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

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Honda CR-Z

This week on Autos, James Bergeron’s Day-by-Day Review of the new Honda CR-Z has elicited over 100 comments from forum readers – so far! Many of the feisty comments revolve around how it compares to the old CRX and whether a hybrid can really be a sporty car. Not surprisingly, many enthusiasts see hybrids and sporty cars as diametric opposites – one is designed for maximum fuel economy and the other is designed for sporty performance: can, or even, should these two attributes be combined in one car?

My view is, “Welcome to the future!”

In my opinion, it won’t be long before we start seeing many more sporty hybrids – though not necessarily too many two-seater hybrids. Already this week, Toyota announced a sporty new Prius Plus with a body kit and wider tires. Vehicle manufacturers have realized belatedly that hybrids are considered “boring” and only appeal to a relatively small segment of the car-buying population. A “sexy” hybrid, on the other hand, should appeal to a greater segment of the population. Hey, if trucks and utility vehicles can be marketed as sporty, why not hybrids?

While it’s true that the CR-Z is never going to be as much fun to drive as the second generation CRX Si (in my opinion), or be as fuel-efficient as the original 2001 Honda Insight hatchback, it does offer a combination of driving fun and decent fuel economy in a very stylish and well equipped small hatchback that meets or exceeds current crash safety and emissions standards.

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

Of course, there’s no denying the CR-Z is a compromise: its performance is compromised by its heavy battery, electric steering, and driver-selectable Eco mode, while its fuel economy is compromised by its available manual transmission (the CVT is more fuel efficient), wide tires, driver-selectable Sport mode, and heavy curb weight. As some readers have pointed out, it would probably offer better performance and comparable fuel economy if the hybrid system was eliminated to save weight, and a slightly larger, more powerful engine was installed.

But right now, there’s a general consensus among vehicle manufacturers and government agencies that the future of the automobile is heading towards “electrification” in order to meet future emissions and fuel economy standards. The CR-Z is a step in that direction.

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

Personally, I enjoyed driving the CR-Z over the week that I had it. Its short wheelbase makes it easy to manoeuvre, and its standard six-speed manual transmission, though a bit clunky, gives the driver more control over the driving experience. Acceleration is not particularly quick, even in Sport mode, when compared with other sporty cars and even non-sporty cars. 0 to 100 km/h is estimated at nine seconds with the manual transmission and just under ten seconds with the CVT, according to AJAC. This is not really surprising in a 1,205 kg car with combined gas and electric output of 122 hp and 128 lb.-ft. of torque. However, its 10 kW electric motor develops maximum torque from 1,000 to 1,500 r.p.m., making it feel quicker off the line.

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

Though it has four wheel disc brakes, ABS and Brake Assist, its braking distance of 42.5 metres from 100 km/h to a dead stop, according to AJAC, is not particularly outstanding.

However, with its low centre of gravity, wide track, independent front and torsion beam rear suspension, and standard P195/65R-16 all-season tires (Dunlop Super Sport 7000s on my test car), the CR-Z is a small car that can be tossed around with verve while being extremely forgiving when cornering limits are reached. Stability and traction control are there in case things get silly.

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