HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 HONDA CR-Z REVIEW


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2011 Honda CR-Z

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyers Guide

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE CR-Z VEHICLE

Combing the best of what a small car has to offer, the all-new Honda CR-Z is a sporty hybrid coupe hatchback with a starting price of $19,200. With room for just two, the vehicle offers the safety of Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure designed to help protect occupants in a frontal collision without compromising the improved-upon looks of its popular successor, the Honda CR-X.

I drove a 2011 Honda CR-Z in the top-of-the-line EX trim with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System and Voice Recognition. The vehicle is powered by a 122-horsepower 1.5-liter i VTEC 4-cylinder engine with Integrated Motor Assist (IMA). The engine has an idle-stop feature so the vehicle will stop consuming gas when waiting for the light to change. The CR-Z can get a driver 35-city/39-highway driving for a combined EPA-average of 37-mpg with the automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Available in base, EX and EX with Navigation trims, my test driver topped out at $25,210 – an excellent price for a hybrid.

Like most hybrids on the market, the CR-Z features various driving systems and other gas-saving games to cut down on fuel consumption. A new 3-mode drive system allows the driver to configure the vehicle's responsiveness for Sport, Normal or Econ (Economy) driving modes. Driver efficiency tools include Eco Assist and Eco Scoring, which together can help drivers find improvements to efficient driving styles while also comparing economy achievements to previous trips as well as the life of the vehicle.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The exterior of the CR-Z is very sporty, futuristic and garnered many stares and inquires during my test drive. While the interior build or lowered seating is ergonomically correct to the center console controls, the position takes some effort to climb in-and-out of and Honda’s navigation system is in need of revising. The 3-mode driving system is extremely easy to use (just press the appropriate button to what kind of driving you desire to achieve) and Honda designers have kept this overall layout along with the audio and climate control system simple and uncluttered. However, the ride is a rough and loud one. And like the original CR-X, there is only room for two. However, the hatchback or cargo space offers enough room for weekend packing.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The CR-Z does boast an impressive list of safety standards: Vehicle Stability Assist; Anti-lock Disc Brakes; Electronic Brake Distribution; Tire Pressure Monitoring System; front and side airbags; 3-point seat belts; active front head restraints; side-impact door beams; front and rear crumple zones; ACE body structure; and daytime running lights. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the CR-Z 5-star ratings for rollover but just 3-stars for frontal and side crash.

Cost Issues: If you’re willing to give up a few extras, like Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted controls and polished interior accents, you can easily get the CR-Z for $20k. An affordable price for a hybrid is what makes this vehicle attractive. Navigation systems are convenient, but I’m growing unimpressed with Honda’s system when competitor products like Ford’s SYNC are hitting the market.

Activity & Performance Ability: The safe structure or build of the CR-Z has definitely compromised driver visibility. Several times I almost side-swiped cars when changing freeway lanes – the vehicle is in need of a blind side monitoring system or even a backup camera. The hatch window dimensions are challenging and the triangle-shaped rear side windows are just too minuscule to deliver any real feedback for drivers when backing up.

The Green Concern: You’ll have no eco-complaints with a fuel economy of 37-mpg. The CR-Z’s sibling, the Insight, does get even better estimates at 40-mpg city/43-highway for a total of 41-mpg combined – the cost is a couple thousand more for the 4-seater Prius-shaped ride.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
Honda or the CR-Z definitely hits all the high points with this coupe compact by offering amazing style, fuel economy or price – but the compromises are rough ride for two with limited driver visibility and unimpressive interior upgrades. Honda hybrids unfortunately just don’t have the interior fit-and-finish of Toyota hybrids. But if you were a big CR-X fan, the remake of this vehicle will overshadow its faults.

2011 Katrina Ramser

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