By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.0
Remember the Honda CRX? It was a nifty little two-seater compact sports car that handled better than it accelerated and, although it wouldn't be considered fast by today's standards, it was definitely fun to drive – and it delivered good fuel economy. Honda stopped making the CRX in 1991, but the car maintains a cult following to this day. Enter the all-new 2011 Honda CR-Z. It's what the CRX might have evolved into had Honda kept it around all these years. Like its predecessor, it's not fast but it is fun to drive and, with a hybrid heart and sport-compact footwork, this new entry brings something different to the table.
Although space is limited to two people and it's not as powerful as other competitors, the CR-Z's main draw is its ability to achieve hybrid-car fuel efficiency while delivering sporty driving dynamics.
If you want something that can offer a more thrilling ride for spirited weekend drives, then a Mazda MX-5 or Mini Cooper might be a better fit. Also, there are bigger, more practical hybrids that deliver better fuel economy than the CR-Z.
The 2011 Honda CR-Z is the only two-seat hybrid in the market today and the only hybrid available with a six-speed manual transmission. And while there isn't a specific class for sporty hybrids, the CR-Z loosely competes with a diverse group of cars that ranges from the sporty Mini Cooper to the mileage-maxing Toyota Prius.
Driving Impressions While it might not exude sports car like prowess in the acceleration or top speed departments, the Honda CR-Z does feel spritely for the daily drive and...can get to highway speeds without any hesitation. Those willing to forgive the tame performance will appreciate the car's exceptional handling and responsive brakes, characteristics not perhaps expected in a hybrid vehicle. Three different driving modes – efficiency-friendly Econ mode, balanced Normal mode and responsive Sport mode – allow for a custom driving experience. Accelerator-pedal response is dampened and the steering feel is lighter in Econ mode, while Sport mode makes the steering feel tighter and acceleration quicker for a "sportier" experience.
The CR-Z's design is futuristic and aggressive and we can only hope that it's a glimpse into what Honda has in store for products to come.
Six-speed Manual Transmission
Although it comes with a fuel mileage penalty, we liked the crisp shifts and close ratios of the standard six-speed transmission.
At first glance, the Honda CR-Z's interior looks like the control center for a spaceship. Upon closer inspection, the buttons and gauges are very intuitive and driver-friendly. The climate controls are easy to read and within close reach, and the gauges on the instrument panel are laid out in a futuristic manner, with a tachometer/speedometer unit with a three-dimensional effect. Soft-touch plastics are found throughout and seating is in mesh form only; there's no option for leather. Also, the interior is available only in a two-toned black and gray configuration.Exterior
Call it a "two-door Insight" or a "next-gen CRX," but, whatever crafty name anyone might come up with for the CR-Z, it's safe to say that it's definitely different. The CR-Z was designed with a "one-motion wedge" concept in mind, which means that the aerodynamic flow of the body lines extends seamlessly from the front of the car to the back, bookended by a trapezoidal grille up front and half-glass hatch in the rear.
The 2011 Honda CR-Z has a standard 122-horsepower, 1.5-liter gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain and a six-speed manual transmission. As for interior amenities, the base CR-Z is pleasantly well equipped with convenient features, including a 160-watt, six-speaker audio system with auxiliary and USB inputs, steering wheel-mounted controls, automatic climate control, automatic headlights and remote keyless entry. Safety features include six airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA).
In addition to an available Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters, the Honda CR-Z also offers a higher EX trim level which adds an upgraded 360-watt sound system with seven speakers, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth, HID headlights, foot-well lights, alloy pedals, heated power mirrors and illuminated vanity mirrors. A navigation system is optionally available.
The gasoline/electric powertrain comprises a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine mated to a 10-kilowatt motor, combining to deliver 122 horsepower. This combination is the sixth iteration of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology since its debut in the original Honda Insight for the 2000 model year. While 122 horsepower might not sound like much, the broad torque band makes freeway passing and darting through intersections easy. One feature we did not care for was the auto-stop feature, which is a fuel saving measure that turns off the engine at a complete stop, but also causes a slightly annoying hesitation upon restarting.
