Honda R&D chief Tomohiko Kawanabe has confirmed that the firm is working on a high-performance CR-Z hybrid.
In an exclusive interview with Autocar, Kawanabe admitted that development work on the more powerful two-door has started, and that — contrary to earlier reports — it will keep its IMA hybrid system.
“It’s true: we are working on a more powerful CR-Z,” he said. “Our problem with the car as it stands is that it looks very good, but it doesn’t have the performance some customers expect.”
Autocar’s sources suggest that Honda might turn to a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine for the new CR-Z, but Kawanabe refused to confirm this.
"The decision on the engine hasn’t been made,” he said. “Turbocharging is an option, but a high-compression petrol engine would work better in tandem with a hybrid assist system.”
It is highly likely that the faster CR-Z will use Honda’s next-generation IMA system, which will appear first in the US-market Civic Hybrid next year.
Featuring lithium ion batteries, the new IMA will be capable of producing twice as much power as Honda’s nickel-metal hydride system, without requiring a larger battery.
A more sophisticated coupling should also allow it to fully disengage from the engine during brake energy regeneration (something the current IMA system can’t do), allowing it to recapture more kinetic energy to recycle as electric power.
The problem for the CR-Z’s performance will be Honda’s efficiency targets. “It will not be acceptable for the new car to be less fuel efficient than the current one,” Kawanabe said. “The CR-Z must deliver low CO2 emissions, as well as be fun to drive.”
That being the case, a combined petrol-electric power increase to 160bhp is likely, delivered without compromising fuel efficiency thanks to that more powerful hybrid system.