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Drive of the Week: Honda CR-Z GT
Dan Trent - Sunday Times (UK) - April 4, 2010

It’s a hybrid, but not as we know it. This is Honda’s attempt to snatch the momentum away from a winded Toyota and make hybrids cool. The Toyota Prius, or Pious, was designed to be driven slowly with a Fairtrade jumper. Honda’s new CR-Z is aimed at the busy, smartphone generation who are also smart enough to beat the London congestion charge.

Unlike other hybrids to date, you’ll want this one because it’s cool. A low-slung coupé, complete with laughable claims at 2+2 accommodation, it’s a refreshingly distinctive design. The double-decker split rear window doesn’t do much for rear visibility but harks back to the much-loved Honda CRX of the late 1980s, not to mention the original Insight hybrid of a decade ago — the first production hybrid sold in Europe.

It feels genuinely sporty inside, with a low driving position and controls that include nifty dials in a sharp-looking instrument panel. And unlike other Honda hybrids, the CR-Z comes only with a manual gearbox in Europe — a sign this green machine is aimed at those who enjoy their driving. And the engine? Honda’s IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system is much simpler than that of the Prius and works more like a turbo or supercharger, where the electric motor boosts the 1.5-litre petrol engine, giving a combined power output of 122bhp. Unlike the Prius, the CR-Z doesn’t run on electric power alone, even at low speeds. Rather, the electric motor fills the gaps in the engine’s torque curve, allowing it to pull like a diesel from low revs.

It’s a seamless integration. Cover up the display on the dashboard that tells you when the electric motor is in assist or recharge mode and you would probably assume there was just a petrol engine with a small turbocharger fitted. Escape the city and the CR-Z is assured and comfortable. The engine emits a pleasing exhaust note under hard acceleration, the ride comfort is firm without being harsh and when the time comes to head across country the Honda feels lively and agile.

A handsome, sporty little coupé, then. But a true friend of the earth? With a combined economy figure of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 117g/km, it’s barely better than a Mini Cooper and lags far behind the bigger Toyota Prius, which manages 89g/km and 72.4mpg. Hardly impressive. Beyond the satisfaction of being able to say you drive a hybrid, what are you gaining?

What we’re witnessing here is a car for the iPad generation, as much about image as functionality. The CR-Z is likely to appeal to the fashion conscious, Mini- or Fiat 500-driving masses while also vying for coupé buyers in the market for a Volkswagen Scirocco or Audi TT. In this bracket the £16,999 starting price isn’t unreasonable, although the GT I tested costs £3,000 more. If Honda cares about the environment rather than fashion, the CR-Z needs to be greener and cheaper.

Honda CR-Z GT, £19,999

ENGINE 1497cc, four cylinders,integrated electric motor
POWER 122bhp @ 6100rpm
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual
ACCELERATION 0-62mph: 9.9sec
TOP SPEED 124mph
FUEL / CO2 56.5mpg / 117g/km
PRICE £19,999
VERDICT Hybrid system of limited worth, but fun in its own right


Mini Cooper £14,100

For Cheaper and nearly as green into the bargain
Against Estate agents drive them

Toyota Prius T3 £19,505

For Five seats, “proper” hybrid system
Against Ugly, dull as ditchwater to drive

Drive of the Week: Honda CR-Z GT review | New Car Reviews - Times Online
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