Honda CR-Z Sport Review

By: Scott Newman, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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Honda's terrific CR-Z proves that hybrids can have character.

Honda CR-Z Sport Review
Driven: Honda CR-Z

 

Honda CR-Z Sport 

Honda claims its new CR-Z will change your perception of hybrids, but it's going to take more than funky styling and some marketing spin for most punters to put one on their driveway for any other reason than to ease their environmental conscience.

The spec sheet reveals little to get excited about. Up front there's a 1.5-litre petrol engine and underneath lies a simple strut/torsion-beam chassis based on the Honda Insight hybrid's - a car with about as much sporting ability as Matt Preston.

Combined with Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) electric system, power is a useful but hardly startling 91kW and likewise torque (174Nm manual, or 167Nm for the optional CVT). But note that manual gearbox - a hybrid world-first. And it has the kind of slick shift-feel that used to make Integras and CRXs great.

In the real-world, the 1.5-litre donk feels stronger than its specs suggest. The electric motor's torque provides a real kick off the line and power continues (with sporting flavour) right to the 6500rpm cut-out.

The IMA set-up offers three drive modes: ECON (which alters the throttle mapping and air-conditioning to their most fuel-efficient state); Normal (self-explanatory); and Sport, which adds weight to the electric steering, switches the electric motor to a performance-enhancement device and sharpens the throttle response to a level that the new wave of downsized turbo petrols can only dream about.

Gearchanges with the manual 'box are a wrist-flick affair, the action smooth and beautifully precise. The low-slung driving position is nicely adjustable, the steering wheel is chunky and wrapped in leather and the 3D-effect speedo/tacho looks like it's been lifted from the Starship Enterprise. The techy dials change colour according to your driving - green when you're being kind to the planet, blue when you put your foot down, and an aggressive red when Sport mode is selected.

The ride can be quite sharp - tackling a bumpy country road will have the occupants bouncing in their seats like Tigger on speed - but the moment you turn into a corner, the CR-Z reveals a surprising hunger to chase the apex. The steering is quick and provides enough information to really lean on the front end. A throttle lift mid-corner will tuck the nose in, and if you trail the brakes on entry, the rear will actually nudge wide. Yep, oversteer. In a hybrid!

That said, the CR-Z is not perfect. The keen chassis is crying out for more power, the rear seats are an absolute joke for anyone with legs and/or a head and, at $35K, it's not exactly cheap. But more than simply creating a hybrid that you'd want to drive for the hell of it, the CR-Z proves that Honda hasn't forgotten how to craft a drivers' car. Type-R version please!

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Honda CR-Z Sport

ENGINE: 1497cc 4cyl, SOHC, 16v, electric motor

POWER: 91kW @ 6000rpm

TORQUE: 174Nm @ 1000-1500rpm

WEIGHT: 1155kg

GEARBOX: 6-speed manual

0-100km/h: 9.9sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED: 200km/h (claimed)

PRICE: $34,990

 

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