2011 Honda CR-Z
2011 Honda CR-Z
2011 Honda CR-Z. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

Photo Gallery:
2011 Honda CR-Z

Toyota may have had the first mass-produced hybrid with its Prius, but the initial gas-electric model to reach our shores was the 2000 Honda Insight. That two-seater hybrid, and Honda’s sporty CRX model, provide the inspiration behind the company’s newest version, the 2011 CR-Z.

Honda advertises it as a sporty model, which lifted my eyebrows, especially since its 1.5-litre four-cylinder and integrated electric motor churn out a mere 122 horses. The eyebrows lifted higher when my tester came with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead of the default six-speed manual transmission, which also meant a slight drop in torque from the 128 lb.-ft. with the stick shift to 123 lb.-ft. with the CVT. But as always, the proof is in the pudding – or in this case, the driving. The quick-n-nimble handling gives it its sporty feel, while putting it into the available “Sport” mode makes the most of those horses and turns this relatively lightweight car into a viable, tossable, fun-to-drive machine. Yes, really.

The CR-Z is what’s usually referred to as a “mild hybrid,” with the electric motor assisting the gasoline engine. It can’t run on its battery alone at lower speeds as the Prius can. As all hybrids do, under most conditions it shuts the gasoline engine off at idle, such as at a traffic light. Take your foot off the brake and the electric motor starts up the gasoline engine again. The system uses regenerative braking to charge the battery and the gas engine shuts off during certain driving conditions, such as coasting.

2011 Honda CR-Z
2011 Honda CR-Z
2011 Honda CR-Z
2011 Honda CR-Z. Click image to enlarge

It comes in a single trim line that’s $23,490 with the stick shift and $24,290 for my CVT-equipped version. Mine had no options, but there are a few that can be added. They’re pricey: a $2,372 “Style Package” adds front and rear spoilers and a diffuser, while a $1,194 “Essentials Package” includes an armrest with storage, auto-dimming mirror, compass and all-season floor mats. Several other items, including those in the packages, can be added individually.

Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, keyless entry, cruise control, Bluetooth, premium audio system with USB connector, manual seat adjustment and active head restraints.

Despite the CR-Z’s compact footprint, two people enjoy considerable roominess within. I took the hybrid on a day trip of some 500 kilometres and was rather concerned because I’d twisted my back the night before and my hip was very sore. The CR-Z’s seats aren’t all that soft but proved to be extremely supportive, and while it was intensely painful to stand up, I never felt a twinge any time I was sitting behind the wheel.

All the trappings for a rear seat are there, including indentations for the cushions, a centre armrest and a backing plate for the seatback cushions. Instead, the spaces are used as lined storage bins, and that seatback is easily folded down over them, so that valuables can be placed in the bins and then hidden out of sight. With that seatback up, the storage area is 75 cm long; when it’s folded, you have a completely flat cargo floor that’s 120 cm in length. A standard soft cargo cover can be used to hide items placed there, since the long glass hatch leaves them open to prying eyes otherwise.

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