Honda CR-Z: Third report

3 Oct, 2012 10:30am Owen Mildenhall

Our long-term Honda CR-Z falls short when it comes to the fun factor

Where’s the fun gone? Even as a kid, I always felt seaside amusements never fully delivered the entertainment their bright lights and razzmatazz promised.

After six months with the CR-Z, I have to say I’m beginning to feel the same way about our Honda. And I’m not the only one. Across the office, most of my colleagues seem to share the view that the driving experience doesn’t live up to the sporty looks.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the CR-Z excelled at other things. But it’s a small coupe, so practicality isn’t a strong point, while a firm ride and plenty of road noise mean it isn’t the best choice when it comes to comfort or refinement on long trips.

Worse still, in previous updates we’ve commented on the fact that, despite its clever hybrid technology, the CR-Z hasn’t even been particularly efficient. However, here at least, we’ve seen some improvement. In the previous update, the Honda was barely creeping above 40mpg, but helped by a couple of colleagues borrowing the CR-Z for holiday trips that involved plenty of time on the motorway, our average over the past 2,000 miles has improved to 49.3 mpg.

However, buying a coupe is a decision of the heart not the head, so the fact that the Honda simply isn’t that much fun to drive is, for me at least, a serious flaw.

As we’ve said before, the CR-Z turns in sharply, but aside from the pointy steering, there’s little sense of being in a sporty car. After the initial keenness to enter the corner, the weight of the rear-mounted hybrid batteries comes into play, making the Honda feel heavy and sluggish.

Switching to Sport mode doesn’t improve matters, either. While it sharpens the throttle response and adds weight to the steering, it actually makes the accelerator pedal over-sensitive. And you’d be hard-pushed to feel any performance gain from the extra boost of the electric motor.

The CR-Z never feels quick enough, so I’ve found myself driving in Eco mode most of the time and thinking of the Honda as a green machine rather than a sporty coupe. Drive it with this mindset and it’s a little easier to appreciate. Yet the CR-Z is a car of contradictions, because for nearly every plus point, I can think of a corresponding negative.

For instance, I love the fact that it’s so well engineered, but the handling just isn’t responsive enough. I’m a fan of the tactile multifunction wheel, and robustly built cabin, yet I’m frustrated by the over-complicated dash and disappointed by the mismatch of trim plastics.

I like the low-slung seating position, but my knees brush the dash. The six-speed gearbox’s snappy shift is fantastic, yet the jerky throttle action makes smooth progress tricky in town. The list goes on...

Even the looks leave me in two minds. From some angles I think the car is great, from others I think it seems bloated and heavy. I’m not a fan of the silver-effect grille and carbon trim of our car’s £1,550 Dynamic+ pack, either. Also, limited rear visibility will be more of an issue in winter, when the screen gets dirty.

Yet, for all of this, part of me really likes this well built and different coupe. It’s just that, like those childhood visits to the funfair, every experience is tinged with a slight sense of disappointment.

Our view

“For a car that’s supposed to be stuffed with gadgets the CR-Z feels dated inside. The radio is poor and there’s no USB port.”
Paul Bond, Road tester

Your view

“This car is utterly pointless. How about concentrating on delivering us a new Civic Type R instead?”
Oliverb144, via www.autoexpress.co.uk

Disqus - noscript

or get back an low milage good 2nd hand s2000 and dont worry about fuel consumption .Trust me.Its fun and hold its value.Hopefully honda will revise a new s2000.Such a gem.

I drive to work and back in bumper to bumper trafiic. "Fun" is a relative concept in my opinion.

Honestly, you don´t need a long term report to tell that this car is no fun. It was obvious already from the first spec that was released. My old 100hp/950kg CRX from 1985 was most likely a more fun drive. Yet, I do admit that Honda has nailed the design: it looks good. So the disappontment will only be bigger when you drive it.
Ditch that hybrid, put in normal four-pot from 1.5 to 2L and hey, success! But success is againt the company current policy....Can things in automotive industry get much more boring than this? Yes maybe when Porsche will launch a new 911 again.

After two years I still find mine fun. The steering is great and there's plenty of grip. True, there isn't really enough power to do the chassis justice, but you can ring its neck and really throw the thing at bends and it'll still return 38mpg.
I think where the CR-Z excels is that the electric motor makes it feel urgent and peppy in everyday town driving. If you push on, then the performance doesn't really live up that initial promise, but how often do you really get to push on these days? Between traffic, roadworks and speed cameras it's not very often, for me at least. If I'd bought a more performance orientated car and was paying for its upkeep, I think I'd find all that wasted potential and money very frustrating.
The CR-Z is not perfect. I share the writer's feelings about the road noise and firm secondary ride, and the back seats are only big enough for small children. I'm planning to swap mine at the three year mark and get a Golf 1.4 TSi for the extra room and refinement.
People seriously considering the CR-Z should probably check out one of the owners' forums, rather than listen to random commenters who've never even driven the car. Nearly all of the owners are very happy with their cars and never expected them to have Type-R performance for Prius fuel economy. Taken on its own merits, it's a good looking car that's pleasant to drive, well built and cheap to run.

”I'm frustrated by the overly complicated dash”

What sort of moronic imbecile is this guy? The odometer is in the middle, driving modes/mirror controls are to the right, climate control is on the left and media controls are grouped left again, how much more simple do you need it? And at the bottom of the article you state there is no USB port, well this just sums you people up doesn't it, the USB port is in the storage compartment just beneath the media console. What sort of hapless person writes an article without checking that you're ”facts” are even correct? Totally and utterly worthless review.

Key specs

  • On fleet since: March 2012
  • Price new: £18,735
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 122bhp
  • CO2/Tax: 117g/km/£30
  • Options: Leather £1,250, 17-inch alloys £1,350, Glow pack £775, Dynamic+ pack £1,550.
  • Insurance group/quote: 17/£542
  • Mileage/mpg: 5,624/49.3mpg
  • Costs: None so far
  • Any problems?: Loose wiper blade
Issue 1346
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