Honda's CR-Z smart choice for sporty hybrid coupe
A sporty hybrid coupe? Honda’s CR-Z delivers in almost every way.
CR-Z’s swept back styling, raked windshield and hatch make it the obvious successor to Honda’s sporty, fun and iconic 1980s coupe, the CR-X.
The car feels light, and at 2,654 lbs., it is. Rack and pinion steering with electric power steering and a nicely balanced feel gives the car a sporty nature. You turn into corners quickly and the car feels breezy and fun.
The clutch is light, and the six-speed manual gearbox is smooth. No other hybrid has a manual transmission. That alone makes this feel sporty and would be my choice over the CVT automatic, the CR-Z’s only other option.At times, the hybrid system feels sporty. Batteries power the electric motor that assists the car’s 1.5-liter gas engine during acceleration. The gas engine takes over fully and powers it once it’s moving. That’s when a gas engine is most efficient. Regenerative braking restores the batteries. Another way the system aids gas mileage is by shutting off the gas engine when the car is stopped and the clutch is depressed.
The hybrid system produces 122 horsepower – not a lot, but the car weighs only a ton and a quarter. What makes it sporty is a selection of three power options, easily controlled by pressing one of three buttons on the dash’s left side. When you start the car, it is set to “normal” mode and gets some electric assist upon acceleration, while limiting the gas engine’s power. Pressing the “econ” mode puts more restrictions on the gas engine’s power and relies more on battery power. Acceleration is noticeably slower.
But just press the “sport” mode and there is quicker throttle response from the gas-powered 111-horsepower engine, plus more electric assist. Slipping easily through the gears, the car becomes perky and moves up to highway speeds with ease.
You want a rocket? This isn’t for you. You want fun and zippy with good fuel economy? This is your car.
I got 38.9, 42.0 and 43.9 mpg in three long stints, the two best with about 90% highway miles. The EPA rates this at 31 mpg city and 37 highway, which seems low.
All that is laudable, but I can’t help but point out that the CR-X HF, which was only gas-powered, was rated at 41 mpg city and 49 highway, after readjusting its rating for EPA changes in 2008.
Ride here is typical small car, and this rides on a 95.9-inch wheelbase.It can get bumpy at times, but the 16-inch tires did a good job of absorbing the biggest bumps. Plus there is independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front, and coil springs and shocks front and rear.
Brakes are four-wheel discs (vented up front, solid in back) with ABS, traction control and two stability systems.
All that is standard on the silver test car, which was the EX model with a navigation system. That’s one model down from the top-level that features a CVT and lists at $23,355. The test car started at $22,705, and a base six-speed manual version lists at $19,345. All feature the same gas-electric hybrid powertrain.
Inside, the CR-Z is attractive and carries on its sporty theme with black and shiny silver tweed cloth seats that are well contoured top and bottom creating a snug, sporty fit. Mind you, there are only two seats. The area behind the seats is only storage bins. The seatback will fold down, though, to create a large flat storage area under the hatch.
The dash is black over gray with a textured top and chrome trim by the open center stack and door pulls. The tilt/telescope steering wheel has a pewter look hub and top to the shift lever.The dash is simply laid out and easy to see, and all the controls are simple to reach. The main gauges are digital and feature a blue background on the main gauge, which is easy on the eyes, especially at night. One gauge also shows if you’re using the battery assist or charging the batteries.
Cruise control and the trip computer are adjusted via buttons on the tilt/telescope steering wheel’s hub. Other features include automatic lights, fog lamps and a rear window wiper.
Since this model comes with a navigation system, you can view it on the small center dash screen. That also houses small radio buttons around the screen’s edge. Everything is easy to figure out, including a zoom in and out function for the map system.
My only major complaint is the noise level. Considering that hybrids tend to operate more quietly, this cockpit has a rumble to it that is annoying on cement streets. On asphalt, the tires do not transmit so much road noise to the interior.
If you’re looking for fun, economical transportation that offers sporty handling and looks, plus 40 mpg or so, this is seriously your only choice.