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2011 Honda CR-Z ReviewThe Good
Unique and zippy, the 2011 Honda CR-Z aims to bring a dose of performance to the hybrid market.The Bad
Much like Honda's original Insight hybrid, the 2011 CR-Z is too small to function as a daily driver for most Americans.
The CarGurus View
Honda hopes to inject some much-needed pizazz into the rather dour hybrid segment with its 2011 CR-Z coupe. Featuring aggressive styling and confident handling, the new CR-Z can turn heads, though it's rather weak acceleration won't be snapping any necks. Ambitious pricing and limited practicality mean the CR-Z will likely find acceptance only among dedicated enthusiasts with a green streak.
At a Glance
Though Honda hasn't yet found the success Toyota has had in the hybrid market, its all-new 2011 CR-Z shows that the company still has some fresh ideas to share. Attempting to fuse performance with economy, much like the original Civic CRX did in 1984, the 2011 CR-Z is built around a modified Honda Fit small-car platform and shares its IMA engine architecture with the current Insight.
Sporty is a relative term, and while the CR-Z is no Corvette, it feels much livelier than the current crop of efficient-but-boring hybrids. While the Toyota Prius and the second-generation Insight are designed with a single-minded devotion to fuel efficiency, the CR-Z's sharp steering and manual gearbox allow drivers to have some fun while helping save the planet.
Honda offers the 2011 CR-Z in two trim levels. Base CR-Zs come well-equipped with standard automatic climate control, power accessories, a tilt and telescoping steering column, and cruise control. The step-up EX trim adds foglights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and an upgraded stereo. An optional navigation package, available only for the EX, adds an intuitive GPS unit with a large LCD screen and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
Like all Honda hybrids, the 2011 CR-Z gets a version of the company's IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) gas-electric architecture. While lacking the sophistication of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive or the Two-Mode system employed by GM and Chrysler, Honda's IMA still delivers efficiency and low emissions. The CR-Z's small, 14-hp electric motor is sandwiched between a four-cylinder gas engine and either a traditional manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. The 1.5-liter motor develops 113 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque, drawing upon i-VTEC variable valve timing to rev higher and make more power than traditional hybrids. Three different engine modes, Sport, Econ and Normal, can be selected via dashboard-mounted buttons.
Despite its sporting pretensions, the 2011 CR-Z doesn't exactly wow drivers with its straight-line performance. Even in Sport mode, 0-60 arrives in a plodding 9.6 seconds. The efficiency-minded four-banger revs sluggishly and certainly won't be delighting many enthusiasts with it's tinny exhaust note. Demerits in the engine room aside, the rest of the CR-Z's drivetrain is smooth and fluid. The six-speed manual gearbox serves up the smooth, refined action that has become a Honda trademark. With either the stick or the optional CVT automatic, the CR-Z drives the front wheels and features regenerative braking for maximum efficiency. CR-Zs with the six-speed return a decent though unspectacular 34 mpg in mixed driving, while the CVT boosts mileage by a few mpg.
Ride & Handling
The 2011 CR-Z's point-and-squirt handling is far more conducive to sporty driving than its tepid engine. MacPherson struts up front and torsion beams at the rear team up for a neutral, balanced feel. Steering feel from the electrically assisted rack-and-pinion setup is surprisingly good, with even weighting. The CR-Z's light, 2,644-pound curb weight contributes to the hybrid's cornering prowess.
Mounted on 16-inch alloy wheels, the CR-Z's 195/55R tires are rather diminutive. Though grip is decent, the CR-Z's light, direct handling would benefit from some beefier rubber. Ride comfort is mostly good, though big bumps can bounce the light CR-Z around a bit, as can stiff crosswinds. Disc brakes all around, vented in front, provide very good stopping power and have the added benefit of recovering energy for the battery system.
Cabin & Comfort
Inside, the 2011 CR-Z features an eye-catching design that apes the company's exotic S2000 roadster. Pods on either side of the steering wheel house controls for the standard electronic climate control and the engine's power mode. The instrument panel features a digital speedometer, flanked by a tachometer that glows green under light throttle and red when you flog it. Several other gauges track fuel economy and battery state. Low-slung, silver cloth seats are comfortable and adjust manually in almost any direction.
The CR-Z's lack of a back seat limits its utility in daily use. That said, the cabin is comfortable for two and can carry over 25 cubic feet of cargo under its squared-off hatchback. The available leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob elicit a pleasant tactile response, as do the textured aluminum pedals. Standard features in base 2011 CR-Zs include power windows, locks, and mirrors, cruise control, and a 160-watt CD stereo with steering-wheel-mounted controls. The CR-Z EX trim upgrades the stereo to a 7-speaker, 360-watt unit and also adds Bluetooth connectivity and ambient lighting. Optional GPS navigation features easy-to-use voice-recognition technology.
Honda has fitted the 2011 CR-Z with a full complement of safety features. Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, as are active head restraints and stability and traction control. The CR-Z hasn't yet been crash-tested in the U.S., but in Europe's rigorous NCAP evaluation it earned five stars, showing that safety and size aren't always intertwined.
What Owners Think
No user reviews yet for this recently introduced model.
by Jesse Berger
What's your take on the 2011 Honda CR-Z?
Honda CR-Z Questions
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