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

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By Brian Early; photos by James Bergeron

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2011 Honda CR-Z

Hybrid vehicles are about to get a lot sexier. What was first revealed at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show as a sporty two-door hatchback show vehicle called the “CR-Z Concept 2009” was confirmed by Honda as the basis for a new production model that will become available in the U.S. and Canada in late summer of 2010.

The production model of the 2011 Honda CR-Z two-seat sport hybrid coupe, which had its global debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday, features a standard six-speed manual transmission and optional CVT.

Entering the Honda product line-up as a complement to the current Civic Hybrid and Insight hybrid, the CR-Z will be the only gasoline/electric hybrid model offered by any current automaker that can be equipped with a manual transmission, in this case a six-speed unit. Interestingly, Honda was the first auto manufacturer to sell a production hybrid in North America (beating the Toyota Prius to showrooms by mere months), doing so with the first-generation Insight – a two-seat, two-door hatchback, itself initially equipped only with a manual transmission (a CVT became available shortly afterwards).

While other global markets are slated to get a four-seat version of this new car, Honda says that all U.S. and Canadian CR-Zs will be two-seaters, making this model (quite deliberately, I’m sure) the spiritual successor to not only the first Insight, but the original CRX hatchbacks, sold here in two generations for model years 1984 through 1991.

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

Those earlier CRXs were essentially shortened, two-seat versions of then-current Civics, fitted with a sloping fastback-style hatch; the second generation CRX’s distinctive horizontally-split tailgate glass design is clearly echoed by that in the CR-Z Concept and production CR-Z.

There is some fuel-sipping heritage here too, as certain CRX models were intended as economy champs, rather than performance vehicles.

The production CR-Z is powered by Honda’s 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine with Honda’s compact and lightweight Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid-electric system. The powertrain delivers a combined peak output of 122 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 128 ft-lb. of torque at 1,000 to 1,500 r.p.m. (123 ft-lb. on CVT-equipped models). The car’s 10-kilowatt electric motor assists in acceleration and also acts as a generator during braking or coasting to capture kinetic energy that recharges the 100-volt IMA nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The gasoline engine can automatically turn off during vehicle stops.

Preliminary fuel economy estimates are 6.5 L/100 km city and 6.2 L/100 km highway on CVT-equipped models. Manual transmission models are anticipated to achieve 7.6 L/100 km city and 6.4 L/100 km highway.

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