From £17,325
Can Honda's hybrid coupe deliver a sporty drive?

Our Verdict

Hybrids aren’t usually cars to quicken the blood
Hybrids aren’t usually cars to quicken the blood; Honda says the CR-Z will change that

The Honda CR-Z is as intriguing and appealing to drive as hybrids currently get

  • First Drive

    Honda CR-Z

    Can Honda's hybrid coupe deliver a sporty drive?
11 March 2010

What is it?

The CR-Z is an unlikely hero for Honda, the car that could restore at least a little of its sporting image after its withdrawal from F1 and the axing of both the NSX supercar project and the S2000.

The CR-Z is a sports hybrid coupe, the first car with this type of powertrain to get a six-speed manual gearbox. Its styling has strategic cues from the CR-X of the early 1980s, but it also looks modern. In fact, what's appealing about this coupe is that it looks like nothing else on the road; it's instantly recognisable as the CR-Z.

Sitting on a slightly shorter but wider Insight platform, the CR-Z uses a wheelbase that’s shrunk by 115mm, while it has also lost 30mm in height and is 44kg lighter.

The CR-Z does not just employ a revised version of the Insight’s platform, its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system and a modified Insight rear suspension set-up. Wanting to enhance performance, engineers replaced the Insight’s 1.3-litre petrol engine with the 1.5-litre i-VTEC motor from the Jazz, then mated that to a revised six-speed manual transmission lifted out of the European-spec 1.8-litre Civic.

The combined power output of the CR-Z’s hybrid system is 122bhp at 6000rpm, while combined torque is 128lb ft at 1500rpm. Our Japan-spec car offered a combined 58mpg. Oh, and by the way, the CR-Z still employs nickel metal hydride batteries.

What's it like?

Slip into the driver’s seat and you'll sense how much lower you sit in the CR-Z than in an Insight. There’s plenty of headroom for driver’s up to 194cm, but forget the rear seats, which would struggle to hold a 12-year old. Interior trim and quality are superior to the Insight's, and the instrumentation boasts more design flair. Flatten the rear seats and you create 401 litres of luggage space, enough for a couple of suitcases or two golfbags.

The IMA system offers three driving modes: sport, which uses the electric motor to aid acceleration, and normal and econ, which retard throttle response to reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions.

The first thing you notice is the CR-Z’s beefy bottom-end torque. With maximum torque on tap from just 1500rpm, the coupe jumps from rest and reaches 60mph in 9sec, as you clear the 6300rpm redline in second. It's noticeably faster than the Insight.

Keep the engine spinning between 4000rpm and 6000rpm and the CR-Z will reward any right-foot extension, while the specially tuned throatier exhaust adds to the all-new sporty hybrid experience.

After trying all three modes, we found ourselves leaving the CR-Z in sport; it offers quicker response at both low and high speeds and suits the characteristics of this car perfectly.

With world-beating manual gearboxes like those in the S2000, NSX and Civic Type R, the CR-Z had a lot to live up to. And thanks to some inspired revision on the European Civic’s gearbox, the CR-Z’s six-speed delivers deliciously short throws and a firm, precise linkage action.

Honda paid special attention to steering too. It's superbly weighted, has excellent feel and turns in on a penny. Combined with enhanced rigidity throughout the chassis and bodyshell, a significant revision to the torsion bar set-up on the rear suspension is another reason why the car handles and rides so well. The CR-Z is stiff but compliant.

The CR-Z’s main braking system is hydraulic, and it uses the regenerative braking only as an ‘assist mechanism’. The result is refreshing; unlike the current crop of hybrids, which deliver a somewhat synthetic feel, the CR-Z offers sure-footed stopping power every time.

Should I buy one?

Honda is convinced that it has launched this coupe at the right time, and it may have a point. With its low-slung, sporty looks, high interior quality, good performance and fuel economy, great gearbox and low price, the CR-Z should spice up interest in hybrids, and force a wider cross-section of the motoring public to pay attention to this type of vehicle. Watch out for the high performance Mugen version in 2011, too.

Peter Lyon

Join the debate

Comments
47

11 March 2010

Wow. I think it's surprised Autocar... I guess it'll be a pleasant surprise, in terms of driving, for everyone else too. Looks great.

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

11 March 2010

I think the Polo GTI, Mini Cooper S or the equivalent A1 will take the majority of sales at this price point. It is just not quick enough to be considered sporty and not cheap enough to be an economy model. Well done for trying though, hope the Mk2 version in a few years time is a lot better.

11 March 2010

I kinda want to like this car, but don't quite get it. So where does it sit:

Sweet drive with decent steering, good gearbox, brisk performance, occasional rear seats, individual looks and the potential for some decent economy figures...

Sounds like warm hatch territory, or mini even. But then there's the price! I hope Autocar do a group test versus petrol and diesel rivals in the near furture.

11 March 2010

Looks good. But £20k! ouch.

Not for me, not at that price. Maybe once it has ridden the depreciation roller-coaster it will make more sense as a used buy?.

11 March 2010

A sporty car with a 0-60 time of 10.1 seconds and costs £20K

Honda had got their sums wrong.

11 March 2010

I know looks are a personal thing but i think it could have been so much nicer looking......but then i have never been a fan of honda design.

11 March 2010

I think I agree with everyone else on this one - nice try, Honda, but you have to either give us more performance or lower the price by 2 or 3 thousand pounds. I like the distictive front end but the back is just ugly and looks as though it was designed by someone who had not seen the front end. Sadly the dashboard looks as nuch of a mess as the Civic with all those add on panels of switches, airvents and so on, a real dog's dinner. As I said, good try Honda, should do better.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

11 March 2010

The proportions remind me a lot of the original Insight, I quite like it. I think they could have been a little more adventurous but it's not unpleasant.

£20k is getting bandied about here, that was the price of the version tested, but the CR-Z starts just under £17k. Not a bargain, granted, but a little easier to swallow than £20k.


11 March 2010

I will consider this as a working prototype for sale, only to be taken seriously when it's replacement comes on sale in say 5 years time. Which will be cheaper and more powerful.

11 March 2010

Generally im a fan of Honda. They're innovative and make some good engines- but , to me ,the backend is totally out of proportion.The rear washwipe is on the roof! If for whatever reason i was ever tempted by them bringing out an R Type version, id get it in Black, really black out that roof section of window, and remove the washwipe. I just get a feeling in 5 or 10 yrs these cars are going to modded to the nines by boyracers with fat exhausts and big tyres, lip spoilers etc cos theyr'e *sporty looking* but not terribly fast / expensive to insure

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