|CR-Z: An Impressive Iconic Update
Editorial by: Daniel Ponzini // Photos Courtesy of Honda Canada
|Sure, the new 2011 Honda CR-Z does share significant reincarnated styling cues with the yester-years CRX like its shallow raked roof line, two-passenger seating, split glass rear hatch and triangular taillights. However, that is where the similarities seem to end, which is a good thing for people in the current world, but unfortunately for people stuck in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they will feel a sorrowful heartache to what has happened to the light weight, nimble CRX.|
A lot has changed with the type of cars consumers purchase over the last 20 years since the CRX was last produced. Consumers went through phases of fads of excessively large SUVs, to the gas prices rocketing causing them to size down their mobile home utility vehicles and look for something more practical and fuel efficient. But, consumers are still always on the hunt for something that will keep them engaged while behind the wheel, fun to drive and hip enough to be seen cruising around in. Well, the CR-Z fits all of those categories with points to spare.
Similar to how car ownership has changed over the last 20 years, so has Honda as a brand. From a company that used to produce amazingly fuel economic, lightweight, peppy, fun cars to drive they hit a weak point about 10 years into the 20 year gap. The feel of the cars in the early 2000s were just not the same for the most part. Sure there were legends crafted by the manufacturer like the S2000, NSX and Integra Type R, but what about small affordable cars with just as much character? The Si model seemed to just be a badge for the most part until the SiR hatch debuted, and even still, it was nothing special in comparison to a 1999/2000 Civic SiR due to its heavy suspension alterations and weaker engine compared to the RSX Type-S. But, back in ’06 Honda gave light to its performance and fun character that people fell in love with again. With a new fleet of Civic’s rolling around came a new Si, one that justified itself to wear the Si nameplate with pride. This is where Honda gets yet again more points for the CR-Z for building a car that hones its fun-to-drive roots, and manages to put an economically green spin on it with all the improved safety features, creature comforts and other electronic pizzazz that we drivers have come to expect over the last 20 years.
The CR-Z shares the 2-seat trait taken directly from its 1980s and 90s counterpart the CRX.
The CRX was always designed as an economic sport hatchback; even the Si model boasted a 1.6L engine with 135hp and still managed to maintain a similar fuel economy rating to the CR-Zs 5.6L/100km city and 5.0L/100km highway. The prime reason for this being the 500 pounds the CR-Z gained on its predecessor. But with that 500 pound weight gain comes: front, side and side curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist, and Advanced Computability Engineering body structure, all making the CR-Z a much safer and sound vehicle than its older brother. Plus, you could technically throw in that the CR-Z is now housing two power plants instead of one, from having a 1.5L i-VTEC engine mated to an electric Integrated Motor Assist system cranking out 122hp and 128lb-ft creating the first sport hybrid vehicle ever. And once again true to its fun driving roots, Honda decided to fuse this engine to a 6-speed manual transmission for the thrill seekers, and it also comes optional with an automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) binding paddle shifters on top the steering wheel for manual-like gear-ratio control.
Once jumping behind the wheel of the CR-Z, the power and weight difference between the CRX seems to be even more obvious. The car is all about calm and collected driving, and focuses on gaining the best fuel efficiency for the driver. This is because when you start the vehicle, it starts in the normal driving mode. The CR-Z features three driving modes that can be altered at any time with a quick push of a button on the left side of the steering wheel. Each option: Normal, Economy, and Sport, offer a very different driving experience and cater to the driver’s goals with the vehicle. This makes the car very versatile and really a car with three vastly distinct personalities. Flick the Econ button and the car goes into “Granny” mode, offering the best fuel efficiency but will very rarely see over the 2,000 rpm mark. When driving in this mode it feels like your driving an 18-wheeler at full load, then in normal mode the car feels…well, normal. Its fun, peppy, has ample power to pass on the highway and still accomplishes great fuel economy. Now, when you click the Sport button, the vehicle quickly alters from Jekyll to Hyde. The light around the 3-D speedometer begins to glow red and the car turns into an amazingly fun, sporty car that will make you forget it is even a hybrid. Although the Econ and Normal driving modes aren’t as fun to drive, they accomplish amazing fuel economy and are perfect for restricted driving in stop-and-go traffic where fuel efficiency usually suffers most. The driving modes all provoke such different attitudes of the vehicle that it makes it perfect to decide on-the-fly the way you would prefer to be driving and to suit the driving conditions.
The CR-Zs versatile hybrid engine is a 1.5L i-VTEC mated to an electric Integrated Motor Assist system, combined it cranks out 122hp and 128lb-ft.
For the eco-conscious drivers that find the CR-Z appealing for its hybrid capabilities and fuel efficiency, the car also features unique driver efficiency tools to keep you at your best also. Equipped with an Eco Assist and Eco Scoring program the CR-Z monitors the drivers to help them develop a more efficient driving style while also comparing economy achievements to previous trips over the life of the vehicle.
The cabin of the CR-Z seems elementary once sitting in the driver seat. All of the vehicles controls are catered to the driver and in easy to access areas making the driver feel comfortable behind the wheel from the second they sit in the car. The most technologically advanced part of the interior is the dash cluster. It may look high tech with its 3-D design, but it works well in the vehicle and for the driver. The middle of the dash digitally reads the speedometer while around that circular highlight is the tachometer which is also very easy to read and follow. The traction control button, which will help greatly through winter driving, is just to the left of the steering wheel, near the 3 driving mode buttons.
While driving the blind spots will be the hardest part of the vehicle to adapt to. The rear window glass is pretty much a peep-hole into those troubled side blind spots, but Honda has adapted to this by implementing a higher curvature door mirror to compensate. It doesn’t take long to getting used to these new mirrors over the blind spots once behind the wheel and on the road. The rearview mirror doesn’t offer the greatest vision either thanks to the rear split-glass hatch, but it is nothing out of the ordinary from someone having a rear spoiler in another car in their line of sight either.
The CR-Z is offered in three exterior colours: Spectrum White Silver Pearl, Storm Silver Metallic, and North Shore Blue Metallic and all have a Sport Gray interior. The CR-Z seems like a steal priced at $23,490 for the 6-speed version and $24,290 for the CVT version. With the car being priced so competitively, there is sure to be lots of CR-Z either slowly puttering around town using their fuel sparingly or ravishing through the streets with the driver feeling like they are in a scaled down sports car.
There is only one thing I could think of for Honda to continue their forward thinking with the CR-Z and it will also bring the company further back to its roots…and that is, of course, to create a CR-Z Si. Since driving the CR-Z I have had numerous Happy Gilmore-like “Happy-Place” dreams of the vehicle matched with the K20Z3 i-VTEC engine. All I can say is that it seems glorious.
I can dream, can’t I?
Hopefully the dreams become reality eventually with a second-gen version and Honda opts to further their CR-Z market down another road.
The dash is an aspect of the vehicle that Honda prides itself in creating. The 3D effect is highlights by the tachometer that surrounds the top half of the spedometer like a vibrant rainbow.