Honda's two-seater, sporty hybrid that is the CR-Z has received some significant upgrades for the latest model year. The 'Compact Renaissance Zero' brings back memories of the CRX hatchback of the late '80s and early '90s. With the latest iteration, the CR-Z mimics that car even better, as it receives a slight bump in power for its electric motor.
The bump of the motor (from 10kW to 15kW) comes courtesy of a new, higher-voltage (144V) lithium ion battery pack. That change gives the car a combined power output of 130 horsepower and 140lb-ft of torque, up 8 and 12, respectively, but only on the six-speed manual models. The CVT cars make do with 127lb-ft of torque.
The gasoline engine is untouched, with its 1.5-liter displacement and inline four-cylinder layout. Together, the engines form Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system.
While on the sporty theme, Honda also added a new Plus Sport System that can deliver a five-second boost of electric acceleration on demand via a steering wheel-mounted button. Two restrictions include a minimum speed of 19mph and a battery charge of over 50 percent.
EPA-rated fuel economy is also improved, with 31/38/34MPG on the respective city/highway/combined cycles representing a 1MPG gain on the highway for the manual versions, while the CVT car improves by 1MPG in the city with its 36/39/37MPG ratings. All CR-Zs retain the start-stop system that shuts off the engine when the car is stopped and turn it back on once first gear is selected in the manual or the driver steps off the brake pedal in the CVT-equipped car.
The exterior has been freshened up with newly designed 16-inch wheels, a more aggressive front fascia filled with a mesh grille, and updated diffuser out back. The headlights are more chiseled, and LED daytime running lights are available. The taillights get a blue clearcoat treatment that's the same as the one used on the headlights. Two new colors have also been added: Passion Berry Pearl and Polished Metal Metallic.
The interior has been outfitted with newly designed trim pieces, and all CR-Zs now get a standard Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, Bluetooth Audio, a rearview camera, an Expanded View Driver's Mirror, AM/FM/CD/USB audio system with six speakers, automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, remote entry, and cruise control.
The EX adds Auto-On/Off HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, a 360W AM/FM/CD Premium Audio System with seven speakers including subwoofer, 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.
The CR-Z's interior follows the design theme of "Hi-tech and Sporty," achieved by a very futuristic instrument panel. The CR-Z's gauge cluster can glow in three different colors, depending on which driving mode is activated (Econ, Normal or Sport).
The CR-Z is currently the only inexpensive, sporty 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.