by Cars.com Staff
The 2011 CR-Z is Honda’s third hybrid, joining the compact Civic Hybrid and Insight, both of which seat five. Despite having just two seats, the small CR-Z has the lowest gas mileage of the three. The first-generation Insight, sold from 2000-06, was a two-seat runabout, but the CR-Z is intended to be sportier, both in appearance and driving experience.
The two trim levels include a base CR-Z and a feature-laden CR-Z EX.
The CR-Z is reasonably true to the concept car of the same name that hit the auto show circuit in 2007, but with less dramatic curves. Inspired by the CRX two-seater sold in 1990 and ‘91, the CR-Z’s spirit and design shares that model’s split liftgate window, an element that remains controversial in terms of both style and the driver’s visibility in the Insight and Toyota Prius.
At 160 inches long, the CR-Z is a few inches longer than a Mazda MX-5 Miata and the extended version of the Mini Cooper, the Clubman, and it sits almost exactly between the hatchback and sedan versions of the Toyota Yaris subcompact.
The interior has a busy but effective design similar to that of the Insight, with cockpit-style driver-oriented controls and displays. Even the ventilation controls are on a pod near the driver; there’s no conventional control panel on the center of the dashboard, which puts the optional navigation system right of center. The cloth seats are roomy, and the steering wheel both tilts and telescopes.
Standard features include, but aren’t limited to, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, single-zone automatic climate control, cruise control and a CD stereo with a USB audio interface. The EX trim level adds xenon headlights, fog lights, a premium stereo with subwoofer, Bluetooth connectivity, a leather steering wheel and a center storage console. Navigation is optional only on the EX.
Storage bins behind the seats are separated from the cargo area by a bulkhead that can be folded forward to extend the cargo hatch’s floor — similar to a folding seat’s backrest. A retractable cargo cover is available.
Under the Hood
Like other Honda hybrids, the CR-Z uses a relatively simple system that puts an electric motor in tandem with a gas engine, in this case a 1.5-liter four-cylinder. Though the engine shuts off when the car is stopped, it’s always turning over when the car’s in motion. The engine and motor combined produce 122 horsepower, which is 24 hp more than the Insight does.
The front-wheel-drive CR-Z is now the only hybrid in years to offer a manual transmission as well as an automatic. The six-speed stick is standard; a continuously variable automatic transmission is optional and includes steering-wheel shift paddles for a manual step-gear feel. The manual transmission gives lower mileage, though, at 33 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The CVT provides an EPA-estimated 37 mpg.
To suit the driver’s needs, the CR-Z has Sport, Normal and Econ modes. Econ maximizes fuel economy, while Sport makes the acceleration more responsive and decreases the power-steering assist for a sportier feel.
Along with the frontal airbags come seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtains. Also standard are active head restraints, antilock four-wheel-disc brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control.