HONDA CR-Z MANUAL REVIEW
What’s hot: Sublime sporting balance, racy – and sexy – coupe style.
What’s not: Could do with a little more power.
X-Factor: The perfect double: the fun of a sports car, packaged with a ‘green’ footprint.
Vehicle style: Hybrid sports coupe
Price: $34,990 (manual)
Fuel consumption (claimed): 5.0 l/100km
Fuel consumption (on test): 7.1 l/100km
It's a hybrid, and it's fun. True. That's Honda's trippy new CR-Z Sport.
Low, wide, and spunky, the CR-Z redefines the notion of 'hybrid'. With a small 1.5 litre 16-valve iVTEC 84kW petrol engine, and the assistance of a 10kW electric motor (Honda’s IMA technology), you can drive the CR-Z fast, and still drive it ‘green’.
And was a hybrid ever supposed to look this good? With a long low snout and a pinched-off rear, its flat wide wedge-shaped lines and bulging wheel arches give it real head-turning presence.
Ours, hunkered down in pearl black, looked fat. At $34,990 for the manual CR-Z Sport, we like it a lot.
Quality: With gleaming tin-film garnishes, piano-black facings, quality-feel fabrics, drilled alloy pedals and a stubby short-throw gear-shift, there's an unmistakable sporting feel to the interior.
The dash, console and door trims don't have the overly-light and insubstantial feel of the Insight, nor is there the confusing cascade of surfaces to the dash we've come to expect from Honda in recent times. It's just well laid-out and with a tight quality feel.
Comfort: The low-set seats are snug - perfect for my compact frame - and trimmed in quality fabric. The rear seats are for garden gnomes or very small friends; access is ok but there’s very little room for legs.
The reach-and-tilt sports steering wheel feels ‘just right’; it’s solid, with just the right road-feel and weighting from the electric power steering.
Equipment: Nothing important missing here: the entry-point manual comes with cruise control, rear parking sensors, climate-control, rain-sensing wipers, cloth seats and a six-speaker audio system with MP3 and USB, along with Bluetooth phone connectivity.
Storage: It’s a little coupe, with a tight little bum, so cargo space is a tad limited.
But golfers, and those who like a weekly mega-shop, will be pleased to find the rear hatch exposes a flexible boot area that can be expanded from just 225 litres with the rear seats up, to a useful 401 litres with the rear seats laid flat.
It also comes with a cargo blind (that’s easily removed). For bits and pieces, there are drinks holders, huge door pockets and handy nooks about the cabin.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Sitting on big boots under pumped-out arches, a low seating position, crisp responsive handling and delightful cornering balance, the CR-Z is a genuine sporting drive.
It's not especially quick off the mark, Honda claims 9.7 seconds to 100km/h for the manual, but in-gear acceleration is livelier and it can really be flung around a winding road.
Honda describes the CR-Z as a ‘hybrid cafe racer’. We think it needs a little more urgent power for that tag to really fit, but that’s to overlook the other side of the CR-Z equation - the serious effort by Honda to marry environmental values with sporting ones: “... a fusion of sport and ecology,” Honda Australia Director Steven Collins describes it.
It offers three selectable driving modes, ‘Econ’ (for economy), ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’. The instrument cluster illuminates green, blue or red depending on the mode.
In Sport mode, throttle response is sharpened – you feel it instantly – and it suddenly becomes more lively underfoot and with a very direct steering response. Econ mode dulls things – it’s a “stuck in traffic” mode or when you’re driving for best economy
Set to Sport, with the foot mostly mashed to the floor, we returned 7.1 l/100km in the manual on a very hard test. (Poking back in the CVT over a mix of highway and suburban roads, we returned 5.4 l/100km. Honda’s claimed 5.0 l/100km looks easily achieved.)
Refinement: Another big tick. The CR-Z has just the right amount of mechanical and road isolation. You can hear what’s going on, and the engine makes a nice brattish rasp above 5000rpm, but only on very coarse bitumen does tyre noise intrude.
Suspension: Honda can teach the Germans a thing or two about suspension set-up. The CR-Z’s McPhersion strut front end and torsion-beam rear is firm but forgiving. There’s enough initial compliance to avoid jarring, but it firms quickly and progressively for really good suspension control.
It’s a delight, really. You can dive the CR-Z really deep into a corner, then simply power it out. Once or twice, mid-corner hollows had the back-end stepping sideways, but it was just as easily caught and gathered up.
Braking: Four wheel discs, ventilated at the front and solids at the rear with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution. With a super pedal feel and a beautifully balanced chassis, braking performance is sharp.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety: Passive safety features across the range include six airbags, active head restraints, and seatbelt reminders.
There is also a full suite of dynamic safety features including stability and traction control, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
The manual Sport comes with hillstart-assist as standard, holding the brakes for one second on an incline after the pedal is released.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km with a six-year rust and perforation warranty, and an eight-year unlimited km battery warranty.
Service costs: Not yet available. Check with your dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES
Peugeot RCZ Manual ($54,990) - Peugeot’s TT-fighting personal coupe is a really good drive and quite a bit quicker than the CR-Z. But the Honda CR-Z manual can match it for style and handling, can nearly match its feature list and is $20k cheaper. (see RCZ Reviews)
Audi A1 Attraction 1.4T ($29,990) - The Audi has similar power, a little more torque and back-seats you can use, but is not really a ‘sporting coupe’ – it’s just a garden hatchback. Claimed fuel consumption is 5.3 l/100km. (see A1 reviews)
Hyundai Veloster ($NA) - Not yet on sale but coming soon. Similar size, similar function, and likely to be sharply priced. The CR-Z wins by a street for style and, we’re guessing, for handling. (see Veloster reviews)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s racy, it looks good enough to eat, uses very little fuel and handles superbly. But, while it might be nimble, Honda’s CR-Z hybrid is not really “a racer”.
It is however sensibly powered, beautifully presented, and is a thoroughly appealing little personal coupe. The manual, at $34,990 – a full $6000 less than the Luxury CVT model – is exceptional value; that’s why we awarded it an additional half-star.
To find a personal coupe with this kind of individual style you’ll be shopping at $20k more for a Peugeot RCZ.
With the CR-Z, Honda set out to create a car that was “intrinsically fun to drive” and that reflected the company’s commitment to “leave blue skies for our children”.
And fun it is. Honda’s delicious little CR-Z Sport will put a smile on your face every time you’re at the wheel, and the planet will thank you for it. A double win.