Honda CR-Z 1.5 i-VTEC Sport 17 | 08 | 2010Scotcars rating

    Can there be such a thing as sporty hybrid? Honda gives it a go ... and delivers

    NO MATTER WHAT car you drive, we’re all aware of growingly excessive demands on the world’s stock of hydrocarbon fuel supplies. But even those of us deny any resemblance of agreement with the environment ally-conscious, those who fear climate change is a direct result of our love of cars, will concede cars simply must be more energy efficient. Time then for Honda to step forward.

    While its Japanese rival, Toyota, has received most of the laurels and praise for its work with hybrid cars — the Prius, of course, is the one which springs immediately to mind simply because of the clever and constant global marketing campaign Toyota invested in the model — Honda has been quietly been making hybrid cars for the past decade.

    There’s no denying they are less complex than their Toyota rivals, but they undoubtedly work. Honda’s ethos has always been, “where we can, let’s keep it simple.” Honda’s initial Insight was a qualified success, and the more recent second-generation Insight accelerated the manufacturer’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system to new levels.

    Both cars though were, to be brutally honest, uninspiring to drive. So, you could understand my trepidation when Honda unveiled its latest hybrid, the CR-Z sporty coupé. Could a volume-produced hybrid actually be, well, sporty?

    Let’s consider this point first. Such is the level of commitment made by the EU to lower drivers’ impact on the environment that recent legislation means supercar manufacturers such as Porsche and Ferrari — both of which showed hybrids at the year’s Geneva Motor Show which are likely to come into full production — are having to address the issue.

    There’s something of an eerie solar-eclipse glow from behind the speedo

    Looks like a racy Honda should

    First glance at the CR-Z and you’ll see it’s clearly inspired by the CRX of the 1980s; no bad thing, because the CRX was a cracker. As you would expect, the newcomer has been dramatically reworked for the modern world. Thankfully, it looks exactly like a racy Honda should: it has a low nose, low windscreen, wedgy profile, and there’s a chopped-off tail with the rear window wrapping over it from near horizontal to vertical.

    It has a rear seat, but I’d suspect you’d struggle to get two 12-year-olds to fit comfortably. That said, flatten the rear seats and you create 401-litres of luggage space, enough for a couple of suitcases or two golfbags. But what lies behind and beneath the seat and the bootfloor is what makes the CR-Z so special. That’s where the Honda’s lithium-ion battery pack sits.

    It powers, and is recharged by, a 14bhp electric motor positioned between the car’s 1.5-litre, 114bhp petrol engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. Their combined optimum power output is 124bhp and 6100rpm, and delivers an official CO2 output figure of just 117g/km. The CR-Z also comes with regenerative breaking and an excellent stop-start system.

    One of the things which is instantly appealing about Honda’s new coupe is that it looks like nothing else on the road; it's instantly recognisable as the CR-Z. It sits on a slightly shorter but wider Insight platform and uses a wheelbase that’s shrunk by 115mm. It’s also lost 30mm in height and is 44kg lighter. But the clever designers at Honda have ensured there’s plenty of headroom for driver’s up to 194cm (that’s 6ft 4ins in old money!).

    There's a ghostly glow

    The cabin boasts an interior trim and quality which are superior to the Insight's, and the instrumentation boasts even more design flair; directly ahead of the driver is an instrument panel of exciting futurism which looks as though it’s been lifted straight out of the Destiny spaceship on Stargate Universe. There’s something of an eerie solar-eclipse glow which emanates from behind the circular, digital speedometer.

    And you’d better get used to it because you’ll find yourself, no matter how much you say you won’t, monitoring it as you strive to keep a green tinge to the ghostly glow. Why? Because if it starts to turn blue, you’re not driving frugally enough.

    The IMA system offers three driving modes: Sport, which uses the electric motor to aid acceleration, and Normal and Econ, which retard throttle response to reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions. There’s no denying Normal and Econ certainly do their jobs, and while they are the perfect option if you’re tootling about a sleepy Borders town or on a long, relaxed drive in motorway mode, I’d suggest you’ll probably find you spend most time in Sport mode when you’re enjoying the short-shift gear-change while nipping cross-country.

    And don’t think that’s contradicting the whole concept of a hybrid sports coupe. Not only will the CR-Z skip from standstill to 62mph in 9.9secs, but it’ll also return a combined fuel figure of 56.5mpg. in the battle to save the environment and still keep a smile on drivers’ faces — the CR-Z, which comes in S, Sport, GT and GT Top specs, with prices starting at £16,999 is an unlikely hero for Honda.

    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £17,999 / £17,999
    Engine / Power: 1498cc / 122bhp
    How fast?: 0-60 mph 9.9secs, Max 124mph
    How big/heavy?: H1395mm W1740mm L4080mm / 1198kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 56.5mpg / CO2 117g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 17 /
    Alternatives: Toyota Prius, Honda Insight

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