Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 honda crz review

The 2011 Honda CR-Z. As it’s closely related to the 2010 Honda Insight five-door hatchback, Honda is careful to pitch the CR-Z as a hybrid sports coupe, and to put a little distance between its illustrious hot-hatch history. The CRX was a halo car for the whole Honda brand; the CR-Z feels just like a two-door Insight with less cohesive looks and worse gas mileage.

Honda's latest hybrid, the 2011 CR-Z, attempts to be both sporty and a hybrid, and it has middling success at each.

The CR-Z's higher trim level, the EX, adds features like Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum shift knob (manual), aluminum pedals, additional interior accents and a more powerful stereo with a subwoofer. I drove EX Navi versions, both manual and automatic.

My first and most lasting impression was how comfortable the CR-Z's ride is. A high point is the CR-Z's precise, well-weighted steering from what Honda notes is the company's smallest steering wheel. The handling is definitely sporty, but the CR-Z didn't beg to be driven hard. What many car reviewers call underpowered, I call modestly powered. The CR-Z is meant to be a sporty, fun car. Sporty cars typically are less efficient than normal ones, and a sporty hybrid can be expected to be less efficient than a normal hybrid. The CR-Z is, as shown below.

At the Honda CR-Z launch, in fact, Honda plopped us down in a cherry 1985 CRX Si and told us to go nuts. Where the impish CRX used lightness and a stripped-down approach to deliver entertainment and efficiency, the CR-Z looks to a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. Particularly with the three-mode adjustable drive system in sport mode, it’s a relatively fun little car. At 160.6 inches long, the "Honda CR-Z" is 16 inches longer than the original CRX, but it doesn’t look like that much with the two cars side by side; for modern reference, the CR-Z is an inch shorter than Honda’s own Fit. It’s not as light, however, with Honda estimates putting the CR-Z around 2700 pounds.

It mates to Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system as seen in the Insight, which is comprised of a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and a 13-hp electric motor. In sport, throttle sensitivity is increased, the steering tightens, the electric motor provides more assistance on manual-equipped cars, and in CVT models, the “gear ratios” are optimized for acceleration.

The mileage returned by the Honda CR-Z isn’t as stellar as you’d expect in a hybrid this small, at 31 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with a manual and 35/39 with the CVT. (The EPA tests were run in normal mode.) Would those numbers be the same if the car were lighter with no hybrid gadgetry? —remember that Honda has the Insight and upcoming Fit hybrid to appeal to the hypermiler crowd. The CR-Z is a sporty car with green leanings more than anything else, and that likely guided the engineers’ efficiency targets.

The chassis plays a big part in making the hybrid experience transparent. Where the CR-Z impresses most is in ride quality.
The Honda CR-Z comes in three flavors: base, EX, and EX with navigation. Standard across the range are stability control, power mirrors, power locks and windows, keyless entry, automatic climate control, cruise control, a tilting and telescoping steering column, USB and auxiliary inputs, LED taillamps, and the three-mode drive system. Further, all those CVT buyers will effectively negate the CR-Z’s reason for being, its sportiness.

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