Honda puts a new spin on an age-old concept with the new-for-2011 CR-Z. The diminutive two-seat hatchback has the looks of a sports coupe, but the heart of a hybrid. Honda hopes to position the CR-V as an answer to the question, can you have driving fun and still be environmentally friendly?
|2011 Honda CR-Z EX with Navigation|
Base Price: $22,560
At-Tested Price: $23,310
Built in Japan.
Engine: 1.5-liter I4/electic
Transmission: Six-Speed Manual
Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive
The CR-Z is a two-seat, two-door hatchback that shares some chassis components with the Honda Fit and utilizes a drivetrain from the Honda Insight hybrid. CR-Z competes in the low-price sport coupe class with cars like the MINI Cooper, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Scion tC and Volkswagen New Beetle.
Available in Base and EX trim, the front-drive CR-Z is powered by a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and electric motor that combine to produce 122 horsepower. Like other hybrids, the engine shuts off at stoplights and the electric motor charges the battery when cruising and coasting. Unlike most other hybrids, the CR-Z cannot operate in electric-only mode. Buyers can choose between a either a six-speed manual transmission of a continuously variable automatic.
Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, active head restraints, tire-pressure monitor and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. Rearview camera and park assist are not offered.
The Base lists for $19,200 with manual transmission and includes air conditioning with automatic climate control, tilt-telescope steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, cloth upholstery, bucket seats, height-adjustable driver seat, power mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital-media player connection and iPod adapter, trip computer, variable-intermittent wipers, cargo cover, rear defogger, rear wiper/washer, automatic headlights, theft-deterrent system, 195/55R16 tires and alloy wheels.
The EX starts at $20,760 and adds to the Base leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated power mirrors, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, illuminated visor mirrors, fog lights and HID headlights.
Available on the EX only is a navigation system that adds $1800 and includes touch-screen navigation system with voice recognition. As per Honda practice, there are no other factory-installed options. The CR-Z is assembled in Japan and has a destination charge of $750
Get Up and Go All CR-Z models feature three driving modes. Normal is for everyday driving. "Econ" changes engine throttle response and electric-motor operation to prioritize fuel economy. "Sport" alters those same functions to suit performance driving.
When equipped with the six-speed and set to Sport mode, CR-Z will scamper from 0 to 60 mph in a touch less than nine seconds. That's a full second faster than Honda Fit and on par with the normally aspirated MINI Cooper. If you opt for Normal or Econ, you'll be relegated to life in the slow lane and just keeping up with traffic requires a deep stab on the gas pedal.
Given the sporty exterior styling and two-seat packaging, you'd expect the CR-Z scoot away from stoplights and that's just not the case. There's decent off-the-line punch and average passing power.
The manual transmission is best for the performance minded as it has short throws and allows drivers to maximize the engine's power output. The CVT seems to blunt off-the-line acceleration and occasionally bogs the engine in low-speed passing situations.
On the flip side, the manual transmission defeats some of the hybrid powertrain's fuel economy tricks. For example, when coasting, if drivers put in the clutch, the electric motor is disconnected from the wheels and cannot regeneratively charge the batteries. Also, at a stoplight, you have to leave the gear selector in neutral or the engine will automatically start up.
Speaking of fuel economy, the manual is EPA rated at 31 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. The CVT comes in with 35/39 mpg ratings. In comparison, the gas only MINI Cooper has EPA ratings of 29 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Honda says that both engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline.
Given its hybrid nature and diminutive size, real-world fuel economy is somewhat disappointing. Routine commuting with a manual-equipped model will likely yield about 32 mpg, perhaps 35 mpg if you do a lot of highway driving. Straight city driving will drop that number to under 30 mpg.
On the Road Despite the short wheelbase and firmly tuned suspension, CR-Z doesn't ride like a go-kart. The is some pitching and bobbing when the road grows bumpy or you run over highway expansion joints, but for the most part the CR-Z rides with confident composure.
When the road gets twisty the CR-Z feels nimble and athletic. That's due in part to the car's light overall weight and the quick and communicative steering. Another positive are the strong brakes which feel natural when coming to a stop. Pushed too hard though and the fuel-economy minded tires give up the ghost too early, howling in complaint.
Overall the CR-Z is fun to drive but not sporty in the way a MINI Cooper or Volkswagen GTI might be.
Noise levels are on par with other sporty coupes. Road and wind noise are quite noticeable at highway speeds and the engine snarls in hard acceleration.
Behind the Wheel Like most inexpensive sporty coupes, the CR-Z's interior is more style than substance. There's lots of hard plastic and not enough soft-touch surfaces. Controls have a solid and expensive feel and there are a few chrome accents, though.
The gauge and control layout is somewhat unconventional, unless you've spent some time in a Civic or Insight. Driver's face a brightly lit digital speedometer that's ringed by an analog tachometer and glowing ring that changes from blue to green depending on how miserly you are driving. Climate controls are in a pod to the right of the steering wheel and somewhat jumbled. Thankfully radio controls are straightforward as is the available touch-screen navigation system.
Most adults will find adequate head and leg room, though head room can be tight for those over six feet tall. The seats are supportive and well bolstered. The driving position is low and rearward visibility is restricted by the horizontally split rear window and thick rear side pillars. Both driver and passenger will be looking for a center armrest that isn't there.
The cargo area is just large enough for a couple of weekend bags or a week's worth of groceries. There's also room where the rear seats would be, but it's not very usefully shaped. A divider does fold to increase cargo space and it does create a longer and flat load surface. Interior storage is sparse and the forward-mounted cup holders get in the way of shift operation.
Bottom Line The Honda CR-Z is a conundrum--for every positive there's a negative. It's got decent pep (if you stand on it), but isn't as fuel efficient as it should be. It's quite small, but doesn't have true sports coupe moves. It's reasonably priced for a hybrid, but overpriced compared to some competitors.
Still, it is an enjoyable car to drive and accomplishes its mission of blending sport and efficiency. Though the manual model is quicker and more fun to drive, the CVT CR-Z should be the fuel-economy champ and would be easier to drive in stop-and-go traffic. Thusly equipped, you're likely to be able to get out the door for just a tick over $21,000 and that's not a bad deal.
|Specifications 2011 Honda CR-Z EX|
|Dimensions||2-door hatchback||Engine||DOHC I4/electric|
|Wheelbase, in.||95.9||Size, liters/cu. in.||1.5 / 92|
|Length, in.||160.6||Horsepower @ rpm||122 @ 6000|
|Width, in.||68.5||Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm||128 @ 1000|
|Height, in.||54.9||Transmission||6-Speed Manual|
|Weight, lbs.||2654||EPA Estimates, mpg||31 city / 37 highway|
|Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.||NA|
|Fuel Capacity, gals.||10.6||Manufacturer's Warranty|
|Seating Capacity||2||Bumper-to-Bumper||3 years / 36,000 miles|
|Front Head Room, in.||36.9||Powertrain||5 years / 60,000 miles|
|Front Leg Room, in.||42.7||Corrosion||5 years / Unlimited miles|
|Second-Row Head Room, in.||--||Free Roadside Assistance||None|
|Second-Row Leg Room, in.||--||Free Scheduled Maintenance||None|