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AutoTrader UK: Honda CR-Z Car Review


First Drive

Think hybrid and your initial musings are most likely to be of an awkward-looking car with an automatic gearbox, heavy batteries and a wheezy engine tuned purely for high economy and low emissions.

Honda thinks it can change this perception. Its new CR-Z hybrid is a 2+2 sports coupe with a manual gearbox, agile chassis and rorty exhaust.

A car which should bring a smile to your face on a good road and cost a pittance to tax and refuel, all while polluting the environment less than your average supermini. Honda has a lofty dream, so can it realise it?


The Japanese manufacturer has certainly produced the most desirable hybrid so far. In the flesh the Honda CR-Z looks small, dynamic and advanced. If you imagined what a car would look like in 2010 as a child, it was probably something like this.

Strips of bright LED daytime running lights give the CR-Z a real on-road presence, as we found out as part of a convoy of CR-Zs heading out of Schipol airport in Amsterdam for our test drive.


Low-slung cabin

Inside, there are some great bits of design, and some areas which disappoint. The dashboard graphics are impressive and tell you everything you need to know about how economically you are driving, even changing from green to blue and then red as you accelerate or change into sports mode.

The seats are supportive and suitably low-slung and there’s attractive detailing on the doors and upper dashboard. But, the glovebox and plastics around the handbrake are pale grey and look cheap. The number of buttons around the fascia, steering wheel and optional sat-nav can also be overwhelming.

In the back the +2 seats are only useful for kids and plonking bags on. We’d likely fold down the rear seat to make the boot bigger (401 litres) and then leave it down all the time.


Electric punch

On the road the Honda CR-Z is simple to drive, and you wouldn’t know it’s a hybrid. The new 1.5-litre petrol i-VTEC engine produces 112bhp, with the electric motor giving a 14bhp boost when you accelerate.

This might not sound like much, but it’s the extra pulling power which helps most. Thanks to its hybrid assist the CR-Z produces its peak torque (128lb/ft) from only 1,500rpm, barely above rest. It’s an effect which makes the CR-Z feel quick off the mark, even if its 9.9 second 0-62mph time isn’t particularly rapid.

The CR-Z strikes back with its 56.5mpg combined fuel consumption and 117g/km CO2 emissions. As Honda says, this is a sporty car you can tell your friends about without feeling guilty.


Tuned for fun

But is it really fun to drive? The tuned exhaust and manual gearbox help tremendously, giving a far greater sense of speed and interaction with the CR-Z than any other hybrid so far.

Choosing between Eco, Normal and Sports modes alters the car’s feel considerably, making it feel quite unresponsive in Eco and hyper-alert in Sport mode, where you get full torque from the electric engine, sharp throttle response and heavier steering feel.

And it offers a driving experience as interesting as the Mini, Scirocco and Lotus Elise which it’s stated provided inspiration and benchmarks for Honda’s engineers.

But, while its handling is good, it feels behind the aforementioned cars.

The ride is reasonably soft, making the CR-Z comfortable to drive, but allowing for too much body roll in corners. Drivers after a more hardcore tool may want to wait for a rumoured Type-R version, or fit stiffer suspension from one of the Honda tuner’s already offering parts for the CR-Z – including Mugen.


Desirable

The hybrid sports coupe is a hard recipe to get right first time, but Honda has done an excellent job with the CR-Z. It’s desirable, enjoyable to drive and would no doubt prove interesting, and fairly cheap, to own for a considerable amount of time. With prices starting at £16,999 it’s not cheap, but we think it has the credentials to back up its price.


Key facts:

Model tested: Honda CR-Z 1.5 IMA GT
On the road price: £19,999
Date tested: March 12, 2010
Road tester: Andy Goodwin

Article Found At: Honda CR-Z car review - Auto Trader UK - Features - News and Reviews Hub
 
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