The good news first: the Honda CR-Z handles with a great deal more enthusiasm than the Insight. It changes direction with zeal, rolls very little, musters decent body control and is pretty good fun on a B-road.
Yet something of the Insight’s inert chassis character underpins this experience, so the CR-Z fails to produce the kind of enthusiasm that made the second-gen CR-X such fun. That’s partly down to the steering, which, despite being a lot more direct, precise and sportingly weighted, still talks to you through a reaction-dulled veil of electric assistance.
The chassis’s mild directional torpor also contributes to this feeling, to produce a car that’s a bit bland when it comes to charging curves. Yet that changes, and quite considerably, if you find some wide, open bends and dare to tackle them fast enough to make the back end react. Some of that liveliness could do with appearing at lower speeds to make more of a dynamic entertainer of this car.
Which isn’t to say that it’s dull. The eager sound of the engine, that low driving position, the electric motor’s thrust, a quick-snicking gearchange and good brake feel all provide the right signals. But this car does not better the Mini Cooper that Honda cites as a dynamic target, and certainly not the Lotus Elise that it also mentions as an inspiration.
Curiously, the CR-Z rides better than the softer Insight. The suspension isn’t so crashy over harsh bumps, it’s more composed through corners and doesn’t pitch as much. It can turn oddly bouncy on a badly surfaced B- road, although the dampers keep the bounces to a staccato rather than a swell. Refinement in other directions is acceptable rather than exceptional; the gradual build-up of wind and road noise is noticeable at higher speeds, although the petrol engine quietens down effectively at a cruise.