“We believe the time is over to think about ‘hot hatchbacks’.” Those are the sentiments of project leading engineer Norio Tomobe, one of the key men responsible for the development of the Honda CRZ. “The world is changing, and we should take care to make cars that are both fun to drive and low on emissions.”

That’s the philosophy behind this compact, enthusiast-targeted hybrid: it’s an eco-car, but not such a worthy one.

Geneva motor show: Honda CR-Z


Using the same IMA hybrid system as the current Insight hybrid, Honda mated it to a larger four-cylinder petrol engine than the Insight uses: the 112bhp 1.5-litre engine fitted to the Japanese market Jazz, to be precise. Together with the electric assist system, this tandem powertrain develops 120bhp and 128lb ft of torque. But it’s the ‘ready-at-any-revs’ nature of that torque, which comes mostly from the electric motor, that makes the CRZ feel so responsive – or so Tomobe claims.

And that’s not all Honda has done to make its new hybrid more of a driver’s car. Firstly, it’s a manual, not a CVT. “The driver gets a much more direct feeling of boost from the electric motor,” Tomobe says, “and at certain points in the operating range, the manual gearbox even makes the car more efficient.”