HONDA CR-Z REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Hybrid sports coupe
Fuel Economy (claimed): 4.7 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): 6.8 l/100 km
Could this be the turning point of the hybrid game? Instead of a single-minded focus on low fuel consumption, Honda’s CR-Z offers economy with hot handling, wrapped in a taut low-roofed coupe body.
There are compromises, sure, like limited visibility, nearly-useless rear seats, and less power than its sporty lines would suggest (a hot-hatch like the Polo GTi eats it alive).
But it’s zesty enough; those compromises are the price you pay for a personal coupe with the drivetrain technology to absolve any rev-head guilt.
Quality: At the helm of the CR-Z, a big thumbs up must go to the impressive metal finishes, the quality switchgear around the instrument panel, and the mesmerising Star Trek-style instrument cluster.
Everything feels nice to the touch, soft-touch plastics are in short supply, but nothing feels flimsy or brittle.
We’d be happier if the navigation screen had a more integrated appearance, and on a few occasions we picked up on a rattling tailgate trim, but nothing too obtrusive.
Comfort: The leather trimmed sports-style front bucket seats look properly racy, and do a good job of holding occupants in place when pressing on (but they aren’t so aggressive that they’re a chore to get in and out of).
Without height adjustment the passenger’s seat feels low at the front of the cushion, but the driver’s seat has no such problem.
There’s a two-place rear bench as well, but it lacks leather trim, or sculpting, and the best we could do was fit one short 150cm passenger in there.
Even so, there wasn’t any headroom or legroom, and, to make matters worse, the front seats don’t return to their previous position after being folded forward.
Equipment: The CR-Z comes with standard 16-inch alloy wheels, climate-control air-con, cruise-control, multi-function trip computer, a six-speaker AM/FM radio with CD and MP3 compatibility, AUX jack, iPod integration and plenty more.
Luxury trim adds heated, leather-trimmed front seats, panoramic glass roof, sat-nav and reversing camera plus Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Storage: You have to excuse the rear-mounted battery pack for the high floor and loading lip, but there’s still 225 litres of space with the rear seats up, 401 litres with them folded.
The centre console lacks a lidded bin, but does feature a handy iPod hidey hole, and the glovebox and door pockets are a healthy size.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Looking at the CR-Z on paper there’s not much to excite: hybrid powertrain, CVT transmission and electric power steering - but thankfully the hybrid Honda uses all of these elements to great effect.
Make no mistake, the CR-Z won’t tear up the tarmac, but it does a fine job with a combined output of 91kW and 167Nm from just 1000rpm-1500 rpm.
There are three driving modes to pick from, ‘Eco’ blunts the accelerative edge and handling response, but minimises fuel consumption.
‘Normal’ puts the CR-Z on level ground with other small CVT-equipped hatches. ‘Sport’ mode sharpens responses - in this mode you’ll discover a genuine sporting drive when rowing through the CVT’s fun-to-flick-through seven-step manual mode.
Refinement: The CR-Z isn’t perfect but the rough spots add character. While the transmission is smooth (as a CVT should be) and the engine spins freely, high revs let in the i-VTEC scream.
Underneath there’s some fizz from the road surface, but not in excessive measure, just enough to provide a feeling of connection with the road.
Suspension: Riding on MacPherson front and torsion beam rear suspension, the CR-Z is firm, but the progressive damping ensures it can cope well with big hits. Coupled with evenly-balanced weight distribution, the CR-Z holds the road exceptionally well.
Turn-in is tight and sharp, with good mid-corner control and balance. The responsive electric steering conveys a good feel for what’s happening below and makes the CR-Z an enjoyable tool on a winding road.
Braking: Vented front and solid rear discs pull the CR-Z up strongly, with a firm but progressive pedal-stroke.
ANCAP rating: Five stars. (Euro NCAP result)
Safety features: Six airbags, Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist featuring traction control and brake assist, active front head restraints, ABS, EBD and LED daytime running lights and front and rear seat belt reminders.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Vehicle warranty coverage lasts three years/100,000km. Rust warranty extends to six years and the hybrid battery is warranted for eight years.
Service costs: Before purchase, consult your local Honda dealer for servicing costs and charges.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Lexus CT200h Pretige ($39,990) - Honda puts up a good fight against premium-brand competitor Lexus. The entry level CT200h offers far more practicality, with two extra doors and a useful rear seat, and better economy - but falls away with a comparatively lacklustre driving experience. (see CT reviews)
Renault Clio RenaultSport 200 Cup Trophee ($38,990) - The iconic French hot hatch comes only with a six-speed manual, suspension firm enough to shake your fillings out and very little in the way of bells and whistles. That’s part of the reason why nothing else on the market at this price point is as focused - or as fun. (see Clio reviews)
Citroën DS3 Dsport ($35,990) - Fun to drive, interesting style and not a great deal more thirsty in real world conditions, but lacking in equipment, with things like Bluetooth, navigation and leather seats missing from the standard features list. (see DS3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With the CR-Z, Honda has delivered a car with an engine that loves to rev and handing that loves a corner. It’s also a hybrid - but a very different one.
Nothing quite matches the CR-Z’s unique styling. There are more hatches than coupes in this segment (although the true form of the Honda is debatable) and no-one else has tried to stuff a green-tinged power plant into such a hot-shoe handler.
Perhaps it’s the CR-Z’s multi-mode drivetrain that makes it. Eco for weekday driving, and Sport for a guilt-free blast on weekends - a win for planet and driver alike.