HONDA has plugged some welcome fire into hybrid cars with the launch last week of its CR-Z, a sexy coupe described as “a fusion of sport and ecology”.
Clearly influenced by the delightful and fiery CR-X of yesteryear, the CR-Z is a stunner – and not only in looks.
It has lots of technical innovation, a choice of three driving styles, five-star safety, great economy and, with Honda’s ‘blue skies for our children’ commitment, it won’t harm the planet.
An aggressive snoot, daytime running lights, a low raked roofline and a jaunty tail make it turn heads, everywhere.
The 1.5litre petrol engine and an electric motor combine to put out 91kW and 174Nm – the most powerful in its class – and it can take the 1160kg coupe to 100km/h in 9.7 seconds.
The Sport model has a six-speed manual transmission and the Luxury a CVT with paddle-shift, which turns it into a close-ratio seven-speed sequential shifter.
The CVT loses 7Nm of torque, but it’s a cleaner, more economical trannie and lets the car emit 111g of CO2/km, (118g in the manual) and uses an average 4.7 litres/100km (5.3 man).
Piano switches on the dash let the driver choose between Sport, Normal and Economy modes.
The car is one of the smoothest around. Its wind-cheating lines, which include under-body panels, give it a drag co-efficient of just 3.0.
Classified as a two-plus-two, the CR-Z really is a two-seater.
The back seats would be fine for a brace of dachshunds... and they would have to be lying side-by-side.
It has a fair-sized cargo area which can be expanded to 401litres by dropping the back seat via Honda’s one-touch system, which then gives it a long, level load area, capable of holding two large golf bags. Or a lot of shopping.
The big back window, parking sensors on the Sport or reverse cam on the Luxury, and a clear panel below the back window, make parking of the compact car easy as pie.
The dash has a urethane top panel and an excellent data display for the driver.
It has a multi-hued 3D centre dial with the rev counter on the perimeter and a digital speedo in the centre, a trio of piano switches on either side; left for the ventilation, right for driving mode, with ribbon gauges for state of battery, power use and economy – and they vary, depending on the mode selected.
There’s also stop-start technology: the engine cuts out when you’re waiting at the lights and fires up the instant it’s needed again. Saves a fair few litres.
Standard fare includes a six-speaker audio system with CD player, MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth and USB connectivity with steering-wheel controls.
The wheel has tilt and telescopic adjustment.
There’s climate and cruise control and the seating is in a pair of terrific deep-bolstered body huggers.
The pedals are nicely placed for heel-and-toeing on the manual and left-foot braking on the CVT. But missing from the action is a grab handle for the co-driver, er, passenger.
Special polished stainless-steel-like treatment of the interior door handles and a strip on the dash adds to the car’s class.
The Luxury model gets SatNav, a panoramic roof and heated leather- trimmed front seats.
The CR-Z drives like a sports car should.
It’s built on a rigid frame and the MacStrut front and torsion bar rear suspension, wide track, electric steering and 16-inch alloys give it a firm ride and good, flat handling.
We squirted a CRV-equipped model along some of Victoria’s twistiest roads at a fair clip, had a ball, and at the end of the day the computer told us we’d planted two-and-a-half trees (smooth driving makes little trees and an economy score appear on the dash).
The CR-Z Sport is $34,990 in manual, $37,290 with CVT.
The CVT-only Luxury is $40,790.
We think the CR-Z will become something of a fashion statement among women at the way, or already at the top of their game, and a badge of achievement for men of all ages.
The CR-Z went on sale on December 1.