The Honda CR-Z is a gas-electric coupe that seeks to provide both engaging driving dynamics and hybrid fuel efficiency. It isn't entirely successful on either front, and its two-seater configuration limits practicality, but for those seeking an inexpensive, mildly sporty hybrid, it's the only choice on the market.
For the latest model year, the CR-Z gets a subtle facelift and more standard features.
The premise of the CR-Z is intriguing: combine the best traits of a hybrid and sports car into a single machine that's both fun and easy on gas.
It certainly looks the part, with an appealing wedge shape that manages to appear both athletic and somewhat futuristic. A new front end with an updated grille design, redesigned fog lights, and a new front diffuser were added as part of the CR-Z's recent refresh, bringing a bit of extra muscle to the hybrid's style.
Underhood, the CR-Z features a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline motor along with a small electric motor. With the help of a recently upgraded lithium ion battery pack, total output is rated at 130 horsepower and up to 140 pound-feet of torque.
A six-speed manual is the standard transmission, a slick unit that's very much in keeping with Honda's tradition of excellent stick shifts. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is offered as an option. Enthusiasts beware: the four-cylinder's torque output is lowered to 127 pound-feet when the CVT is selected.
With the six-speed, mileage is rated at 31 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, while the CVT model returns 36/39 mpg.
The CR-Z features a drive mode selector with four different modes that adjust a variety of vehicles settings, including throttle response, steering assist, air-conditioning usage, transmission programming with the CVT and electric motor assist with the stick. A Sport + button on the steering wheel provides a five second boost in acceleration in any drive mode.
The cabin design almost looks as if it's pulled from a spaceship, with an ultramodern instrument panel highlighted by a prominent digital speedometer encircled by an analog tachometer. Climate controls and vents sprout in an unusual fashion from the gauge cluster, and background lights change color to signal when the car is being driven efficiently.
While the CR-Z is fitted with occasional-use backseats in other markets, the hybrid is strictly a two-seater in the U.S., with a flip-down rear parcel shelf occupying the void behind the front seats. Although this means the CR-Z isn't ideal as a carpool vehicle, there's at least plenty of space for stowing cargo - 25.1 cubes to be exact, which isn't much less than some compact crossover models.
Rear visibility is considerably impaired from the bipartite rear window and sloping roofline, but a standard rearview mirror helps to take the fear out of backup maneuvers.
Trim Level Breakdown
The CR-Z is offered in three trim levels called LX, EX, and EX-L Navi.
The base model comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped by all-season tires, remote keyless entry, one-touch turn signals, LED brake lights, a reverse-linked rear wiper, body-colored dooor mirrors, automatic A/C, a push-button ignition, power auto up/down windows, cruise control, power locks, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, map lights, a 12-volt power outlet, a multi-function steering wheel, a 160-watt sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a seven-inch touch screen that runs Honda's HondaLink infotainment system.
The EX trim adds LED daytime running lights, Honda's LaneWatch technology, heated mirrors, automatic HID headlights, fog lights, illuminated vanity mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum pedals, ambient lighting, and a 360-watt sound system.
Finally, the EX-L Navi trim brings leather upholstery, heated front seats, navigation, and HD radio.
Honda Performance Development (HPD)
Honda Performance Development (HPD) offers a full catalog of factory-backed parts aimed at buyers looking to deck out their CR-Z. The parts range from mundane sticker kits to beefier brakes, a limited-slip differential, an upgraded clutch disc and even a supercharger that bumps the four-banger's output to 197 horsepower and 176 lb-ft. of torque. The supercharger can only be fitted to CR-Zs equipped with a six-speed manual.
All CR-Z models are fitted as standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
The CR-Z is currently the only inexpensive, driver-focused hybrid on the market, though similar fuel economy can be had with driver-focused, gas-powered models like the MINI Cooper, Hyundai Veloster and the Fiat 500, all of which are four-seaters.