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 previous model year, Honda updated the CR-Z with freshened exterior styling, more standard equipment and an upgraded hybrid system with additional power.
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 more aggressive front fascia filled with a mesh grille, a restyled rear diffuser and new wheel designs 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 140 lb-ft of torque - up 8 and 12, respectively, over the pre-facelift model, although still not enough for sports car-like acceleration.
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. 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 base and EX trim levels.
The base model comes standard with get a standard with full power accessories, Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio, a rearview camera, AM/FM/CD/USB audio system with six speakers, AUX and USB inputs, automatic climate control, remote entry, cruise control and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The EX adds Auto-On/Off HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, a 360-watt AM/FM/CD Premium Audio System with seven speakers, and a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel. It can be also optioned up with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with FM traffic and voice recognition, Pandora Interface and an SMS text messaging function.
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.