2011 Honda CR-Z — Review
This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2013.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Honda has intentionally stirred up the ghosts of its once sporting past with the 2011 CR-Z by borrowing design cues from the long-extinct CR-X — a car that managed to be both fuel-efficient and fun to drive.
But while the CR-X developed a massive following that continues to this day, the CR-Z might end up being even more popular because it provides eco-conscious hybrid owners with something they've never had: style.
Buyers looking for a few more bells and whistles can move on up to CR-Z EX trim. Honda hasn't said how much the next level will cost, but we do know that buyers will be able to enjoy a more potent 7-speaker sound system, Bluetooth hands-free calling and a slick, perforated leather steering wheel. If you want Honda's familiar (but dated) navigation system, you'll need to stick with the EX trim level, but it will be an additional cost.
Under the Hood
Fuel economy for both versions is a little disappointing, considering the size of the CR-Z and the fact that the car is a 2-seater. When equipped with the 6-speed manual gearbox, the car manages just 31 mpg city/37 mpg highway. Those numbers climb significantly with the CVT, to 35 mpg/39 mpg. The figures are derived in Normal mode; the car is said to do slightly better in Eco mode and, you guessed it, worse in Sport.
And finally, in order to keep costs down, Honda decided to build the CR-Z with a nickel-metal hydride battery instead of a more advanced lithium-ion unit. Not a good move, in our opinion.
Both driver and passenger get treated to cloth sport seats with bolsters set wide enough apart to accommodate big-boned Americans of every variety. Even so, the buckets do a good job of keeping you in place should the going get curvy. The dash and instrument cluster are supposed to give the impression of an advanced technological design, which means there's plenty of plastic, both shiny and otherwise. The dash is asymmetrical with a bias toward the driver, and the instrument cluster features a large, easy-to-read gauge with the tachometer and speedometer information prominently displayed.
The CR-Z also uses a clever system to encourage "green" driving. A color-changing ring nestled behind the speedometer reacts based on your driving habits. Drive like a heathen and the ring will stay blue. Go a little easier on the throttle and brakes, and the ring will glow green. If the CR-Z is in Sport mode, the ring stays red no matter what you do behind the wheel.
On the Road
Fortunately, there are Normal and Sport modes to cure those ills. In either of those two options, the engine/motor combo actually feels up to the task of moving the 2,600 pound car around with decent quickness. We wouldn't call the car fast — Honda says the CR-Z will hit 60 mph in a dawdling 9.7 seconds — but the relatively lightweight design and rigid chassis help the car feel like it has a bit of spring in its step.
Even more surprising, the regenerative brakes on the CR-Z are linear and easy to modulate — something that's almost unheard of in hybrids. Combined with a decent weight distribution (60 percent front and 40 percent rear), the hybrid handles twists and turns with a decent flair, even given its torsion-bar rear suspension.
Right for You?
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, Honda provided MSN with travel and accommodations tofacilitate this report.)
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trendand European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.