The UK press pack says, “The CR-Z is exciting to drive, great to look at and has a healthy respect for the environment.
As the world’s first sporty hybrid, it’s stylish looks stand-out from other ‘green’ cars on the market and it offers true driving thrills thanks to a well sorted chassis, direct steering, a low driving position and useful boosts of torque from the petrol electric drivetrain.”
Clearly an evolution of the multi award winning Honda CRX of the 1980’s’, which was created to provide a small, stylish car that could achieve outstanding fuel economy, the all-new CR-Z definitely has the looks, but what its performance like?
Quite good actually when you realise that the super agile Lotus Elise, served as a constant inspiration to the engineering team throughout the entire development process.
Under the bonnet is a diminutive 1.5 litre petrol-electric IMA (hybrid) which produces just 114PS (84 kW) @ 6,100 rpm while the electric motor pushes out 14PS (10.30 kW) @ 1,500 rpm making a total power output of 124PS (91 kW) and an equally uninspiring 174 Nm of torque.
But here’s the thing, that 174 Newton-metres of torque is available from 1,500 rpm, with 78.4 Nm on tap from just 1,000 Nm.
That’s enough to move the CR-Z from 0-100km/h in 9.9 seconds while using a measly 4.2 litres/100km and emitting all of 117g/km of CO2. Top speed a creditable 124 mph (200 km/h).
This is a driver-focused car, no question about it. From the direct steering, short shift six-speed manual transmission, in-car driving position and kart-style cornering, the CR-Z is probably as close to the Lotus Elise as any other production car deserves to be.
It’s said to be an extremely agile performer with driver enjoyment being a key aspect of the design.
Although the CR-Z shares some components with the Honda Jazz and Insight, the wheelbase, track and set-up are unique to the coupe for increased agility and stability.
Ground clearance is just 135 millimetres, so the car sits low to the ground, which means a low centre of gravity supported by a similarly low seating position for the driver.
It’s all about weight with the CR-Z, and the less the better. Take the lower front MacPherson struts, which have been made from forged aluminium and are no less than 4 kilograms lighter than the pressed steel version, on board the Honda Insight.
The rear suspension makes do with a H-section torsion beam, which is said to provide good control of the rear wheels, as well as allowing room for the batteries and control unit.
The IMA batteries actually sit below the boot, which further reduces the CR-Z’s centre of gravity for improved handling.
Honda’s engineers set out to create a stiff body unit with the CR-Z so that response rates would be as sharp as the car’s looks. So it comes as no surprise that its torsional rigidity is similar to that of the Civic Type R.
The six-speed manual gearbox is a short throw unit that is said to deliver a firm but light action on shifts for a more involving drive.
The same thought was applied to the electronic power (EPS) steering, so that it was direct and very quick to respond to driver input.
Chief Chassis Engineer, Mr. Terukazu Torikai said of the CR-Z: “Since the target of this car was to realise an enhanced handling, we put huge emphasis on the setting of the EPS and to improve body stiffness to a similar level to that of the Civic Type R”
Honda’s hybrid technology is called IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) given the electric motor provides boost to the naturally aspirated 1.5 litre petrol engine.
There’s also start stop technology for further fuel saving in peak hour traffic, whereby the engine cuts out if the car is stationary for a more than a few seconds and seamlessly restarts the moment you depress the accelerator and move off.
Rather than a ‘sport’ button, the CR-Z employs a 3-mode drive system (Sport, Normal and Econ), which depending on which of the three modes you choose, alters the responses of the throttle, steering, idle stop timing, climate control and the level of boost provided by the IMA system.
Better still, if you’re the ultimate eco-guardian, there’s a Shift Indicator Light, which alerts the driver to the precise shift point, up or down at the most economic point.
When the SIL aspect is combined with the Eco-Assist, fuel saving benefits of up to 10 percent is expected.
Standard equipment on the CR-Z includes daytime running lights with eight LEDs (European spec only) as well as front fog lights and 2+2 seating.
Inside it’s very driver focused, with 3-D displays, high tech instrument dials and neon backlit buttons along with what look like some superbly bolstered stitched leather sports seats and gear shifter.
The CR-Z has already gone on sale in Japan and has achieved extraordinary sales of 10,000 units against an expected 1000 units.
Europe and the US get their cars in June/July of this year, but Australia will have to wait until the second half of 2011.
From what we hear, it will be surely worth the wait, with prices expected to be around $35,000 (this is only a ballpark number) keeping up with demand, might be a problem.