The Honda CR-Z aims to combine a sporty driving experience with low emissions and 56.5mpg economy; can a recent set of revisions add to its appeal?
The compact Honda CR-Z hybrid has been with us for a while but it has recently had minor revisions including a small power increase whilst maintaining the same economy. Are the recent revisions enough to ensure that people should still consider the CR-Z?
Design & Engineering
The exterior design of the CR-Z is wedge-shaped and very compact. The outside dimensions translate to a very cosy interior, with the rear seats barely large enough to fit a child seat, and a small boot. People want all sorts of shapes and sizes of cars, so the CR-Z’s size may be sufficient for one or two people commuting into work and back each day.
For 2013 there have been minor revisions to the exterior and interior of the car. In our view the dashboard still remains slightly gimmicky, with lots of blue lights at night.
The CR-Z has a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, consisting of a 1.5-litre petrol engine, an electric motor and – for the first time in a Honda, lithium-ion batteries – but this is just a ‘mild’ hybrid rather than a full hybrid system. This means that you can’t drive for any distance on the electric motor, rather the system is designed to capture energy that would otherwise be lost in braking, and to recycle this energy to offer assistance when accelerating.
Honda CR-Z Driving Experience
With its small size and low driving position the CR-Z can be fun to drive, with relatively tight handling, and one of its best points is that it has a six-speed manual gearbox, which, for enthusiastic drivers, is a vast improvement on the normal CVT found in hybrids.
There are three driving modes, Normal, Econ, and Sport. To access the fun factor, you really need to select Sport, which provides more instant reactions to throttle inputs, but this will obviously not give you the economy of the other modes.
There’s also a Plus Sport (S+) button on the steering wheel which provides a short boost of extra power, but it really is difficult to notice much difference.
Even in Sport mode, you’ve still only got a 1.5-litre petrol engine, with a small amount of extra electrical assistance, so this isn’t an out-and-out sports car.
The CR-Z is also front-wheel drive, so you’re never going to enjoy the rewarding rear-wheel drive handling sensation of, for instance, a Toyota GT-86.
The CR-Z’s brakes are responsive, but possibly too much so – a common issue with hybrids or electric cars with brake energy recovery systems.
One feature of the car that is somewhat unintuitive is the requirement to insert and turn the ignition key, but then press a separate starter button. It would be best to just either turn the key or press the button to start the car, but not both.
There were also a few occasions when the petrol engine cut out at traffic lights, as it should do, but was then hesitant to re-start when it was time to move off.
The CR-Z also has limited rear visibility due a spoiler running right across the middle of the rear window.
Honda CR-Z Economy and Emissions
For a sporty car, the CR-Z is relatively efficient. The official combined NEDC economy figure is 56.5mpg along with emissions of 116g/km CO2. It’s well known that compared to the official NEDC figures, motorists are likely to get around 20-25% worse economy in real-life driving. The real-life mpg of any car is strongly influenced by different driving styles, but this is particularly true of hybrids. If you drive the CR-Z very, very carefully then you will exceed 56.5mpg. If you drive it hard you will see mid-30’s mpg. We averaged 46.2mpg during a week with the car.
One of our contributors owned a Honda hybrid for two years and over that time managed to achieve the exact official NEDC figure, so with some careful driving it can be done. The Oaktec team also achieved over 90mpg from its rally-prepared Insight on the 2011 RAC Future Car Challenge, proving that Honda hybrid systems can be super-efficient.
Of course the CR-Z’s petrol-electric hybrid system is cleaner than a diesel when it comes to emissions other than CO2 – in other words the emissions that can impact so badly on local air quality.
Price, Equipment and Model Range
The Honda CR-Z is available in either ‘Sport’ or ‘GT’ spec. The GT model comes with leather seats and 17-inch rather than the 16-inch wheels of the Sport. The GT is more expensive at £23,050 compared to £20,550 for the Sport model – yet it has slightly slower acceleration (0-62mph in 9.5 seconds compared to 9.1 seconds) and worse fuel consumption (54.3mpg v 56.5mpg).
Honda has deleted the entry-level specification for the CR-Z, which makes the base price more expensive than it was for the pre-facelift model.
The Honda CR-Z is an interesting product which sets out to combine the efficiency of a hybrid with the fun of a sports car. For some people – such as drivers wanting a sporty yet low emission car for the city – this will work. However the risk is that the CR-Z is not economical enough to be an economy car, and it’s not fast enough to be a sports car.
When the CR-Z was first launched – as the first hybrid with a manual gearbox – it was refreshing and different. It probably now needs more than a very mild refresh to make it stand out in a market that has an increasing range of niche cars, many of which can also now boast low emissions. The Honda CR-Z deserves recognition for being an admirable attempt to deliver a package of sportiness and low emissions, but ultimately it struggles to provide the rewarding sensations expected of a sports car. The CR-Z gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10.