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Driven: 2011 Honda CR-Z Page 2

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2011 Honda CR-Z

The CR-Z has been panned as well for its handling, and perhaps rightly so. Its racy looks promise a little something more, and while it feels sprightly, and somewhat sporty, there are plenty of reminders that the CR-Z isn't the kind of car you'd want to take autocrossing. It feels confident, but its center of mass feels higher than you'd expect (perhaps due to the batteries), with more roll and reluctance to shift its weight around than other small front-drive coupes. Go into a corner -really- hard, and the CR-Z's front end turns mushy, succumbing to understeer. And dump the clutch in first a little too aggressively and get a chirp from one of the front wheels, and the CR-Z's over-active stability control system will cut the power almost completely for an agonizingly long second or so.

The CR-Z's powertrain is much the same as in the Honda Insight (and close to that of the Honda Civic Hybrid). A 1.5-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine is supported by Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) mild-hybrid system, together making 122 hp and, Honda says, producing a torque curve equivalent to a non-hybrid, 2.0-liter four.

Three modes, three personalities

At the far left of the instrument panel are three buttons: Sport, Normal, and Economy. Each of these modes alters the way the electric power steering feels, along with throttle response. And the difference between any of the modes is something you can feel almost right away—especially going from Normal to Sport, where the steering gets a firmer feel and throttle response is very aggressive, with the IMA programmed to churn out a quick burst of torque at tip-in. Taking off from a standing start also feels quite a bit different in Sport because of the touchy throttle.

The CR-Z's character completely changes in Sport mode. The firmer yet quicker steering calibration makes the CR-Z feel not only more nimble at low speeds but more settled, with better straight-ahead tracking, at highway speeds. Switch back to Normal or Econ, and the lighter steering feel can be an annoyance on the highway, even with mild tramlines or choppy surfaces, as we kept overadjusting back and forth. If this editor could have his way, he'd combine the less aggressive Econ or Normal throttle settings with the firmer steering feel of Sport mode.

With the manual gearbox, the CR-Z is a little fussy about when the engine will shut off; once it's warm, and if the battery is in a full enough state of charge (and, likely, if you don't have too many accessories on), and the shifter is in neutral or one of the higher gears, the engine will turn itself off and automatically restart when you snick the shifter into first.


 
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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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