggressive. The center dial of the speedometer turn red, and you will hear the change in the engine note. I had the A/C on when I turned the Sports mode on and suddenly there was a positive change in the cooling and fan speed of the car. You can rev the car hard in Sports mode and the gear shifts high on the rev limit. In Sports mode, the car favors power, no matter if it’s from a combustion engine or the electric motor.
The response of the engine and transmission changes depending on the driving condition. I was unable to find one particular way of driving the car. It was constantly changing its behavior. I think this is common with all modern cars that are filled to brim with electronics. There are so many variables the car takes in to adjust each and every aspect of the driving characteristics that each time you sit and drive the car, you will feel a little difference the way car behaves. If you like to go from point A to point B in comfort without any drama, you wouldn’t mind your car behaving like that. But if you like to enjoy the ride of your car, this unpredictability can become kind of annoying. But I must admit, these are small changes, and the majority of drivers won’t even feel it.
Each time I pressed the accelerator, I felt a slight delay. I can’t exactly measure it as such, but you can say there was half a second of delay when I pressed the race pedal, and the car started to move. I was later told that you can actually control the throttle response through Vezel’s vehicle information section (press the ‘i’ button on the steering wheel).
But when it goes, it really likes to go. In sports mode, the car was a joy to drive. It revved nicely and was quick off its feet. But as I said before, the shift pedals behind the steering can be a bit clumsy. The car wouldn’t change gears when I wanted it to. Even double tapping them didn’t exactly work. I don’t know if I was doing it wrong or if it’s a typically Vezel behavior, but it did that every now and then. I noticed this gear skipping especially when I was racing the car hard. I had throttle jammed to the floor, and when I tried to change gear with pedals, it wouldn’t do anything. Getting to 120 km/h from zero was absolutely effortless.
As far the fuel average of the car is concerned, I have heard people claiming the car can do as much as 20 km/l. Honda claims the Vezel would do 24km/l. But in my testing time, I was able to get not more than 15 km/l. But since I have driven it like a madman, maybe driving it with a light foot in Eco mode can get your above 20 km/l although many Vezel owners do not agree with this figure. Realistically, the car should do between 15 to 17 km/l. And I think for the size and type of this car, it’s absolutely fine.And when it comes to the brake performance of the car, I was genuinely impressed with the way it stopped in its tracks. It comes with 4-wheel disks. Since the car has regenerative braking, you are actually already slowing down when you lift your foot from the race pedal. The car needs that power to charge its batteries, and it’s available for all hybrid vehicles. I refrained from slamming the brakes but even at otherwise hard braking, the car was quick to react to the brake pedal. Also, at one high-speed turn, I braked the car while turning left and not once did I feel the car is about to slide its backend.
But what did disappoint me was the performance of its A/C. The day I had the car, the temperature was around 42 degree Celsius. And the A/C just didn’t perform as well as I had hoped for. I was told that Vezel’s A/C is quite decent but I guess the car I had was not cooling to its full potential. With Econ button pressed, it was acting like a glorified fan – the cooling was so bad. Turning the Econ off did improve the cooling, but it was still not significant. And I am not talking about the air throw of the cabin blower motor. The blower was working fine. It was the inadequate cooling that was disappointing.
Comfort & Handling
As I said earlier, the Vezel looks kind of small and light from its appearance, but it is not. Not at all. The car has a battery pack in the rear, where your spare tire usually is, and then there are electric motors in the rear and your hybrid motor/generator in the front. All of this combines to the extra weight that is not in your local HR-V. But despite all that weight, Vezel comes with 215 wide tires wrapped around 17” alloys. And those things make sure the car handles well. Honda has tuned the suspension to make it feel sporty. And they have succeeded in it. The steering feels planted and gives you confidence. Maneuvering the car in traffic at high speed was easy. At motorway speeds, I flicked the car to see how it would behave, and every time the car came back in my control.
Being slightly bigger than a usual car, you get quite a lot of cab space inside. Even after fully backing the front seats, there was more than enough leg room in the rear. During our test, the front seats were adjusted for 6 feet tall person, and in the rear, there was a bit more than 6 inches of space between the knees of the passenger in the rear and the back of the front seats. You will not run out of the leg room at least in the car. However, it is not the same story when it comes to fitting three people in the back seat. Vezel is only 1,772 mm wide. To give you a perspective, 9th gen, Honda Civic is 1,755 mm. That is not a lot. To be fair, it’s nothing. But your regular Civic can easily fit three people in the back compared to the Vezel. And that has a lot to do with how the interior of the Vezel has been made. In order to make the car comfy and plush, Honda has put a lot of fat and padded material inside including the door panels. Also, the middle part of the rear seat has a bump. The middle of the rear seat is not suitable for an adult. It’s like sitting on a bench. The car is perfect for four grown people, and one young person to sit in the middle of the rear seat. But fitting a 3rd grown person in the rear seat can be a bit uncomfortable, especially on long routes.
The roof falls at the back of the car quite a much. It has been done to lower the drag of the vehicle. So that brings the challenging head space in the back. If you are taller than 6’2”, you will bump your head on the roof of the car.
The boot is sufficient for your weekly groceries but is not enough if you want to stash a couple of big suitcases. With seats in upright position, Honda says you have around 450 liters of boot space. To put it in a comparison, ninth generation Honda Civic sedan’s boot space is around 350 liters. Considering Vezel trunk is not protruding out like a sedan’s, the space is a bit less depth wise. But since it’s a crossover, you have some nice upward space. And if you put the backs of the rear seats forward, you get a massive boot like in a small van with a totally flat loading bay. Now you can fit even a washing machine in it. You get another power outlet in the trunk to power the air pump in case you need to inflate it after a puncture. Honda Vezel comes with a puncture kit since it doesn’t have a spare tire.
