It’s not really a sports car, but a high-style two-passenger hatchback that’s easy on fuel and has an easy-on-the-wallet purchase price.
A 130-horsepower hybrid powertrain means the CR-Z is no threat to the 201-horsepower Honda Civic Si; a six-speed manual transmission helps eke out maximum performance but an optional CVT helps deliver the best fuel-consumption numbers.
The CR-Z is Honda’s niche model that was designed to evoke memories of the long-gone CRX two-seat hatch from the early 1980s to the early ’90s. And like the CRX, the CR-Z seats only two passengers. Lifting the mostly glass rear hatch reveals an abundance of cargo room as well as a hidden console directly behind the passenger seat for storing valuables. Since it borrows from the four-door Insight hybrid’s architecture, the wide cabin has plenty of elbowroom, which is something the skinny CRX (and original two-seat Insight, for that matter) lacked. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine combines with a helper electric motor/generator to produce a net 130 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. Electric power is supplied by a lithium-ion battery pack. Transmission picks consist of a six-speed manual or optional continuously variable (CVT) automatic with paddle shifters. The six-speed isn’t as fuel-efficient as the CVT (31/38 mpg city/highway versus 36/39 for the CVT), but the manual makes the CR-Z way more fun to drive. Hill Start Assist — that briefly holds the car while you move your foot to the accelerator pedal from the brake — eliminates the stress of rolling backward when launching the car on an incline. Both transmissions provide the driver with a selection of operating modes: Normal for everyday city/highway activities; Sport, which provides noticeably more zip and steering effort; and ECON for maximizing fuel economy. Selecting Normal or ECON activates either a blue- or green-colored ring inside the tachometer/rev gauge to indicate your driving style. The more green displayed, the better your conservation efforts. Well-equipped base models feature climate control, rear-view camera plus the usual power-operated controls, while the EX trim adds a premium audio system, Bluetooth wireless networking, high-intensity-discharge headlights, fog lights, heated seats and metal trim and pedals.
Base price (incl. destination): $20,800
Type: Two-door hatchback
Engine (hp): 1.5-liter SOHC I4, with electric motor (130, net)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 36/39 (CVT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,640