2011 Honda CR-Z Road Test Review

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Honda is well known for building technologically advanced, lightweight, fuel-efficient cars that are fun to drive. Back in 1985, the company introduced the first sporty two-seat economy car, the CR-X. Universally acclaimed for its good looks, great fuel economy and reasonable price, the CR-X was a runaway hit for Honda.

For 2011, Honda is returning to that concept, but with a twist––a gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain. This makes CR-Z the first truly sporty hybrid two-seater. A taut suspension system, quick steering, and the first six-speed manual transmission ever fitted to a hybrid automobile round out the package.

Honda has more history here, the first hybrid ever sold in the North America was a Honda two-seater called Insight. Yes, Insight beat Prius to market, but HD DVD beat Blu-Ray to market too, and we all saw how that turned out. The CR-Z however, has something going for it the original Insight did not. The CR-Z has a style that promises excitement. Look at those voluptuous rear fenders, that gentle arcing nose and that sleek ovoid shape.

A two-seat hybrid sports coupe though? Does it really work?

In a word, yes.

When it comes to agility, Hondas always shine. They're quick off the line and smoothly tenacious through the corners. This one absolutely exhibits those traits. The six-speed manual shifts crisply, has relatively short throws and clutch take-up is absolutely perfect. On a winding road, when piloted by a proficient driver, a CR-Z can be tough to keep up with. The 1.5-litre inline four produces 112 horsepower and the electric motor contributes 13 more for a total of 122 horsepower. Total torque output is 128 ft-lbs with 58 of that total coming from the electric motor and 107 coming from the gasoline engine.

That doesn't add up, right?

Because the peak output for the CR-Z's gasoline engine and electric motor occur at significantly different RPM ranges, the combined rating for horsepower and the combined rating for torque take into account the unique RPM when each peak occurs. Thus, the combined power numbers do not represent the simple addition of the peak numbers for the gasoline engine and electric motor. This is why the 112 horsepower (gasoline engine) plus the 13 horsepower (electric motor) equals a combined output of 122 (not 125).

Inside the 2011 Honda CR-Z, the instrument panel has all the controls conveniently grouped around the three-spoke tilt and telescoping steering wheel. The display is pleasing to the eye and uses colour to reflect which of the three available modes the car is driving in.

Press the sport button, CR-Z's steering gets a bit quicker, the throttle response is sharper and the electric motor kicks in a bit harder. To reflect this, the inner ring of the tachometer glows red to let you know you're about to be starting something. In the Econ mode, the ring glows green, as long as you're driving frugally. Get more aggressive and the ring turns blue. In the Normal mode, the ring glows blue. If you opt for the CVT automatic instead of the six-speed manual transmission, you'll also find paddle shifters behind the wheel enabling you to choose from among six preselected gearing points.

At its base price of $24,885, CR-Z standard features include Vehicle Stability Assist, a 360-watt audio system with seven speakers––including a subwoofer–– plus auxiliary input and USB connection, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, remote entry, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and HID headlights.

The cargo compartment offers some innovative solutions for storage. Immediately behind the seats is a hidden storage area with two trays beneath a cover. This is perfect for things like purses, laptops and other small items you'd like to readily access, but prefer kept out of sight. The rear cargo area can be divided into separate compartments. The cargo cover can be retracted, or removed altogether if required.

If there's anything to knock about the CR-Z, it's the 6.0L/100km combined city/highway fuel economy rating (5.3 with the automatic). The Prius is rated at 3.8 city/highway, and the CR-Z's larger Civic Hybrid and (ironically) Insight siblings drop into the mid to low 4s. A number of other cars routinely outperform the CR-Z in this regard too. However, few offer the style, sophistication, fun and outright sportiness of Honda's latest two-seater. And, it is the only hybrid two-seater available with a six-speed manual transmission.

With the 2011 Honda CR-Z, you'll be (somewhat) frugal with style.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hybrid, HEV, Honda, 2011, CR-Z, $20,000 - $29,999, Hybrid,

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