The car comes with 17-inch alloys and 215 wide tires. You can be assured that the car is going to handle well. And it does handle well. To be fair, the car feels great. Somehow people think it is a light car. But that is far from the truth. As mentioned above, the car weighs over 1300 kg. And maneuvering that much weight in a car with a wheelbase shorter than Honda Civic (2,610 mm and 2,700 mm respectively) can be a hassle. But those big alloys and wide tires combined with some seriously well-tuned Honda suspension make the car lovely to drive. I swerved a 3.7 million car at 130 km/h with the showroom guys sitting next to me, and the car didn’t feel wobbly or wonky at all. It was glued to the tarmac and every time I straightened the steering, the car would come back to it default position in an instant. The body roll was nothing for a tall vehicle that it is. In normal city driving speeds, you can easily throw the car around, and there is minimal body roll. It is a crossover, so it is a tall car. And being tall means the car can lean in corners unnecessarily. But having a wide footprint, and nicely tuned suspension means the car stays in your control. Car won’t leave its space on the road. Not once did I feel I am losing the control of the car. Besides, it has traction control. I turned it off and gave a car a flick, and it suddenly turned itself on. I didn’t try to repeat the scenario so I can’t comment if it would have done the same again or if was a one off. I really liked its road behavior. The steering felt nice, and overall gave an impression of control.
You will, however, feel all the bumps and humps on the car. It is not uncomfortable per say, but you do feel every crack and peddle on the road. The feeling might be different if you are a passenger in the car, but in the driving seat, you do feel the road. And this kind of feeling is totally a subjective matter. There will be some of you who like this feeling and feedback from a car, and there will be some who would expect a 3.7 million car to be a bit more quiet and comfy.
On twisty high-speed curves, the behavior of the car was the same. It held its ground perfectly. And as I mentioned above, it straightened itself every time I pointed it forward after taking a dangerously fast turn without any drama. The steering felt great and light. The EPS has been tuned superbly. The feel of the car and the road is not mute. And you can easily predict its behavior on all sorts of driving surfaces. I personally loved the feel of Vezel’s electronic power steering.
Sitting in the front gives you a comfy and snuggled feeling. You get that long center console in the middle of the seats, and seats themselves are slightly lowered. This gives you a feeling of control and safety. You don’t feel like you are sitting in a tall vehicle with a high center of gravity. In my humble opinion, the Vezel is a very good driver’s car. And even though the car is a little more than 7 inches above the ground, combined with the short wheelbase of the car, you can be assured you won’t be rubbing the belly of your mini-SUV on usual bumps and humps.
- Crumple zones
2016 Honda Vezel Hybrid Z comes with eight airbags. You get two in the front; then there are curtain airbags in the pillars of the car. And besides, the whole car is basically a crumple zone. I think Vezel is one of the safest cars in Pakistan to have an accident in….not that you should have one. But if you do want to have one, try to have it in a Vezel. You will be quite safe.
To make sure you don’t end in the back of another car, Vezel comes with a radar system. When turned on, the car will prevent from getting close to obstacles in the front. The car will kill the feed of race pedal (since its drive by wire), and it will start to pulsate the moment the car detects something in front. So you have a safety cushion there. Bad luck doesn’t knock before ruining your day, so anything can happen. But you should have some satisfaction that your multi-million rupee car will immediately slow down or stop if a rickshaw driver decides to dive in front of you.
And of course, you get all the other latest safety gadgets likes ABS and EBD. And since the car comes with traction control, you can add that to the list of safety gadgets as well.
If you have a small family of four or fewer people, and you are after a modern vehicle that not only looks good but drives good, has sufficient boot space for everyday use, can take you from one place to another in style and comfort and gives pretty decent fuel average for its size, I think Vezel is the best vehicle for you. Also, if you are looking for a second vehicle for your significant other to haul kids and groceries all day, again, this car is a perfect choice.
And I do believe its value for money. The particular car I had for the review had a price tag of PKR 3.7 million, and it was around 9000 km driven and was 2016 model. There are a boat load of things that affect the price of a used imported vehicle here in Pakistan. You will be able to find a Vezel from PKR 3 million to all the way up to PKR 4 million. Prices will increase or decrease depending upon the model of the car, the condition of the car, the auction sheet grade of the car, etc. So if you are after a Vezel, you will be able to find a decent car in the budget mentioned above.
Honda Vezel offers so much, and there is so much going on for it that I think the price tag of PKR 3.7 million is justified. A brand new Honda HR-V in Pakistan is over PKR 3.6 million. And in my opinion, Vezel carries more weight than the HR-V in almost every aspect. And considering Honda Atlas has started to sell HR-V here, you will be able to find the most body and mechanical parts of Vezel from Honda dealerships as well. So if you ask me if this car is value for money, I honestly think it is.
I do think there are a few things that could make it slightly more suitable for Pakistani roads and driving conditions. First, I think it should have 16” alloys instead of 17-inch alloys. And older models did come with 16-inch wheels instead of 17-inch wheels. I think you do need more rubber on your car’s wheels here in Pakistan considering the overall condition of roads across Pakistan. Not everyone lives in posh areas of big cities. And even those who live in such areas need to take their vehicles to their native villages every now and then. So extra rubber is always going to make the driving a little more comfortable.
Also, the rear seat should be able to fit three adults. It’s very comfy for two adults, but the area in the middle is kind of wasted. Making the seat comfortable for three people is only going to increase its appeal in the eyes of potential buyers.
And lastly, considering how many Honda Vezels are being imported in Pakistan, Honda Japan should provide an owner’s manual in English as well. I think it has nothing to do with anything but hey, why not.
If I have to summarize my impression of the vehicle in one line, I would say Vezel is a true example of ‘more bang for the buck.’