The all-new Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe starts with Honda's great little 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and adds its Integrated Motor Assist technology in the form of a 13-horsepower electric motor powered by an 84-cell pack of nickel-metal hydride batteries under the cargo floor. The CR-Z doesn't feel like a hybrid, especially not with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, and that's either a good thing or bad thing depending on your hybrid point of view.
The CR-Z achieves an EPA-rated 35/39 mpg City/Highway with the optional paddle-shifting CVT, or 31/37 mpg with the sportier 6-speed manual transmission. It comes well equipped, including Hill Start Control with the manual transmission. There will doubtless be a ton of aftermarket and performance accessories, because its aerodynamic wedge makes the car so cool looking.
The CR-Z is about the same size as a Honda Fit, but lacks the Fit's function and practicality, being a two-seater instead of five-seater. Cargo space is vast, but storage space within arm's length of the driver is lacking. Acceleration to a zingy redline of 6300 rpm is zippy. The cornering is quick, and the ride and suspension are taut, but with time in the saddle it starts to feel sharp over freeway bumps.
Styling follows Honda Accord design cues, with lovely shoulders, a low hatchback roofline, and chopped tail not unlike the departed and much-loved CRX Si (1983-91), which the CR-Z doesn't pretend to be. Deep lines sweep back and up from the front wheels, creating a sculpted wedge on the side of the car. The headlamps are simple and elegant like the wings of a hawk.
The CR-Z is targeted for a young audience, with electronic capabilities galore, and no rear jump seats even though there's room (there's a 2+2 version in Japan). There are jump benches that fold down for storage, however.
The instrument panel is busy, with a dominant light ring changing colors from green to blue to red depending on how hard you're driving. The dashboard is sculpted to be futuristic, and we wish more design time had been spent on being practical rather than cool. The cloth mesh seats are supportive with good bolstering, and the HID headlamps on the EX are excellent.
There's a world-beating blind spot over your shoulder on account of the roofline, and visibility in the rearview mirror is restricted on account of the nearly flat roofline.
The CR-Z uses its electric motor to go faster. That's not quite what hybrids were made for, to boost acceleration like a turbocharger, but after all, it's a sport coupe.
The CR-Z can be set in Sport, Normal or Econ modes, and you can feel a big difference. It's strong and responsive at 75 mph in Sport mode. Emissions are AT-PZEV, tier 2 bin 2, the cleanest ratings a vehicle with an internal combustion engine can achieve. And it can go 100,000 miles before needing a tuneup.
The 2011 Honda CRZ comes in two basic models, CR-Z and CR-Z EX, both using a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and 13-horsepower electric motor with a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery. Honda counts CVT and navigation as separate models, for pricing purposes. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and can change at any time without notice.)
The Honda CR-Z ($19,200) comes with a 6-speed manual transmission and automatic climate control, silver mesh fabric sport seats, power windows, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 160-watt sound system with MP3, USB, and other digital media capabilities, and removable retractable cargo cover.
Honda CR-Z EX ($20,760) adds HID headlamps, foglights, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum pedals, polished interior accents, ambient console lighting, and 360-watt sound system.
The CVT (continuously variable transmission) with paddle shifters is available for the CR-Z ($19,850) and CR-Z EX ($21,410). Navigation is available on the EX ($22,560) and EX CVT ($23,210).
Safety equipment includes dual-stage frontal airbags, side airbags, side curtain airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability control with traction control, tire pressure monitor, side impact door beams.
There's a ton of accessories, such as 17-inch alloy wheels with performance tires, and no less than five spoilers, in the front, side and rear. Also a full nose mask, whatever that is. Armrest with storage, and we wonder why that's not standard equipment.