Hybrids tend to occupy vehicle bodies that are, for lack of better words, awkward and unstylish. Honda’s hybrid designers showed us that this likely always true with the design of the first and second-generation Insight. But the Japanese automaker is here to prove us wrong and show us that hybrid and ugly don’t always have to go hand-in-hand. Meet the 2011 CR-Z Hybrid – the first hybrid vehicle designed to entice a more spirited driver, as it is offered with a 6-speed manual transmission and a very sport design that is sure to attract the attention of performance enthusiasts.
The silhouette of the 2011 Honda CR-Z is reminiscent of Honda’s much celebrated CR-X sport coupe in design and proportion, but with the underpinnings and powertrain are taken from Honda Insight. The questions remain however, which of these cars does the CR-Z try to emulate, and does it perform as good as it looks?
2011 Honda CR-Z Hybrid Specifications:
- Base Price: $19,345.
- Price as Tested: $23,310.
- Engine: 1.5 liter 4-cylinder i-VTEC, Honda IMA electric-motor – 122-hp / 128 lb-ft.
- Transmission: 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic.
- Curb Weight: 2,637 lbs.
- 0 to 60 mph: 9 seconds.
- Top Speed: 122 mph.
- Fuel-economy (city/highway): 31/37 mpg w/ 6-speed manual; 35/39 mpg w/ CVT.
All Photos Copyright © 2011 Omar Rana, Nikolina Kostrevski – egmCarTech.
From no angle does the 2011 Honda CR-Z emanate your typical hybrid design. The sporty 2-passenger coupe shares structural architecture with Honda’s Fit and Insight, but is ultimately smaller than it’s platform relatives, measuring in at 160.6 inches long, 68.5 inches wide, and 54.9 inches tall.
The secret behind the ultra-sporty look is what Honda calls the ‘One-motion Wedge’ concept, which features an elongated and lowered hood-line coupled with a widened stance, all of which combines for the sleek nature of the vehicle’s body. Taking a design cue from the original ‘84 Honda CR-X, the rear of the car features Honda’s signature split-level glass hatch. While the split hatch offers a great look, it hinders the driver’s visibility.
There is a little doubt that Honda has succeeded in demonstrating that hybrids can in fact be attractive, and not relegated to the ‘eyesore’ category. The company has effectively shown that hybrids can be exciting, aggressive, and bold; aesthetically, this car definitely makes a statement without being shaped like a cheese wedge.
Like the original CR-X and Insight, the 2011 Honda CR-Z is a two passenger car; definitely not a family vehicle. It does differ from the above however, and most other hybrids for that matter, in that it features an exciting interior with textured black materials and aluminum-style accents.
The upper portion of the dash engulfs the cabin, creating a decidedly cockpit feel, and the high-quality silver mesh sport seats provide excellent support, even for the larger driver. The most dazzling interior design element however, is the bright instrument panel mounted right behind the steering wheel; it sports a vibrant blue color pallet and three dimensional imaging, which combine for a multi-layered interface.
The interior build-quality is noteworthy, especially for a relatively affordable car. This is one area Honda has been struggling a bit with as of late, but Honda CR-Z has not fallen victim to the inconsistent nature of recent Honda interiors.
The rear-space in the cabin is well-utilized, as Honda has outfitted a large, two-compartment cargo console just behind the seats, offering a hidden storage space for your laptop, iPad, or any other on-the-go items one might carry. Nonetheless, the 2011 Honda CR-Z sports a mere maximum 25.1 cu-ft of cargo space.
[quote float=”right”]The interior build-quality is noteworthy, especially for a relatively affordable car.[/quote] Depending on the trim model, the Honda CR-Z can offer some premium amenities, such as Bluetooth HandsFreeLink. Honda gave as a CR-Z EX to test for a week, and that came with a 360-watt AM/FM/CD high-powered audio system that featured seven speakers (including a subwoofer), Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, perforated leather-wrapped steering-wheel and shift knob, and Honda’s Satellite-Linked Navigation with voice recognition.
One thing this interior does really well is offer a visually engaging experience and versatile approach to interior space utilization that puts the driver front and center. To the left of the steering wheel sits a cluster of controls which allow the driver to change driving mode (Econ, Normal, Sport), activate traction control, and adjust the side-view mirrors. Climate, audi, and navigation controls are all housed in the center console which sits tilted toward the driver, effectuating convenient access. All of this puts the driver in close control of his instruments, while leaving the passenger seat open, spacious, and clutter-free.
The exterior and interior designs of the Honda CR-Z wet your appetite for performance. Well, that’s where things get a little less exciting and that’s due to the lack of a turbo gasoline engine, something Honda enthusiasts are very much passionate about. However, we have to say, as a hybrid, the Honda CR-Z does have a little devilish side.
[quote float=”left”]Even considering the hybrid nature of the powertrain, we can’t totally label the car as lacking a sporty factor.[/quote] As mentioned above, this car is powered by a similar gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain as the Insight, which means it carries the same 1.5L 4-cylinder, 16-valve i-VTEC gas engine and 10-kilowatt Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack. That makes for an output of 122-hp at 6,000 rpm and maximum torque of 128 lb-ft at 1,000 rpm when mated to the 6-speed manual. The CVT equipped models get 123 lb-ft between 1,000 and 2,000 rpm. That output gives the Honda CR-Z the ability to go from 0 to 60 mph in a tacit 9 seconds, and a top speed of 122 mph.
Even considering the hybrid nature of the powertrain, we can’t totally label the car as lacking a sporty factor. There is a lot to be said about it being the first ever hybrid to be offered with a 6-speed manual, as well as the variable drive modes mentioned above. When engaged in ‘Sport’ mode, much of the driving experience becomes enhanced; the engine throttle becomes more responsive, the steering firms up, and on the CVT equipped models, the transmission ratios are optimized to maintain higher RPMs and quicker acceleration. When driving in ‘Sport’ mode, we definitely felt the difference and had a lot more confidence when over-taking other drivers and jumping off the line. Obviously, we weren’t going to be sucked to the back of the seat, and we weren’t expecting to be, but we were blown away by the degree of which the orientation changes with ‘Sport’ mode engaged.
Being a hybrid, fuel-economy is essentially what matters most. The EPA estimates 35/39 mpg and a combined 37 when mated to the CVT. The sportier 6-speed manual equipped model brings those figures down to 31/37/34 mpg. Our test Honda CR-Z 6-speed manual managed to average 31 mpg during a week-long test but that’s mainly because we never engaged the ‘Econ’ mode and stayed mainly in ‘Sport’. The ‘Econ’ mode will alter the car’s orientation for better efficiency, with the electric motor assist and air condition system reducing overall load on the engine. An option that is will save your wallet some grief when filling up.
The Honda CR-Z isn’t for everybody. That is not to say however, that it isn’t for anybody. While many will be thrown off by the lack of performance, many still will be attracted to a vehicle that let’s them mind Mother Nature, yet still exhibit a bit of a rebellious side.
Pricing starts at $19,345 for a 6-speed manual equipped model, and $19,995 for the CVT option. Those figures are pretty competitive for a hybrid that sports a little devilish side – emphasis on little. If you’re a single twenty-something who is environmentally conscious and into stylish rides, than the CR-Z is for you. If you’re married with kids and all the rest still applies, consider the Insight.
Review: 2011 Honda CR-Z:
– By: Stephen Calogera
All Photos Copyright © 2011 Omar Rana, Nikolina Kostrevski – egmCarTech.