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2011 Honda CR-Z Hybrid - Official Photos and Info

When Honda debuted its two CR-Z hybrid concepts (the name stands for Compact Renaissance Zero, whatever that’s worth), we quietly hoped they signaled the production of a spiritual successor to the sporty two-seat CRX that went out of production in 1991. Low-slung and fun to drive, the CRX looked like a mini Lamborghini Espada. The hottest CRX, the Si, had just 108 hp from a 1.6-liter four, but its size, light weight—2210 pounds—and responsive chassis gave it sports-car-like handling. After killing the CRX, Honda replaced it with the unloved Civic Del Sol in 1992 and the hyper-efficient, totally nerdy two-seat Insight in 2000. Now Honda is unveiling the production version of CR-Z at the 2010 Detroit auto show, and the company seems to promise the car will combine the sportiness of the CRX with the eco-friendliness of the original Insight.

In the transformation from show cars to road-going reality, the CR-Z has largely stayed loyal to the concepts’ rakish design. From some angles, the CR-Z looks like a two-door version of the 2010 Insight, but its attractive and aggressive nose is nearly identical to that of the concept car.

Of course, like the CR-Z concepts, the 2011 CR-Z is a gasoline-electric hybrid. Under the hood is the 1.5-liter SOHC four-cylinder also found in the Fit, but the CR-Z adds a small, 10-kW (13-hp) electric motor. The combined output of the engine and the electric motor is 122 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque (CVT-equipped models make 123 lb-ft). When power is routed through the standard six-speed manual transmission, the CR-Z is said to achieve 31 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Opting for the CVT bumps fuel economy to 36/38. For reference, the Fit is rated as high as 28 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.

Sportif, Too

But efficiency is only one facet of the CR-Z’s personality. The CR-Z offers three driver-selectable modes (Sport, Normal, and Econ) that alter throttle response, electric power-steering assist, and electric-motor assistance. Switch to Sport mode and the tachometer illumination switches from blue to red, the throttle becomes more sensitive, the steering becomes heavier, and the electric motor is more willing to quickly discharge the 100-volt nickel-metal hydride battery. CVT-equipped models get paddle shifters with six preset ratios that can be selected when in Sport mode. Push the Econ button and the throttle becomes lazier, the steering lightens, and the tachometer glows either blue or green depending on how gingerly the car is driven. The A/C is said to reduce its load on the engine, as well. As you’d expect, Normal mode occupies the middle ground between Sport and Econ.

The CR-Z will be available in base or EX flavors. The six-speed stick is standard on both, as are stability control, a USB-capable stereo, auto climate control, and power windows and locks. The EX gets automatic HID headlamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, fog lamps, and a 360-watt stereo with a subwoofer. Nav can be added to the EX.

The CR-Z’s interior is pretty par for the course for modern Hondas, with lots of nice-looking—but hard—plastic and several bins and nooks for storage. The instrument cluster is largely digital, with the tachometer being the only traditional gauge. Speed is displayed in the middle of the tach, with battery charge level, motor assist, fuel level, and other readouts situated to the right or left.

We were a bit surprised that Honda’s preliminary numbers put the CR-Z’s weight at 2670 pounds for the manual version and 2720 pounds for the CVT model. The larger, four-door 2010 Insight hybrid equipped with a CVT weighs in at 2744 pounds. The CR-Z is nearly a foot shorter in overall length and more than four inches shorter in wheelbase than the new Insight, to which it is closely related, but it weighs nearly as much; we were hoping that the CR-Z would come in at less than 2500 pounds. We’ll have to suspend judgment until we drive the CR-Z this summer, but we’re hesitant to call it a reborn CRX just yet. Sales are scheduled to begin at the end of the summer, and prices should start below $20,000.

Article found at: Car and Driver

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