Unique CR-Z. The Honda CR-Z is a unique car. Nothing comes near it. It is in a league of its own and it has been one of the most fun test drives I’ve had in a long time. Considering its market segment, $20,000, it’s the first performance hybrid that is easy on gasoline, while still fun to drive in traffic. Honda calls it a driver-focused vehicle and that perfectly says it all. Unfortunately, the news media hasn’t been tender with it. It simply didn’t get it. The reason is because it was pitted against its older Honda icon, the CR-X. The CR-Z might vaguely resemble the CR-X, but a CR-X it isn’t. This is a hybrid with a manual transmission, three driving modes, is fuel efficient, has good Honda handling and is a fun daily commuter. It won’t leave you feeling bored when you need a little excitement. And did we mention its price? It starts at $19,975.
The Only Performance Hybrid? I spent a week at the wheel of a Honda CR-Z EX with Navigation, courtesy of Honda and I’m walking away feeling this car is great in more ways then one. For a $20,000 daily commuter, it is easy on gasoline, and offers plenty of driving pleasure. I’m a sucker for hatchbacks and like the overall design. The interior was surprisingly well done for a car in this segment, although tall people will have to be careful getting in with a perturbing dashboard. It’s funny to think of a performance hybrid, when most are slow, have so-so handling, and are more designed to save gasoline with nothing else to show. And anyway, how many hybrids do you know of that can be fun to drive, while economical and affordable? The Honda CR-Z does just that, and that is a niche market.
The Honda CR-Z also innovates in many ways. It’s the only manual hybrid I know of, at least in the US. It only seats two. It has three drive modes, Econ, Normal and Sport. They can be switched quickly and easily, at your fingertips on the left side of the steering wheel so you won’t get too bored in our traffic infested commutes. The dashboard is one of the best laid out I have seen in a modern car. Everything is easily reachable. Start off in Sport mode in that aggressive city traffic, drive to the next red light in Eco mode and use Normal when traffic starts to move normally again. In other words, I never got bored with it.
Why The CR-Z Makes Sense. Despite its small size, the CR-Z manages an impressive IIHS Top Safety Pick. Another thing that helps young drivers build up confidence driving a manual transmission is the brake hold function. It doesn’t allow the car to roll when starting uphill. It only seats two, which makes it an ideal car for young people learning to drive. Studies have shown that young drivers get in trouble trying to impress their friends in a big group. Essentially, the CR-Z is a perfect car for new drivers and the ideal every day commuter for those of us needing a little more driving fun in traffic than most cars offer in this category.
Interior and Infotainment. The seats feel comfortable and should accommodate any size, Japanese, European and American. They can recline far enough and fold forward to allow easy access to the back storage space. Remember, the CR-Z is aimed at households either without kids or kids having gone away. Everything feels close by but not claustrophobic. The interior felt roomy and the trunk space was adequate for longer trips with reasonably sized suitcases or grocery shopping. No matter where I look, I see how much thinking went behind the making of this car. For instance, the bar in the middle of the rear window might seem intrusive, but it neatly blocks bigger cars’ highlights driving at night.
The infotainment is one of the best I’ve found yet. It’s simple, easy to navigate, doesn’t offer so much you will have to take a night course to master it. My iPhone connected easily and the voice command is what it is, helpful.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the technical aspect, how this car achieves an impressive EPA rating, although I managed much better with a 49 MPG at 75 MPH and its handling. Stay tuned for part II of CarNewsCafe’s Honda CR-Z test drive tomorrow.
For more information check out its technical details.