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Driven: 2011 Honda CR-Z Page 3

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Ride quality in the CR-Z is firm but not punishing. Over a wide range of surfaces, we noticed that the CR-Z has remarkably little road noise, as well as very little wind noise at high speed, though the ride did become a little more pitchy and bouncy at highway speeds—a common issue with some of the shortest-wheelbase vehicles, like the CR-Z.

Among other letdowns include the same obstinate navigation system that's offered in the Civic and Insight. Additionally there was no satellite radio, and sound quality from the system wasn't all that great.

Pricing, fuel efficiency help forgive the tradeoffs

The CR-Z's price is redemptive, in some ways. The test car, an EX Navi model, cost just $23,310, including destination.

A number of reviewers have expressed disappointment with the CR-Z's fuel economy. A lot of these same people also vocally complained about its performance. To them, we wonder what gives? Over about five days and 130 miles of mixed around-town and suburban driving, most of it in Normal or Sport mode, we averaged more than 38 mpg. And that included a couple of full-throttle launches. That still seems pretty impressive—though it's still, for the lighter CR-Z, lower than the 45 mpg overall we saw in a similar few days of driving with the Insight last year.

So why does the manual gearbox return such lower mileage than the CVT? The obvious answer is that the six-speed manual has surprisingly low ratios that keep the engine revving well above its economical range unless you're willing to short-shift a bit.

Practically speaking, it's a small, sporty coupe that gets at least 25 percent better fuel economy than most non-hybrid, gasoline cars you'd compare it to. It's not perfection, but those who want to look sporty but be very frugal will be smiling.

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