Cars.com Review: 2011 Honda CR-Z
Honda's latest hybrid, the 2011 CR-Z, attempts to be both sporty and a hybrid, and it has middling success at each.
When it goes on sale Aug. 24, the CR-Z will be the first hybrid in six model years to offer a manual transmission; it will also be available with a continuously variable automatic transmission. As the spiritual successor to the wedge-shaped CRX, produced from 1984 to '91, the two-door, two-seat CR-Z joins the five-seat Insight and Civic hybrids in Honda's semi-electric lineup. Final pricing hasn't been released, but Honda says the base CR-Z will cost less than $20,000 including the destination charge. The 2010 Insight is $20,550 with destination, and the Civic Hybrid starts at $24,550.
The CR-Z's higher trim level, the EX, adds features like Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum shift knob (manual), aluminum pedals, additional interior accents and a more powerful stereo with a subwoofer. The all-important analog and USB MP3-player inputs are standard in all trim levels.
A navigation system effectively creates another trim level, called EX Navi, which will top out at less than $24,000 including the optional CVT but with no further options. Options will include mostly exterior and interior cosmetic "accessories," but you can also get 17-inch summer tires in place of the standard 16-inch all-seasons.
I drove EX Navi versions, both manual and automatic.
My first and most lasting impression was how comfortable the CR-Z's ride is. Take a small car with sporty intentions, and you have the formula for a stiff ride. Add the fact that it comes from Honda, whose suspensions lean toward the firm, and the expectation is perfectly reasonable. The CR-Z goes way in the other direction. The short wheelbase does result in some fore-aft rocking, but overall I found it more comfortable than some larger Hondas.
On the downside, this ostensibly sporty model exhibits a lot of body roll, a common but no longer inevitable tradeoff of a compliant ride. This was unexpected, in part because the CR-Z's hybrid battery pack — mounted low toward the rear — lowers the car's center of gravity. The front/rear weight distribution is 59/41 with the manual transmission and 60/40 with the CVT, which is the norm for a front-wheel-drive car. All the same, the CR-Z feels more nose-heavy to me than do the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Golf. Granted, those are four- and five-seaters, respectively, but the two-seaters with which the CR-Z arguably competes are usually rear-wheel drive, and that makes for an intrinsic weight-distribution advantage among many CR-Z competitors.
The CR-Z goes into a corner with understeer, as expected, though the standard tires have some bite, and the electric motor provides respectable torque at low revs to pull you out of the turn. There was no opportunity to truly flog the car on a racetrack, but my impression is that it's reluctant to rotate on its axis — something the Golf and Cooper do well. A high point is the CR-Z's precise, well-weighted steering from what Honda notes is the company's smallest steering wheel. The handling is definitely sporty, but the CR-Z didn't beg to be driven hard. Part of this is about power.
I'm no power junkie. Power is the easiest and crudest element manufacturers can put in a car — as they often do to mask shortcomings. What many car reviewers call underpowered, I call modestly powered. That's how I characterize the CR-Z, but here modest is a problem. The CR-Z is meant to be a sporty, fun car. Sporty cars typically are less efficient than normal ones, and a sporty hybrid can be expected to be less efficient than a normal hybrid. The CR-Z is, as shown below.
Read More At: 2011 Honda CR-Z Review by Joe Wiesenfelder - Cars.com
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