Honda CR-Z, 2011: The Weekly Driver Car Review

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After various debuts in recent years at car shows around the globe, the 2011 Honda CR-Z (Compact Renaissance Zero) arrived for North American consumers in August as a compact hybrid electric and marketed as a sport hybrid coupe.

The CR-Z combines a hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain and is the successor to the second generation Honda CR-X via its design and similar name. The CR-Z is the only gasoline-electric hybrid model offered by any automaker that can be equipped with a manual transmission.

The new Honda is offered in three trim levels: base, EX, and EX with navigation and has a base price range from $19,950 to $23,310.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

New car models often get attention, but since the CR-Z has only been available for less than two moths, its newness and unique exterior design prompted a near-immediate reaction.

Early in my test week with the EX edition, I met a friend at a neighborhood diner. I pulled into the parking lot and was barely out of the car when two young guys wanted to know all about it. A few minutes after meeting my friend, another pub patron asked about the CR-Z.

Highway passersby did double takes, likely thinking: “Is that a sports car? No, it’s a hybrid. Really, with that design?”

With its slightly sloping hatchback, the reaction I received was a microcosm of the enthusiastic reaction elsewhere. Nearly 2,000 CR-Z models were sold in September in the U.S., making the CR-Z the country’s fifth most popular hybrid for the month.

I also drove the CR-Z (Continuously Variable Transmission ) about 100 miles under overcast skies and in a steady rain. It was mostly highway driving and the vehicle fared well with good front (and rear) windshield wiper efficiently. The vehicle also steadily handled brief patches of standing water at freeway speeds without issue.

Honda CR-Z Interior

Make no mistake. The new Honda is a two-seater, but there’s a surprising amount of headroom and legroom. The quasi-back seat platform folds flat, presenting a cavernous cargo area for a compact car.

Gauges, radio controls, heat and air conditioning functionality are all intuitive and the navigation system sits big and bold in the center of the console. Again, it’s particularly impressive considering the car’s compact status. The silver metal trim throughout the cabin adds a classy touch.

Honda CR-Z Exterior

The ever-so-slightly slanting hatchback is Euro-sleek, making the CR-Z a sure head-turner. The flush, pull-away style door handles add to the sports-look appeal.

Honda CR-Z Performance

Several hybrids suffer from the “hybrid lag.” Start the engine or accelerate and then wait a few seconds. The CR-Z is a hybrid that doesn’t know it’s a hybrid. It’s been criticized as “underpowered,” but I never experienced issues or any hesitation starting or accelerating. It’s not sports-car quick, but it never struggled on hills.

Likes:

Comfortable front seats.

Digital clock read out on the navigation screen.

Sturdy interior door handles.

Large navigation screen for the car size.

More than 25 cubic feet of rear cargo space.

Magnified, circular digital mph read-out.

Sports-car exterior design.

Dislikes:

Poor rear visibility. Just like the Toyota Prius, the rear view is horizontally sliced in half and pillars further obscure the small view.

Front seat cup holders positioned to far forward, nearly under the dash.

Back seat indentations can hold grocery bags or another small containers, but otherwise the area is useless.

2011 Honda CR-Z: Facts & Figures

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 9.7 seconds.
Airbags: Driver and dual front, side and side curtain airbags.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: N/A
Fuel economy: 35 mpg (city), 39 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: Not rated.
Horsepower: 122.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $23,210.00.
Price As tested: $23,960.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,0000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“The CR-Z has a friskiness about it that is reminiscent of the original CRX, but with a lot more refinement and less interior noise.” —- Consumer Reports.

“There will be some people who just fall in love with the CR-Z. They will look past the things so many see as detriments. They will be those willing to admit they don’t need everything in a single vehicle and use the CR-Z as a tool for getting around in style. They know that not everyone needs a back seat for imaginary friends who will never ride in their car.” —- Detroit News

“Honda is onto something here — accessible, affordable, approachable, enjoyable, fun-to-drive environmentalism.” —- Washington Post.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“As a hybrid sports car that gets 39 mpg on the freeway, there’s not much to fault with the CR-Z. But like any sports car, there are always limitations. For the new Honda, it’s poor visibility and an overall noisy cabin.”

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