Honda CR-Z GT – Review


By Liam Bird

It’s hard to believe that’s it’s nearly four years since I last drove a Honda CR-Z. And, come to think, I’ve not seen that many of them since either. Now, is that because I live in the sticks? You see, according to Honda’s press blurb “the CR-Z is most at home in urban environments, zipping from traffic light to traffic light, and nipping in and out of traffic.” Or, is it simply because people are still not convinced by the whole hybrid thing?

honda cr-z sideYou can understand why. Hybrids: aren’t they for people who eat fibrous pulses and wear plastic shoes; people for whom the car is just a tool, just a means of transport. Surely hybrids aren’t for those of us who actually like driving?

Well Honda thinks it shouldn’t be that way. They say the CR-Z is the world’s first sporty hybrid, and from the outside at least you have to agree with them.

Reminiscent of Honda’s CRX coupe of the 1990’s, the CR-Z’s styling does indeed make it stand out from other so-called “green” cars. Instantly Japanese, the combination of deeply scalloped panels, complex curves, strongly flared wheel arches and some pretty sharp looking creases mean that Honda’s compact coupe wouldn’t look out of place in a Manga-style comic book. It’s neat, it’s clean and, more importantly, it’s aero-dynamic too.

“Extra power”

In order to try and make the CR-Z as efficient as possible, and to keep its emissions low, not only have Honda given it a slippery shape, complete with revised front bumper and grille to keep things fresh for 2013, plus LED daytime running lights – a first on any production Honda, they’ve also swapped the old nickel-metal hydride battery for a Lithium ion one. Which they claim, not only boosts power but also can be completely re-cycled at the end of the vehicle’s life.

honda cr-z interiorBut don’t worry, that extra power doesn’t come at a cost to the environment. Choose a CR-Z Sport and you’ll still get the promise of up to 56.5 mpg and only 116g/km CO2, and even if the bigger wheeled GT is more to your liking 54.3 mpg and 122g/km CO2 is not too bad either. You’ll probably have to select the Eco driving mode to attain such frugality though.

But enough of the Earth Mother talk, what of that extra power, and what’s a sporty hybrid like to drive?

Well, with just 135bhp coming from a combination of an electric motor and the CR-Z’s 1.5 litre engine, Honda’s little coupe isn’t exactly going to set any records performance-wise. Even in its Sport Mode, which incidentally, tightens up the throttle response and quickens the steering, 0-62mph takes 9.1 seconds and where allowed top speed equates to 124mph. As you’ll have probably guessed though, that’s not really what the CR-Z’s all about.

“A bit frantic”

On a twisty road the low driving position, excellent forward visibility (I wish I could say the same for the view rearwards) short-throw gearshift, and that direct steering mean the CR-Z does actually feel quite… well… sporty. There’s minimal body-roll and it goes exactly where it’s pointed. There’s even a Sport+ which provides extra electrical power for up to 10 seconds at the push of a button.

honda cr-z rearHowever there are a few niggles. Things can a get a bit loud. At higher speeds the little four cylinder lump gets a bit frantic sometimes and there’s a quite a lot of road rumble too. Despite being very well constructed Honda’s choice of materials for the CR-Z’s snug and futuristically-styled interior do little to soak up either wind or tyre noise, meaning at motorway speeds you’ll find yourself either raising your voice to be heard by your passenger or turning the radio up if you’re alone.

“Enjoyable behind the wheel”

In Normal – probably, as you’d expect, the best compromise of all three of the CR-Z’s driving mode choices – you will indeed get fuel efficiency, and a pretty enjoyable time behind the wheel, but eventually either the accompanying racket or short seat cushion’s lack of support will mean sooner or later you’ll want a break. Neither is the CR-Z is a tourer, the boot is shallow (thanks to having to give up its capacity to make way for the batteries) and apart from your coat you’ll struggle to carry anything more on the back seat.

All in all, like all hybrids, the CR-Z is compromised: it’s trying to be a sports car and yet it’s trying to save the planet too – that’s not an easy job in anyone’s book. The fact that it does a pretty good job of both should be applauded and its shame in some respects you don’t see more of these quirky little coupes on the road. After all when it comes to sporty hybrids the CR-Z is in a class of its own.

Honda CR-Z GT
Engine: 1497cc 4Cyl 16V petrol + electric
Transmission: 6 Speed Manual, Front wheel drive
Power: 135bhp @ 6600pm
Torque: 140 lbft @ 1000 – 2000 rpm
0-62MPH: 9.1 Sec
Max Speed: 124mph
CO2: 122g/km
MPG: 54.3 combined
Price: £23,050


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