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2011 Honda CR-Z hybrid is a sporty eco-activist
The two-seater's features include three driving modes, a 3-D dash display and gauges that let you see how green you are being.

Cars typically force drivers to make a choice: sporty but piggish on fuel or efficient and underwhelming.

With its 2011 CR-Z, Honda Motor Co. is playing with a new concept. It's called responsible indulgence, and Honda's debuting the idea with a two-seat "sporty hybrid coupe" that's got some spunk but doesn't force drivers to check their environmental consciences at the door. Starting at $19,200, the CR-Z offers conservationist virtues and Kardashian curves on a Kmart budget.

The latest gas-electric powertrain from Honda is slightly larger than the one used in its slow-selling Insight hybrid. The CR-Z has 0.2 liters of additional displacement and twice as many valves on its inline four cylinders. As a result, its 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and 10-kilowatt brushless electric motor are slightly less fuel efficient, rating 39 miles per gallon on the highway for the automatic and 37 mpg for the one I tested — a six-speed manual transmission, a first for a hybrid car.

Fuel economy varies, of course, depending on how a car is driven. In that arena the CR-Z provides options that go beyond the usual accelerator and brake-pedal inputs. The 3-mode drive system switches the balance of performance and fuel economy, letting drivers choose between the bridled torque of "econ," just-the-facts-ma'am "normal" and "sport," which is quite frisky for such a small engine.

Taking it on serpentine stretches of the historic Arroyo Seco Parkway (a.k.a. the 110 freeway near Pasadena), I was impressed with the CR-Z's handling in sport mode, and how well this little hybrid hugged the road.

The CR-Z never lets the driver forget its environmental mission. Each drive mode rings the tachometer in a different hue of neon light, kind of like a mood ring: green for economy, blue for normal and red for sport. When an up- or down-shift would help the car achieve better fuel economy, a light on the 3-D dash display in the manual version let me know. And if I didn't get the message while I was flooring it, the car's Eco Assist feature pointed it out in no uncertain terms. It actually assigned me an "eco" score that was presented with a botanical-themed graphic, rather than numbers. The more efficient my driving, the more "leaves" that appeared on the dashboard.

How'd I do? Uh, time to up my contribution to

The CR-Z is primarily designed to appeal to the young and single — or anyone, really, who wants to roll lean and green. Part of what enabled Honda to keep the cost under $20,000 is the car's Integrated Motor Assist, a system that mounts the ultra-thin electric motor between the transmission and gasoline engine and metes the flow of electricity to and from the motor.

Picture Found At: LA Times
Read More At: LA Times - Car Review: 2011 Honda CR-Z
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