First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
2011 Honda CR-Z. Click image to enlarge
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2011 Honda CR-Z

Toronto, Ontario – At a recent “round-table” discussion with Honda Canada executives, a participant asked, “What’s going on with Honda? Where’s the successor to the CRX, the Prelude, the S2000?”

The question related to the fun, performance vehicles for which the company was known, and, in his opinion, the dearth of them over the past few years. With the introduction of the 2011 Honda CR-Z, the question begins to find an answer.

Here’s a stylish, two-seat coupe that handles like a sports car and has engaging looks. Honda calls the body style “one-motion wedge,” and it’s a real head-turner from all angles. Displayed at international auto shows over the past year, the CR-Z makes its Canadian debut in August, 2010.

First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
2011 Honda CR-Z. Click image to enlarge

Under the hood of this front-drive car is a gasoline-electric hybrid powerplant using Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology. It has a three-mode drive system that tailors throttle response, steering and IMA assistance to the driver’s preference, a performance-engineered suspension, and six-speed manual transmission (6MT) or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters. It’s the first hybrid car with a six-speed manual gearbox.

The four-cylinder, 1.5-litre single overhead camshaft engine (derived from the Honda Fit, but highly modified) with 10-kilowatt IMA makes a combined 122-horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 128 pound-feet of torque at between 1,000 and 1,750 rpm. Fuel economy is estimated at 5.6/5.0 L/100 km for the CVT-equipped model, and 6.5/5.3 L/100 km for the 6MT version.

Honda is viewing the CR-Z as representing a “new era” vehicle that combines “sporty” and environmental, which would seem entirely appropriate at this point in time.

Honda describes the CR-Z interior as “futuristic,” having instrument panel meters that illuminate with a three-dimensional blue colour theme resulting in a multi-layered appearance.

First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
2011 Honda CR-Z. Click image to enlarge

The seats feature a high-tech, silver mesh fabric and are well-bolstered at the hips and thighs for enthusiastic cornering. The driver’s seat is height adjustable and leg room is sufficient for a very tall person.

Fit and finish is top rate, with all interior materials looking expensive and finely crafted. A vapourized metal finish is used on the door handles and centre console that gives a subtle chrome-look, adding to the premium feel. Bluetooth hands-free link is standard, as are automatic climate control, seven-speaker audio with subwoofer, leather-wrapped steering wheel, USB connectivity, aluminum pedals, metal-coated composite trim, and a multi-information display with eco-scoring to rate your economical driving performance.

Side curtain airbags, vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, and the full array of power-assisted amenities are also standard.

The CR-Z is fitted with lightweight, 16-inch alloy wheels, and 17-inch wheels are optional.

Cargo capacity is a generous 711 litres (a Honda Accord sedan offers 397 litres in its trunk), with the cargo area featuring a standard retractable and removable cover.

Exterior design is rakish and sporty, but the front grille is perhaps too reminiscent of Honda’s zoom-zoom competitor (Mazda), offering a somewhat smiley visage that some may find, dare I say it…cute.

Colour choices are limited to blue, silver and white. That’s right, there’s no red. I think it would look great in red, but it’s also quite fetching as offered.

Regarding Honda’s assertion that the interior is futuristic, I think the current Honda Civic’s interior anticipates future trends more correctly and impressively. The instrument panel of the CR-Z, 3D aside, is actually rather busy. Too many knobs, switches, gauges, dials and buttons seem retro, rather than advanced. It seems cluttered.

Each of the three drive modes — Economy, Normal, Sport — has its own character, with the Sport mode (as you would expect) offering the most engaging driving experience. Unlike some vehicles with similar systems, you can immediately tell the difference when you press the button and cycle through the modes. The default is Normal.

There’s plenty of torque in all the gears (it pulls smartly in fourth at 1,000 r.p.m.), and I would have happily lost some of it in sixth in order to drop the engine speed at highway speeds. It’s not seriously intrusive, mind you, and for some, the ever-present thrum of the engine may signify sportiness. But I could do without it.

First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
First Drive: 2011 Honda CR Z honda green scene greenreviews first drives
2011 Honda CR-Z. Click image to enlarge

Handling is superb, both on twisty roads and on a closed circuit (where you can really throw the car around). The gearshift also merits special mention, as it’s a slick shifter with a short, precise throw and satisfying action. The four-wheel disc brakes haul the 1,205 kilogram car down with authority.

The CR-Z isn’t a road rocket, though. It offers agile and responsive sports car performance, but not muscle. It’s track and field, as opposed to weightlifting.

It’s also strictly a two-seat car. No provision for a child seat and no way a third person could be transported with even rudimentary comfort.

But it’s got tons of room for two and loads of their cargo. It’s different, it’s eye-catching, it’s fun to drive and I expect it will be cheap to run. Honda Canada says it expects to sell 500 in the first year of availability. But really, I think they don’t know what to expect. This car could take off big-time – or not. It’s a bit of a punt, but it’s a very nice play from Honda

Priced at $23,490 for the manual transmission model, and $24,290 with the CVT, there’s nothing else on the road like it. The CR-Z goes on sale August 10th.




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).