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The 2013 Honda CR-Z is the sole two-seat hybrid hatchback coupe on the market. That seems to be a very small niche, one that may not find all that many buyers. Now in its third year, the CR-Z indeed hasn't lived up to the expectations raised by its launch.
The hope was that the CR-Z would combine the quick, agile handling of the classic CRX sports coupe with the extreme fuel efficiency of the first Insight hybrid, also a two-seat hatchback. Modern safety and feature requirements being what they are, the CR-Z did neither. It weighs 2,600 pounds--the CRX was 700 pounds lighter--and gets notably lower fuel economy ratings than the original (and slower) Insight.
Perhaps if Honda had called the car something different--Insight Coupe? Insight Sport?--there wouldn't have been quite so many expectations.
So the Honda CR-Z has ended up a subcompact, two-seat hatchback coupe that's zippy enough, but hardly the rollerskate that the CRX was 20 years ago. It delivers decent but not stellar gas mileage, at a combined 37 mpg (36 mpg city, 39 mpg highway) if you order it with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). You can also specify a six-speed manual gearbox, very rare for a hybrid, that makes it sportier to drive but knocks down the mileage to 34 mpg combined (31 mpg city, 38 mpg highway).
Under the skin, the 2013 CR-Z uses much of the same running gear as the Honda Insight, a hybrid subcompact hatchback. That car, launched in 2010, was updated two years later. The CR-Z, launched the next year, follows with its own updates for 2013, which include mild styling updates, interior upgrades, a more powerful electric motor, and a boost function for a burst of extra electric power. The powertrain upgrades come courtesy of a new lithium-ion battery pack, replacing the previous nickel-metal-hydride pack.
The 2013 Honda CR-Z remains a good-looking car from most angles, and it's comfortable for two people to travel in--assuming they're willing to pack light, since luggage space is hardly abundant. With a base price under $21,000 (including delivery) for the manual version, it competes with the MINI Cooper (especially the new two-seat MINI Cooper Coupe), and perhaps the new Volkswagen Beetle, along with the Scion tC. Top-of-the-line models reach about $25,000.
But buyers really have to want a two-seat car to buy the Insight. For that same money--or less--the new Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta subcompacts seat twice as many people, hold more cargo, and are just as much fun to toss around. Both are good cars, and deliver close to the same highway gas mileage. And the 2013 Chevy Sonic RS adds a dash of hot hatch, too. Or if you want to maximize fuel economy, there are now four separate Prius hybrid models that do better than Honda's hybrid hatchback coupe. Which seems to leave the CR-Z in a very small niche indeed.
- Best gas mileage of any coupe
- Six-speed gearbox makes 'hybrid' sporty
- New boost mode for 2013 adds pep
- Excellent instrument-panel graphics
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- Entire Prius range still gets better MPG
- Rough-road ride can be jarring
- CVT subtracts driving fun
- Carries two people, but little luggage