The Honda CR-Z is not a high-performance coupé, although it’s brisk enough to be fun, especially if you engage the Sport button. This not only changes the characteristics of the hybrid drive by serving more torque from the electric motor, but also sharpens the throttle and increases steering effort.
In this mode the Honda scores a 9.1sec 0-60mph time, bettering the VW Scirocco TDI, if not the 2.0 TDI Audi TT. The Honda feels peppy and no more than that, although it is intriguing to feel the strength of the electric motor’s contribution at around 1500rpm. It’s also present at higher revs, an effect you’ll notice as much by its absence when the nickel-metal hydride battery is depleted as you do when it’s on full assist.
The entertainment value is heightened by a tuned exhaust that generates lightly encouraging noises, and the usual hard induction hum of a hard-working Honda engine. It can sound a little frantic when you’re in a hurry, though it’s not unpleasant.
Allowing yourself to indulge the Sport mode is difficult with so much eco symbolism in the car. As well as the econometer and (if you’re not in Sport) the changing hues of the tacho, there’s a shift light to admonish you. Better to relax a bit, and grow plants. You can do this in either the Normal or Eco modes; visual rewards are provided by the appearance of leaves in a section of the instrument pack. These eventually grow into a flower if you continue to drive economically.
All of which adds to the pleasure of driving the CR-Z, besides improving economy by up to 10 per cent if you respond to this electronic coaching. Standard stop-start helps too – and the CR-Z’s starter-generator electric motor serves impressively smooth restarts.