In this second part of our test drive of the Honda CR-Z, see yesterday’s preliminary review of our seven day test drive, today we look at handling, feel and the technical aspects of this fun manual hybrid.
Handling and Feel. The Honda CR-Z is fun to drive at any speed. The Dunlop Sport 7000 certainly hold up to the company’s legendary drip but the suspension is where you can see how much work Honda has put into it. The suspension is not too soft, not too harsh and the electric steering gives you enough feedback. Cornering is fun in Sport mode. Throw it in a curve, and the CR-Z becomes very precise with a slight tendency oversteer if you accelerate early. This can easily be corrected.
Technically Speaking. Both CR-Z and the EX are technically the same, the EX being slightly heavier. A Paddle Shifters option is available for both. The basic model weighs 2639 / 2694 Lbs, the EX weighs 2658 / 2710, 2663 / 2716 with the extra Navigation option. The three driving mode system increase throttle response, steering and IMA assistance. Although the EPA gives the 6-Speed Manual a City/Highway/Combined average of 31 / 38 / 34, I easily reach 49 MPG whether at 30 MPH or 75 in sixth gear in Econ mode. The gasoline tank holds 10.6 gallon. In Normal mode, the car wakes up somewhat, but it jumps to life in Sports mode, giving you frank accelerations.
The IMA engine takes a little getting used to at first. Forget any notions about when to shift according to engine sound. The 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine is coupled to a 10-Kilowatt electric motor and a 15 kW Lithium-ion battery pack, with a combined engine + IMA powertrain giving it 130 HP at 6000 RPM. The fun is in the torque, 128 LB-ft. of torque starting at 1,000 to 1,750 RPM for the manual transmission. The CVT version delivers 123 LB-ft. at 1,000 up to 2,000 RPM. In other words, this little “sports hybrid” can be driven like a diesel, using low revs with full torque available early. The six gear transmission box will give you a work out and I loved every bit of it.
The Plus Sport System, or S+ only comes when more than 50 percent of the battery is charge and at over 19 MPH. It gives you a five second increased acceleration, much like a Formula One KERS system.
The CR-Z and the Future. Officially, Honda is working on a new version of its IMA hybrid system for small vehicles that offers more robust performance and a better fuel economy. No words yet if the Fit Hybrid’s new hybrid platform will be made available for it. I would like to see Honda’s new i-DCD platform in the CR-Z. Technically speaking, the i-DCD is completely different from the current IMA architecture. It does away with the CVT gearbox and embraces a more radical dual clutch drive. Get it, i-DCD? The new i-DCD architecture promises a 35% better fuel economy over the current Fit Hybrid, only sold in Japan so far. It comes with a seven speed gearbox and the 22-kilowatt electric motor can uncouple from the 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine giving it a 1.9 mile electric mode range at speeds below 31 MPH. It will also have a redesigned servo brake system with an electric compressor that will increase the efficiency of the regenerative braking. Hopefully, this means good news for the next enervation CR-Z.
Final Thoughts. It’s strange how little attention the CR-Z received. It certainly didn’t get the kudos Honda deserves for such a unique and progressive car. Sure, it won’t haul an entire family, and we don’t always need to bring the kitchen sink and fridge wherever we go. Yes, it’s marketed toward a small market segment but for those whom the CR-Z works, it does it all very well. It definitely won me over and both my wife and I could see the CR-Z as our every day commuter. For performance oriented folks who want a gas frugal car for everyday driving that can be fun in bumper to bumper traffic, the CR-Z is perfect. As I mentioned yesterday, it is also a perfect first time buyer and young driver car. Honda started a new segment with its CR-Z, essentially a hybrid performance market, and we can only hope future generations will improve upon this great start.