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Driven: 2011 Honda CR-Z

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2011 Honda CR-Z

Take a look at the rumblings from critics and pundits, and it's apparent that Honda has been burned a bit by expectations with its new CR-Z coupe. Old-school CRX fans don't think the CR-Z is sporty enough and say it's missing the old CRX's light, nimble, autocross-ready feel, while green geeks judge the EPA fuel economy numbers—as low as 31 mpg, 37 highway—unacceptable.

Throughout a week with the new CR-Z, I found myself more happy with the obvious compromises than upset about them. The CR-Z crosses a performance look—if not the performance itself—with a sort of “comfortable frugality.” Admittedly, forewarned by colleagues, I didn't expect the CR-Z to be a pavement-scorching machine, rather not much different than the Insight.

The trump card that makes the CR-Z feel a bit sportier even though it's not much different than the Insight: the six-speed manual gearbox. While a CVT is also available—and it brings better fuel economy—the shifter's neat, precise linkage and light clutch remind us of what we loved about simpler, sporty Hondas.

The CR-Z's other strength is that it looks great—especially from the back. It's a profile that most will instantly recognize as a Honda, and though the nose seems bigger and longer than it should be (perhaps the product of safety regulations), the rakish look works especially well from the back. In a week with the CR-Z, we found plenty of nods and thumbs-up, and people seemed to really like the look. On the inside, the CR-Z's instrument panel is quite a bit like that of the Insight, but that's not a bad thing.

A two-seater, with plenty of space for stuff

It's an interesting package. Even from a few paces back, the CR-Z looks like it's a four-passenger vehicle, with a small backseat, but that's not the case—at least in the U.S. market. What we get instead is a makeshift cargo tray that doesn't make the best use of the space but is good enough for a couple of small backpacks. Honda could make much better use of this with a cargo organizer or something more compartmented. Behind that (and over a small divider wall) is a modest cargo compartment; because of where the batteries are (just below), the cargo floor isn't as low as you might expect, but it's flat—and the two cargo spaces, combined, hold a lot of stuff. Turn around, and the CR-Z has a handy lower window to allow a clearer view behind—much like the old CRX, as well as the old and new Insight.

We didn't find the CR-Z's seats to be very comfortable; they looked like they might be more supportive for enthusiastic driving, but they felt flat and lacked lateral support as well as lower back support, though we liked the meshy, breathable fabric. There's lots of legroom and enough headroom; visibility is decent, too, though as you'd expect sightlines are a little obscured when looking to the side for lane changes.


 
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Comments (10)
  1. Wow, that's an enormous front overhang. I can only imagine the curbs, ramps and other items that you would hit with this car. Expect to see a lot of banged up front air dams. An overall cute car but perhaps wedged onto the wrong platform.
     
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  2. Great looking ride. I had one back in 1984. It was the Motor Trend Import car of the year then.
     
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  3. I'm a fan of Honda but this vehicle makes me feel very mixed. It seems underpowered to be a sports car and doesn't get amazing gas mileage as a hybrid....so...yea
     
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  4. CR-Z is a very cool looking car. I am impressed with the amount of room it has.
     
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  5. A CRX Si back in the day would get the same mileage as this but was by all accounts more fun. Would love to hear from engineers why they can't make that car today and make it safe.
     
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  6. This car looks great. I will definitely give a test drive.
     
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  7. @George: The CR-X had one airbag, was 800 lbs lighter, and wouldn't pass today's emissions or safety tests by a very long shot. Try driving one today and it'll feel like a go-kart!
    And, frankly, I think it's idiotic for people to bitch about fuel economy in the CR-Z. Anything that's 35 mpg or above is superior to 95% of the cars on the road, and this has gotta be more fun to drive than a Prius. Versus other two-seaters (Miata, Corvette, exotics) it's by far the best gas mileage of all. So what's the PROBLEM?
     
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  8. Totally agree with Honda Fan, this car lacks decent power and has mileage that is worst than some regular four-cylinders. Honda is so clueless these days.
     
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  9. I'll pass. I have owned 4 Hondas over my lifetime. I bet the Hyundai
    Veloster is going to be closer to the CRX than this thing. Goodbye, Honda.
     
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  10. The car has a six speed and that's the only redeeming feature of this car as its much too underpowered and slow to be sporty and on top of that the car is ugly (especially from the profile as it looks out of proportion and bloated). The Honda completely blew it as it needs to be restyled and Honda's outdated poor performing IMA system does nothing to enhance the value of this sad effort by Honda. By all indications the Veloster will be everything that the CR-Z should have been.
     
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