2011 Honda CR-Z: Another Game Changer from Honda

6 Jul 2010 | 2,893 views | No Comment
 Quarrels about the definition of a sports car have been around since the first car enthusiasts laid eyes on a powerful new automobile. Do you need four seats? Or are two mandatory to be considered a sports car? Front wheel or all-wheel drive? And can a sports car have anything less than several hundred horsepower and be effective?  And on and on it’s gone.  Now, Honda has tossed some questions into the pot by virtue of its newest, the Honda CR-Z. It may not be the most powerful thing on wheels, but it sure has the handling down pat.  Score one for those enthusiasts  among us who think handling is way more important than raw power in a car with sporting intentions.  And when it comes to looks, the dramatic styling represents something of a departure for the company.    Whether its styling or engineering you’re talking about, Honda’s team has said several times that this car will be a game changer for the company, a turning point if you will. It’s the first of its kind in several ways. First it’s got a hybrid power train, consisting of a 1.5 liter I-VTEC four cylinder engine with Honda’s 10- Kilowatt Integrated Motor Assist electric technology. Altogether it’s a 122 horsepower system, with fuel economy estimates of 35/39/434 with the CVT automatic ,with paddle shifters.. Or, if you prefer the six speed manual, the rating is 31’37/34 miles per gallon. Secondly,  the CR-Z is unique because it serves notice on the automotive world that, hybrid cars don’t have to be slow, boring, mediocre handling, homely autos, and that’s enough reason right there to celebrate as we all hunker down for much tighter fuel regulations that will undeniably bring more hybrid powered cars the market. Third, it’s the only car of its kind on the market. Can you think of any other two seat hybrid sports coupes on the market? Neither can we. So Honda apparently is opening up a whole new market here.  Honda’s marketing the CR-Z to those who are between 25 and 35, single, college educated and above, with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000, whom Honda described as “forward thinking enthusiasts who desire the freedom to be responsibly indulgent.”  We think that’s just about the right segment of the market at which to aim, though we think that the car’s modest horsepower rating will likely disappoint hard core sports car enthusiasts. On the other hand, the CR-Z has tremendous potential with the “tuner”  youth crowd; Honda would be wise to offer a wide variety of powertrain modification packages, body bits and pieces, and lots of individualized appearance packages, wheels, interior upgrades and other things to appeal to both tuners and those who like to personalize their car ala the Mini Cooper. The CR-Z comes with a three mode drive system: sport mode for quicker, stronger response and more aggressive handling and steering, a normal mode for everyday driving that balances sportiness with fuel economy, and an econ mode to achieve the best possible fuel economy.  All are easily accessible through buttons on the dash. We suspect that the biggest challege econmy minded car enthusiasts are going to have with the CR-Z will be the sport mode. It's simply too much fun to punch that baby in and feel the show begin. There's quite a bit of difference in ride feel, handling and acceleration here. Yep, we admit it--our mileage figure reflected our enthusiasm--still great, but not nearly as much as you'll get if you curb your enthusiasm just a bit.  Speaking of the dash, a gamer will feel right at home in the CR-Z.  It has a lot of the futuristic flavor that is found on Honda’s Civic. Ambient lighting, and an interesting three dimensional effect to the gauges and controls add to the fun. It may be just a bit too novel, though; we found some of the controls to be counter-intuitive. The seats are roomy and comfortable and provide plenty of support for cornering, and there’s an unusual, eye catching metal trim used on the doors and arm pulls.  In fact, we think a hidden market for the CR-Z will be tall folk looking for a car just for themselves. It's the roominessof the front seats that may seal the deal. A 16 year old six footer who tried it out said it was the first compact he'd gotten into in which he was really comfortable. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Honda if there wasn’t some flexibility designed into the CR-Z and it delivers on this count, too.  There’s a cool fold down rear console area which has some hidden compartments underneath. With it folded down, there is 25.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity, compared to 9.8 cubic feet with the rear console folded up. You’ll be able to get two golf bags or a couple of small suitcases on board with ease. There’s also a three mode cargo cover  with a normal mode to hide your belongs, a utility mode for bigger luggage and packages, and a secret mode to keep small valuables in place. Apparently you won’t have to worry much about safety--the car has four star ratings for frontal and side impact as well as rollovers,  and Honda’s “Ace” body structure construction. is part of the CR-Z, with collapsible hood hinges, impact absorbing hood, impact absorbing bumper and fender to protect pedestrians... Driving the CR-Z is a hoot, with aggressive handling and a firm ride that some people are likely to think is too rough. But we thought it was just about right for our sporting tastes.

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