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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.

  • Tom22

    So they modeled a lotus elise, a small, RWD car with next to no frills, and somehow got a slow, bloated, FWD ‘sports car’.

    I absolutely love the interior and exterior, its a real shame you cant get this with a 2L turbocharged motor with 250 odd hp.

  • Dale

    It might be a technically advanced vehicle, but I can’t help but think that anyone wanting a 2 door coupe would accept a 0-100km/h of 9.9 secs. Great green credentials, and by the sounds of it rewarding driving dynamics, but I’d say 0-100km/h should at the very worst be 8 secs.

  • Valet Dabess

    the back is still ugly. front is good though and i don’t like how they put all the instruments facing the driver cause then the dash layout is all crap

  • K20A

    Hi Anthony.. good write up, however your comment:

    “..the CR-Z is probably as close to the Lotus Elise as any other production car deserves to be.”

    should be rephrased:

    “.. the CR-Z is probably as close to the Lotus Elise as any other hybrid car deserves to be.”

    And what’s a ‘SIL aspect’, could you shed some light?


    • Tom22

      This car has about as much in common with the Lotus elise as the Protons with ‘suspension by lotus’ i see advertised at the top of this page.

    • Alexis Denisof

      I too was wondering what’s a SIL aspect

      …and then I looked up to the previous paragraph and figured it out.

  • Mythfrances

    Somehow they still manage to sell 10 times of their expected sale. I am sure this car will look very appealing when you look up close.

    Its not totally a sport car, but it may suit ppl who would want some fun driving but also care about the environment, while they also dont have enough budget to get a Tesla. So its just set up a new car segment – “affordable sporty hybrid”.

  • http://caradvice OSU811

    please please please HONDA, do a TYPE R, version of the
    CR-Z!, with the high tuned 2.0l type r vtec engine,
    18″ wheels with sports suspension, recaro seats and a
    short shift close ratio 6sp box!!

    • Whitbomb07

      Yeah, but don’t ‘compromise’ it with a turbo. I still can’t believe that’s what Honda said…….

      I’m sorry but if you want an engine that has to rev it’s ringer off like the Civic type R to get anywhere/any sort of result, buy a motorbike……

      Larger displacement and/or forced induction is definitely the better way to go for better performance…….

      As for this it’s better than the ‘sports’ version Prius. But the rear definitely has the Prius influence. Why do hybrids have to be so weird looking? Why can’t you get more stuff like the Tesla, (I know it’s not a hybrid) THAT is hot.



      • Hayzel

        If you get hit by a car on a bike you’ll die, if you get hit by a car while in a CR-Z you won’t even get scratched most of the time. It’s totally different!! You are soo ignorant! BIkes are for fun only and is nowhere near as practical or as usable as a car.

        With everyone fitting turbos to their cars why should HONDA follow? Honda is unique to teh car market as their cars do not have force inductions ever! Why ruin that uniqeness and heritage?

        Whitbomb you are way too young to understand what it is that makes a good car.

    • Scott

      Have to agree, then it would at least be more of a spiritual successor to the CRX as it was originally touted!!

  • Philthys_grandad

    So this is a “sports car” in which you would get beaten to 100km/h by a 1.2 litre Polo? hmmm….

  • HNC

    Finally a Hybrid you wouldn’t mind being seen it, may not be as fast as it looks but it leaves the other boring hybrids for dead in the looks dept, mainly the Prius and Camry. The fact it appears to be fun to drive makes even more of a case for it over the Toyota twins and the manual transmission would also help with the sporty drive feel.

    • Dale

      I agree. I just hope they release a more powerful model, even if they have to charge a $5K-$10K premium for it. Sure it won’t be as efficient, but if Honda want to reinstill some passion in their customers, it’s a necessary move, especially given they gave up on their hero car, the NSX, not to mention the S2000.

  • Marc

    Dash looks like a complete mess, their trying to cram in too many dislpays, dials and buttons. Looks promising on the outside let down by the anemic performance…. all style no substance… Come on Honda! You can do better than this.

  • Igomi Watabi

    I really like it, on appearances. Would have to drive it to know for sure. But I have to ask what’s an “in-car driving position”? I’m interested in the idea of an “out of car” driving position.

  • Jabba the Hut

    The side profile is aweful. It looks good inside and from the front though. I wonder what rear vision is like?

  • Shak

    I know it was meant to be the first sports hybrid, but i dont see much of that sport side, and a lot of Hybrid part. A nick over 100Kw would have been a bit more accepatble.

  • WHY>?

    “just 1,000 Nm!!!”

    where do i get one??


  • j

    Will this spell the end of the internet meme “VTEC kick in, yo!” and the start of… “IMA kicked in, yo!”?

  • paulo

    So, Anthony Crawford, What’s a PS?

    “1.5litre motor…114PS (84kw)”

    Does anyone know?

    • Philthy

      Metric horsepower.

    • MGH

      PS – German: Pferdestärke = horse strength. 1 PS is approximately 0.986 hp.
      Although it has been replaced by the kilowatt, its still commonly used in Europe, South America and Japan.

  • paulo

    Thanks MGH, just when I thought that all I had to do was wait for the HP(ie,Imperial system) to die, there’s more….

  • Neo Utopia

    Looks good in a modern way, too slow though to be amongst the sports cars though. Maybe the Type R version will turn it into a desirable hot little thing

  • car guy

    The sad truth is that the ima system in this car really does very little to make this a sporty car–as it just makes it slower and heavier and more expensive than it needed to be. Honda could have easily given us a cheaper, lighter, faster and more powerful car by giving us a gasoline only version. I don’t care how well this car handles- it just has too little horsepower and is much too slow to be seriously considered a sports car or a sporty car. This car is just plain embarrasing when many econoboxes (including Honda’s own Fit) and minivans are faster than it.

  • disappointed

    I’m not sure how the reviewer could have ignored the fact that this car is rather slow for a sporty car. Other reviewers have stated “…as you run the engine out to redline, the noise is great, but not matched by much forward progress. Honda claims an uninspiring 10.2 seconds to 100km/h. There also isn’t the low-end torque you’d hope for from an electrically assisted drivetrain. So rather than being the expected party piece, the drivetrain is a little underwhelming. As for the supposed “sports car handling” another reviewer, stated,”…but the CR-Z is far from the most agile small coupe around–a Mini or a BMW 1 series would leave it for dead on a twisting road.” This same reviewer also noted, ‘the stop/start system… managed to cut the engine off at a slow coast, which was embarrassing when we subsequently tired to pull away again.”

  • tom

    I wonder why Anthony did not raise the question as to why Honda did not also offer a gasoline only version of this car (or possibly diesel). A gasoline only version would have been much cheaper, lighter, handle better, and given that the CR-Z’s gas mileage is not really that impressive (the gasoline only version would probably be close in mpgs).