By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.0
The 2016 Honda CR-Z is edgy sports coupe meeting green commuter; rock ‘n roll played on a lute. With zoomy and zowie looks, a neat interior, sporty handling, decent fuel economy and an environmentally friendly hybrid powertrain, it’s a hyper-drive answer to the old question of moving two people in an efficient and fun manner. Somewhat in the tradition of the Honda CRX 2-seater, the CR-Z offers a modern take with a hybrid powertrain, the latest in safety and infotainment features and sci-fi movie styling. As with the fondly remembered CRX, the CR-Z is only for two, but has ample room for those two and generous cargo space under the hatch. Economical commuter car? Yep. Boring? Nope.
Clearly, the CR-Z is not for everyone. But if you’re a forward thinker on several levels, care for the environment, won’t do without some zing in the drive and don’t mind letting people know your tastes can run to edgy, this could be the car for you.
The CR-Z’s exterior will not let you hide, it carries only two people, and the fuel economy is good but not magnificent. If these areas are of concern to you, explore some alternatives.
KBB Expert Ratings
The CR-Z has lots of changes for 2016: new styling, inside and out, an EX-L Navi model with navigation and leather standard, new center console, new features, including a 7-inch Display Audio; smart entry, push-button start/stop, electric parking brake and Honda LaneWatch. Accessories and options include heated leather seats.
The 2016 CR-Z might send a bit of a mixed message. Its zowie-zoomy styling hints at handling and road prowess out of a "Transformers" movie, but it’s not quite that....
... Still, it’s no slouch, either. Helping move things along, its hybrid powertrain and electric-assist motor can deliver a big jolt of low-end torque that can have the CR-Z jumping through traffic or easily ripping to freeway-merge speed. Suspension tuning is aimed more at a commuter afternoon than a track day, but it offers a good blend of everyday comfort with predictable, precise and more than merely capable handling response. The 3-mode system gives the driver choices of a more efficient Econ setting, Normal or a Sport selection that increases throttle response and steering effort. The available CVT automatic is seamlessly smooth, but our choice is Honda’s precise and rewarding 6-speed manual.
PLUS SPORT SYSTEM
The Honda CR-Z hybrid features a nifty Plus Sport button. Push it and the CR-Z gets a quick burst of power to assist when overtaking slower traffic or darting across intersections.
6-SPEED MANUAL TRANSMISSION
The CR-Z’s 6-speed manual transmission is a novelty in this field. And while it may penalize you a few mpg, the fun it delivers is worth its weight in gold.
The 2016 Honda CR-Z is as edgy inside as outside. In front of the driver and near at hand is a pod of knobs and buttons, with major operation functions within easy reach. Just to the right of center is the 7-inch Display Audio, now standard on all trim levels, which allows control of the audio system and other features just like on a tablet or smartphone. The seats are comfortable and the bolstering helps hold occupants in place, and new this year is an EX-L Navi model with heated leather seats and navigation.
Nothing else on the road looks like the CR-Z. Honda has certainly offered little 2-seater coupes – the CRX, the Insight – but nothing like this. The exterior is new for 2016, with an unmistakably chiseled snout, a big black grille opening and convoluted spoiler leading to a rising wedge that ends in a nearly-flat hatch (the rear wiper is far more horizontal than vertical) and big taillights that no one will miss. The multitude of details of its shape show up much more clearly in red or blue, but in black it looks sinister enough for a sci-fi movie.
Standard equipment on the 2016 CR-Z LX base model includes a 160-watt, 6-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, 7-inch Display Audio with customizable feature settings, speed-sensitive volume control, automatic climate control, push-button start, tilt-and-telescopic steering column, steering-wheel-mounted controls, reverse-linked rear wiper/washer and rearview camera. Also on board are all the expected and government-mandated driving aids and safety items, including stability control, anti-lock brakes, the usual full complement of airbags and other occupant-protection features, and active head restraints.
With the 2016 CR-Z the optional features are grouped into the two upper trim levels, the EX and EX-L Navi. To the base LX the EX adds LED daytime running lights, Honda LaneWatch, high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights, fog lights, heated mirrors, illuminated window switches, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum pedals, console lighting, and a 360-watt, 7-speaker Premium audio. The EX-L Navi adds leather-trimmed and heated front seats, navigation and HD Radio; this would be our recommendation, with the 6-speed manual transmission.
The gasoline/electric powertrain for the 2016 Honda CR-Z has a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine mated to a 15-kilowatt motor, combining to deliver 130 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 130 horsepower might not sound like much, the broad torque curve makes freeway passing and darting through intersections a breeze. One thing we do not care for is the auto-stop feature, a fuel-saving measure that shuts off the engine when the vehicle is at a complete stop and often causes annoying judder upon restarting. And, if you don’t like a manual transmission, optionally available is a continuously variable automatic (CVT), which delivers slightly better fuel economy.
1.5-liter gasoline engine + Integrated Motor Assist (hybrid)
130 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
140 lb-ft of torque @ 1,000-2,000 rpm (manual); 127 lb-ft of torque @ 1,000-3,000 rpm (CVT)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/38 mpg (manual), 36/39 mpg (CVT)
The 2016 Honda CR-Z has a starting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $21,000. A fully loaded CR-Z EX-L Navi with CVT will be around $26,000. Our recommendation would be the EX-L (for the leather) and a manual gearbox (we like to shift gears), which would be around $25,000. The majority of 5-door compact cars begin in the $17,000 range, while a comparably equipped Mini Cooper shares a similar starting price with the base CR-Z. To see what others in your area are paying for the 2016 Honda CR-Z, check KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price. Down the road, we expect the resale value for the 2016 CR-Z to hold its own against most competitors, including the Hyundai Veloster, Mini Cooper and Toyota Prius C.