1.5-liter gasoline engine with Integrated Motor Assist
122 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
123 (CVT), 128 (manual) lb.-ft. of torque @ 1000-2000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/37 (manual), 35/39 (CVT)
By ArnaldoFLL on Sunday, August 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Is like a Future Car"
Cons: "Not as fast as the competition!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Love my car, the only thing is the lack over extra power when is in Sport Mode. Fast, but not fast enough for the Sporty Car it is."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Ridgevilleguy on Sunday, August 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 650overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Mileage, fun to drive, modern style."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great gas mileage getting 39.9 all city driving. Handles like it's on rails. Gets a lot of attention everywhere I go. Doesn't come with a spare tire, but Honda online store sells a spare tire kit."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By rj on Saturday, July 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "I don't know how Honda sell's it for so little."
Cons: "Only issue is the blind back quarter panels"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"It has options you don't expect to find on a car of this price and the gas mileage is really excellent. I average 32 MPG in the city and hit 40+ on the road doing the speed limit. Honda should of provided a model with a turbo because this car really handles."
15 people out of 27 found this review helpful
By Ed on Thursday, July 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent driving car"
Cons: "blind spots"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Great driving car, excellent mileage, 37mpg+. Limitation is that it does not have jump seats in back for those all too frequent times when you have to give a ride to a third person. The car needs an aftemarket back up camera because there are significant blind spots."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Stella on Tuesday, June 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,300overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "economical...you cannot beat the gas mileage"
Cons: "seats aren't exceptionally cuishiony"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love this economical car that took me from Maine to NYC and back again for only $45 in gas! IT's fast, efficient, fun to drive. Huge cargo area, enough to hold a bathroom sink & cabinet (tried & proved). Excellent sound system & MP3, iphone or GPS compatibility. This is an excellent car for those who commute daily, travel or just like cruising."
9 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By thaduke2003 on Wednesday, June 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, economy, rarity"
Cons: "Practicality, price, no sunroof :("
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This car is a bit of a stumper. I've owned around twenty cars over my driving career, and this is certainly up there for my favorites. As every review you'll likely read will mention (and your sales person surely ought to), this is positioned as a sports hybrid. Okay... Step one: buy the 6-speed manual. Buying the CVT means you don't care about sporty. At that point, you're throwing away one of the best features of this car, and a great deal of its raison d'etre (sorry for lack of accents...)- a wonderful, Honest-to-God Honda manual transmission. They really are some of the best in the business. Skip the CVT, or go buy a Prius, Insight, etc. They're much more efficient, plus can seat 3-5 people! The shifter could use a bit more weight to be excellent, but it still is superb. The clutch, too, could use a bit more firmness (a heavy-duty pressure plate would be a nice upgrade down the road), but otherwise, this is an excellent combination for anything but a racetrack. Step two: Forget much of the sport. This car has a combined rating of 130 BHP. This is a momentum car- if you're used to passing at will (as I was, coming out of an upgraded '13 Focus ST, with a 300 WHP '11 WRX before that), forget it. Planning is a must. However, if you maintain momentum, particularly in hilly terrain, this car comes alive (again, 6-speed!). One thing I must say is that after letting the engine break in for the first 1,000 miles (no heavy abuse, nothing north of 4,000 RPM, etc. [NOTE: Honda does NOT recommend or require a break-in period. It is not even mentioned in the owner's manual at all! This is entirely a self-imposed regimen to ensure maximum reliability]), between 1,200 miles and now, the engine feels noticeably more lively. As engines break in, they often gain a bit of power and efficiency, albeit only a small amount. On the other side of sport is braking and handling. On both of these, the CR-Z lets you down. The brake pads are decidedly not aggressive enough, leaving you wanting more even in moderate driving. They always get the job done, but only just. The suspension suffers from being largely carried over from the Fit Sport (the CR-Z can truly be considered the Fit Coupe Hybrid, as many parts