Honda CR-Z road test review

Honda claims this is the first hybrid sports car. Does the reborn CRX impress?

Evo rating
Price
from £16,999
  • Sets a new high for small green sporty coupes
  • Not quite the thriller many were expecting

What is it? The CR-Z is a brand new, compact 2+2 coupe with Honda’s trademark IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) hybrid system. The aim is a fuel-sipper with some genuine driver appeal. The petrol engine is a 1.5-litre iVTEC unit, and the CR-Z is the world’s first hybrid with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Some key figures to ponder: 122bhp total power; 117g/km for C02 and 56.4mpg in the EU combined cycle.

Technical highlights?The CR-Z’s hybrid system, based on the one from the Insight, is lightweight and compact and incorporates a small 14bhp electric motor to boost the torque, stretch the mpg and help charge the battery, which sits beneath the boot floor. Honda is doing two versions in Japan – 6-speed manual and paddleshift CVT – but only the manual is coming to the UK. The hybrid system adds 60kg to the mix. What’s it like to drive? Anyone on the lookout for a successor to the late great VTEC CR-X of 1989-92 vintage will be in for a disappointment. The CR-Z is not that hardcore. Instead, Honda has built a more refined, hi-tech car for the modern eco age, with a level of all-round sophistication the CR-X could only dream of.

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With a shorter wheelbase, stiffened body and lighter and more rigid suspension (plus that bigger engine), the CR-Z is infinitely sharper and driver-centric than the Insight. As it should be. When the electric-assist motor is silently but effectively boosting torque, the CR-Z does actually feel decently lively. There’s good, taut body and suspension control, keen steering and a clean, tidy way to the way it attacks corners.

But it’s no sports car. The engine soon runs out of steam, while the handling bias is linear and safe but, for the keen driver, ultimately not that intuitive or rewarding and there’s plenty of roll and understeer on the limit.How does it compare? For the time being, Honda has the market for sporty 1.5-litre hybrid coupes all to itself, but comparisons with the base 1.4 VW Scirocco are sure to be made. For quality, looks and badge appeal, the VW will likely give the CR-Z a pretty hard time. The Honda will win for things like C02, fuel economy and tech factor.

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Find out how the CR-Z measures up to its key rivals in the June issue of evo, on sale Wednesday April 28.Anything else I need to know? The CR-Z’s tagline in Japan (‘hybrid café racer’) tells us that it’s not specifically aimed at enthusiasts. Instead, Honda would love to snag Mini-style premium compact buyers with the CR-Z, and yes, its big green eco factor cannot be denied. Remember also that it’s a tiny 2+2 with near useless back seats but  a decent size luggage bay. Sales start in June, from £17K.

Specifications

Engine1496cc, 4-cyl, hybrid
Max power124bhp @ 6000rpm
Max torque128lb ft @ 1500rpm
0-609.9sec (claimed)
Top speed124mph (claimed)
On saleNow, £16,999
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