HONDA CR-Z REVIEW
Vehicle style: Hybrid sports coupe
Fuel economy (claimed): 4.7 litres/100km
Fuel economy (tested): 6.7 litres/100km
What’s hot: Snazzy styling, inside and out, and great handling.
What’s not: Poor rear visibility, minimal rear-seat legroom.
X-factor: Sports driving with thoroughly green credentials.
Who said hybrid cars had to be as dull as dishwater and totally lack design finesse or sporting passion?
Enter the snappy 2012 CR-Z, Honda’s new ‘sport hybrid coupe’. With styling DNA borrowed from the 1980s CR-X, no hybrid has ever looked this good.
It comes in two guises: the Sport, with either a six-speed manual transmission or seven-ratio CVT; and the $40,790 Luxury tested here - a CVT-only version.
Under the bonnet, the CR-Z uses Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist or IMA technology. It mates a 1.5litre iVTEC, 16-valve single-overhead-cam, four-cylinder petrol engine with a 10kW electric motor.
When hitched to the CVT, the system delivers a combined peak-power output of 91kW at 6000rpm and 167Nm of torque between 1000 and 1500rpm.
The electric motor helps with acceleration and also acts as a generator during braking or coasting to capture kinetic energy to the 100volt IMA nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.
There’s a three-mode drive system – with ‘normal’, ‘sport’ or ‘econ’ (economy) settings. Select ‘sport’ and you have sharper throttle response, more electric motor assistance and sharpened steering. ‘Econ’ dulls dynamic response, prioritising fuel economy.
Quality: The CR-Z’s interior is really classy. Great supportive sports seats, excellent ergonomics, and very nice fit and finish throughout. There is plenty of hard plastic, but the marriage of its various surface textures is excellent.
Ahead is a big tacho with 3D speed readout and other system information (but I’d prefer a less colourful display). It has a cockpit-feel for the driver, with the controls, centre stack and sat-nav screen angled inwards.
Comfort: Comfort and support in the nicely-shaped low-set sports seats is outstanding (the seats are heated by the way). However, forget about the rear seats. With my 185cm frame behind the wheel, there was no legroom for rear-seat passengers.
The great-to-hold multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel has both height and reach adjustment; but not so good is the driver’s exterior mirror. It can’t be set far enough outwards; I could see too much of the rear quarter of the car and not enough of the road.
There is also a significant blind-spot around the C-pillar; pulling out from a kerb or changing lanes on a freeway has its nervous moments.
Equipment: Standard goodies for the Luxury version include climate-control air-con, leather trim, panoramic glass roof, sat-nav and reversing camera, cruise-control, multi-function trip computer with a cute ‘Eco-coaching’ and rating system, a six-speaker AM/FM radio with CD and MPA compatibility, AUX jack, Bluetooth, iPod integration and plenty more.
Storage: There are front cup-holders and door pockets and the rear seats fold easily to increase the 225 litres of cargo space to 401 litres. There is also an innovative three-mode cargo cover.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The CR-Z is extremely well sorted; the little coupe can comfortably be classed as a driver’s car. While the sprint to 100km/h takes around 10 seconds, the way the car sits on the road and handles makes it seem quicker than that.
The suspension control and handling is very impressive. On test, while giving things a serious work-out through the corners, there were several sections of broken bitumen and poor surfacing that unsettled the little Honda.
What impressed though was how quickly it could be caught and snapped back into line – aided significantly by the well-weighted electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering.
The shift paddles for the CVT are nicely positioned and there’s a barrel of fun in ‘sport’ mode flicking up and down through the seven pre-selected ratios.
We returned 6.7 l/100km but were pushing the CR-Z’s limits. Normal driving will see that figure markedly reduced.
Refinement: The CR-Z feels solid as a rock and while there is some evidence of tyre noise on really coarse bitumen, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are excellent.
Suspension: The little hybrid rides on a MacPherson-strut front-suspension and H-shaped torsion beam at the rear.
It’s tuned to be responsive and firm, but not harsh. Down below, the 16-inch alloys are shod with 195/55R16 87V rubber.
Brakes: There’s nothing shabby about the CR-Z’s braking performance. It combines ventilated discs at the front and solids at the rear with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution for plenty of stopping power.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars
Safety Features: Six airbags, Honda’s vehicle-stability-assist system with traction control and brake assist, active front head restraints, ABS, EBD and LED daytime running lights and a seriously tough body structure reinforced with high-tensile steel.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km; vehicle rust and perforation, six years; hybrid battery warranty, eight years/unlimited kilometres.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi A1 Sport S-Tronic 7sp 1.4TSI ($42,500): The Audi has a lot more power and more room in the back-seats, but lacks the edgy sporting style of the CR-Z. Claimed fuel consumption is 5.9 l/100km. (see Audi reviews)
MINI Cooper R56 LCI S 1.6T ($43,050 auto): Classic Cooper style and performance but the CR-Z’s low-slung sports-coupe lines are perhaps the more individual. The Cooper S has a lot more power and claimed fuel consumption of 6.3 l/100km. (see MINI reviews)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Honda Australia is shooting for just 600 CR-Z sales in 2012. The good news for the brand (after a very tough year) is that this interesting and involving little car has what it takes to put some excitement back into the Honda brand.
Its slick, racy styling turned plenty of heads while in our hands.
Honda is probably right when it acknowledges that the CR-Z will appeal mostly to “responsibly indulgent” 30s-plus women, but their 30s-plus husbands or boyfriends will enjoy this car as well.
It has impeccable green credentials (Honda’s commitment to “blue skies” stands the test); with razor handling and sporting style, the CR-Z is a hybrid to be enjoyed.