are carried over unchanged), which is at least 100 pounds lighter. This means that the damping and spring rates are soft in the CR-Z, leaving a bit too much body roll, but without the benefit of a softer ride. Better shocks/struts are a must-do if you want to really get the most out of this car on a backroad or track! Step three: Forget ultra-efficiency. Let's face the elephant in the room- the CR-Z gets decidedly unimpressive fuel economy numbers. A 1.0L, 3-cylinder Fiesta will handily beat the CR-Z's fuel economy, practicality, and many other traits, while saving ~$6K+. Driving the car aggressively, but with an extremely smooth foot, I'm averaging 40.8 MPG on country roads (I actually went up 0.2 MPG switching to Sport mode full-time, likely due to my very attentive and aggressive driving style. While certainly not a hyper-miler, I have a tendency to get great fuel economy, likely due to preserving momentum). My last tank included a fair bit of A/C use due to heavy rains here in NY, and only dropped that number to 40.7, but of course, your mileage WILL vary. All this on NY 87 octane with ~10% ethanol, so higher numbers are certainly possible in those states fortunate enough to not have corn in their fuel. Also, the engine is still breaking in (I only have ~1,800 miles on it so far), so this should improve a bit. Step four: Forget practicality. Despite being a hatchback, the CR-Z is still (gasp!) a three door. The rear "seats" (they are actually usable and belted in other markets, but not in the U.S.) offer a bit of usable space, and if the divider is folder, they are covered, making for some hiding space for some goodies. The hatch area is deep, but putting taller objects in there will hurt what little rearward visibility this car has. Thankfully, a rearview camera is now standard on the CR-Z (it wasn't in '11-12), which helps. However, rear quarter visibility is still pretty poor (Holy blind spots, Batman!), so be careful when changing lanes in traffic! Step five: remember, it's a Honda! There's a reason that I love this car. It's quirky, but in a good way. For all its flaws and drawbacks, it's still an excellent car. It's a Honda, so I expect it to remain that way for a long time. Driven well, it's easy to keep speed up, even in hills, and it's rather tossable, despite very underwhelming tires (they're great on the Fit Sport, but less-than-stellar on the CR-Z. Extra weight, again?), and surprisingly good fun. The interior fit and finish is excellent, and the instrument cluster is very cool while being very easy to read. The lighting scheme is neat, and effective (although, as I said, I just leave mine in Sport mode now)- in Normal or Eco modes (stay out of Eco- it's a waste of time), the ring around the speedometer changes colors between green and blue, depending on the efficiency of your driving style. The shift indicator arrows mercifully disappear in sport mode (a constant annoyance in the Focus- they would appear mid-corner and distract the driver's eyes from the road- unacceptable in a sports-oriented car!), but are much more reasonable and unobtrusive than in many other cars. The seats are very comfortable. My one gripe is that the rear-"seat" access tab is on the driver's seat (???) instead of the passenger side, which seems like an omission in the transition from right-hand drive to left-hand. A minor gripe, but if you need to access the back regularly, it's a bit annoying. Also, the latch for the hatch area hangs low, so taller users (I'm 6'0") WILL hit their heads on it with some regularity. You've been warned... I happen to have the EX with navigation (and 6-speed, of course!), so a few notes on that: The navigation system is surprisingly good. Having dealt with many other brands' navigation systems, this is up there as one of the best (top two are this and those in the new Kia vehicles, believe it or not!). The load time is excellent, even in VERY rural areas, like where I live. The voice recognition does fine with my voice, despite a bit of an Irish brogue. The introductory speech that the system gives after pressing the voice command button is infuriating, however, as it takes several seconds (5+), meaning I usually end up using my fingers instead, negating any benefit. The touchscreen is very responsive, although the graphics/color schemes available are not very engaging, nor do they match the IP's colors very well. The HID low beams are nice, but the high beams and fog lights could use a bit more wattage, but this is an easy upgrade if you deem it necessary (aftermarket HID and LED kits are available). The OE sound system is very good, although the equalizer control for bass does not seem to do much in terms of subwoofer output. Sound quality is pretty darn good for a stock system. One last thing I have noticed is that the S+ "push-to-pass" button does not seem to do anything. There is zero discernible power/torque increase. I really think that it does not do anything. Oh well... Anyway, I love the car. It's a great, quirky car for this quirky man. If you like it on the test drive, and the payments work for you, and you can deal with the quirks and oddities, buy it! You won't regret it."
10 people out of 10 found this review helpful