By >Daimaou - G.G-B
[Review] Honda brings the CR-X Hatchback back to us with the CR-Z
Welcome to our new bi-monthly Week-end Only new “Rendez-Vous” where we will talk review Cars, Hybrid Cars and Technology revolving around Cars!
For years, the name Honda was synonymous with sport, performance and F1. Unfortunately after the death of its founder Sōichirō Honda as well as the inevitable wave of talented engineers who were forced to retire, Honda quickly lost its “sportiness” image by having only one real sporty car left in its line-up: The Civic Type-R.
For years, we, sports car drivers, have been hoping that Honda would produce new performance-oriented vehicles, and finally it seems that we have been heard… or at least so we thought.
Marketed as the first “Sports Hybrid”, the Honda CR-Z is just a plain disappointment if you are hoping to get the thrill of driving a “sporty” vehicle. Yes, the appearance of the CR-Z is mean enough to be called a real sports car, but unfortunately, looks can be deceiving.
Sharper and more aggressively, the CR-Z’s lines are really ahead of Honda’s other production vehicles and have only a few common elements with Honda’s other Hybrid, the Insight. The overall lines of our CR-Z remind us of other iconic Honda hatchbacks, the Civic (particularly in its 3rd and 5th Generation) and the CR-X – back when the word “sports” still had meaning for the company.
Unfortunately not as pretty as its concept introduced in 2007 [how many production vehicles are? Ed.], the CR-Z still has some kind of “presence” that just makes our car stand out in the crowd. We at AkihabaraNews personally like our CR-Z’s new nose, lending some kind of futuristic land speeder chic to the whole design. By far the design is the car’s strongest point… and may even be the only one.
We may sound like a broken record, but like almost any Honda car we’ve ever driven, our car’s interior design does not give us the same thrill as its exterior. Better than the JDM Odyssey, the CR-Z interior however just lacks identity. The questionable interior plastics and an un-ergonomic central console with limited spaces for your personal effects don’t seem well thought through. The weird cable popping out of the central console for our car’s GPS and its Internavi module (real-time traffic, weather, advisor) seems like an afterthought.
Even with a poorly-designed interior, sitting in the CR-Z is quite comfortable, at least for the front passengers. Sold as a 2+2, the CR-Z does not strike us as a family-oriented car, and unless you unfortunately lost your 2 legs in a tragic accident (knock on wood), you won’t be able to use the rear seats.
I am not a tall man — just 1.72m (5’7″) tall — but once seated comfortably behind the steering wheel, even my 3 year-old daughter did not have room for her legs while seated behind me.
On the Road
Let’s put it simply: For a sports-oriented car, the CR-Z gives at best a dull driving experience. Now if you compare the CR-Z to some other compact, underpowered car, the CR-Z will give you the thrill you are looking for. But if you’ve ever driven a real sports car (not necessarily a fancy Gallardo or even a Honda S2000, but a simple Subaru Impreza in its 2l S-GT version), you will wonder why the “Sports” mode on the CR-Z is not effective at all. Just like us, you may even wonder if you were driving with the parking brake on! Granted, you will see the RPMs rising quicker to the red line when you are switching from the “Normal” mode to the “Sport” mode, and the 1.5l iVTEC engine (124HP) will also growl louder, but this will be as much “sports” as you will get.
As you may have already figured out, the CR-Z is not a sports car per-se, but rather a marketing Jedi-like mind trick focusing on the sporty-looking appearance of the car rather than on its pure engine power.
You can argue that the CR-Z can go fast, like any other car if you give it time and enough road ahead of it, but don’t expect anything truly amazing here. The only good point in driving the CR-Z is to enjoy a well-balanced car offering acceptably flat cornering. Being a hybrid obviously adds some weight to the car but it also helps redistributing this weight evenly front-to-rear, providing a more stable and safer car.
Now let’s focus on the other aspect of the CR-Z: The “hybrid” portion of it. Like its older sister the Insight, the CR-Z performs differently than other hybrids. It only operates as a gasoline engine with electric assist — no electric-only mode. The CR-Z also features Start-Stop functionality, like the Insight, offering a different approach to the hybrid world.
From a technical standpoint, Honda’s approach to the hybrid world works well and is not better or worse than what other manufacturers offer. It’s simply different. What I mean is that at any given time when your car is moving, even a little, your gasoline engine will be running, and personally that just simply spoils all the fun to own a hybrid. To this extent, I really missed the electric-only mode found on Toyota’s cars while driving the CR-Z. Because of this, despite the fact that I was driving a hybrid, I did not feel like I was saving the Earth each time my CR-Z was moving.
Does the hybrid aspect of the CR-Z make a difference? Well, we’re not sure. We could not test the car enough to be able to get a clear idea on this matter. We reached the 550 km (342 miles) mark with the CR-Z during our test and, to be fair, we drove the CR-Z pretty aggressively in order to test its raw power. It seems that 500-600 km (311-373 miles) on a full tank of gasoline is what you should expect from the CR-Z in normal driving conditions. Of course you can always push these limits farther if you are driving softly/gently (read: hypermiling) on any given road without any AC and driving alone, but what would be the point with a sporty car?
What do we think about the CR-Z? Well, it’s complicated. We personally like the car’s design, curves, and its sporty looks, but on the other hand, I did not have much fun driving it. The CR-Z can only be enjoyed with a maximum of 2 people inside. It’s not the ideal ride if you ever dream to hit the road for a long road trip with friends.
From where I stand, I believe that the CR-Z is just another hybrid car, with just enough sportiness thanks to its design to stand out from the other hybrids on the road.