Honda CR-Z review
The Honda CR-Z is the world's first hybrid sports car, and it combines futuristic looks with fun handling
The Honda CR-Z is billed as the world's first hybrid sports car, and also the first car of its type to come equipped with a petrol-electric drivetrain that uses a manual gearbox. Despite the swept-back coupe styling, the CR-Z is front-wheel drive only, and there's just one engine option. The 1.5-litre petrol is assisted by a lithium-ion battery pack and 19bhp electric motor. Models produced before the end of 2012 have less power and use a less sophisticated nickel metal-hydride battery pack instead of the lithium-ion cells in the current model. The CR-Z's two-door coupe styling sacrifices interior space, though, and it's strictly a two-seater.
Our choice: CR-Z 1.5 i-VTEC Sport 3dr
Despite looking very futuristic, the Honda CR-Z actually took its design inspiration from the iconic eighties CR-X coupe. Featuring LED running lights on the front bumper and a sloping glass roof, it will definitely get you noticed. Each trim level - S, Sport and GT - looks identical apart from larger alloy wheels on the top trims. A facelift at the end of 2012 added some subtle styling updates including a new bumper and colours but you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference. Inside, Sport trim adds alloy pedals and rear parking sensors, while the GT comes with sat-nav and plush leather upholstery. The centre console is angled towards the driver, and the dials light up with different colours depending on which driving mode you're in. However the plastics and switchgear are all borrowed from the Honda Insight hybrid and look and feel low-rent compared with rivals like the VW Scirocco.
The 1.5-litre VTEC engine under the bonnet produces 119bhp (111bhp for pre-facelift cars) which, combined with the 19bhp (14bhp pre-facelift) and extra torque from the electric motor, helps propel the CR-Z from 0-62mph in 9.0 (9.7 seconds pre-facelift) and on to a top speed of 124mph. Those aren't figures to set the world alight, but the low-slung suspension and accurate steering make for entertaining handling. There are three driving modes - Eco, Sport and Normal - with sport offering sharper steering and improved throttle response. The low-set driving position feels sporty, and the quick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox adds to the driver appeal. However the ride over broken surfaces is quite firm and combined with poor motorway refinement makes the CR-Z a poor cruiser. You can also feel the weight of the battery pack moving the car around and causing body roll if you start to drive it like a truly sporty coupe.
Despite its complicated drivetrain, the CR-Z is unlikely to encounter many mechanical issues. The battery technology is the same system used in the Honda Civic hybrid, which has had no major problems since its release. The company performed very well in the 2012 Driver Power survey, finishing an impressive 6th overall. Safety is equally impressive and the CR-Z scored the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, with a 93 per cent rating for adult occupant protection. Traction control, six airbags and emergency brake assist are all fitted as standard.
The combination of a very low sloping roofline and the set of batteries in the boot puts severe limits on the CR-Z's practicality. There's plenty of room for two adults up front, but the rear seats are incredibly cramped and are only really suitable for very small children. Most owners are likely to keep them folded down flat, which increases available boot space from a paltry 225 litres to a more usable 401 litres. The other irritation is the rear spoiler which cuts right across the rear screen and obscures the view out the back - creating big blindspots when joining a road.
This is where the Honda CR-Z impresses. Its headline figures of 56.5mpg and 116g/km might not beat the best diesels around - the sporty Volkswagen Scirocco included - but are still very competitive for a car of this type and level of performance, and mean fuel bills should be kept to a minimum. Expect fuel returns of nearly 48mpg in everyday driving and less if you avoid the motorway. The CR-Z comes equipped with stop-start as standard helping to save even more fuel and it qualifies for free road tax in the first year of ownership, too. However Honda are not the cheapest brand when it comes to servicing or long warranties.