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2011 Honda CR-Z SE Hybrid Review+

2011 Honda CR-Z SE Hybrid (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Honda CR-Z SE Hybrid

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: 2011 Honda CR-Z Unveiling Video (Detroit Auto Show)

By John Heilig


Model: 2011 Honda CR-Z SE Hybrid
Engine: 1.5-liter I4 + 13 hp electric motor (adds 548 lb.-ft. of torque)
Horsepower/Torque: 122 hp @ 6,000 rpm/122 lb.-ft. @ 1,000-1,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 95.9 in.
Length/Width/Height: 160.6 x 68.5 x 54.9 in.
Tires: P195/55R16
Cargo volume: 10/20 cu. ft. (est.) (rear seats up/down)
Fuel economy: 35 mpg city/39 mpg highway/43.5 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 10.6 gal.
Curb weight: 2,637 lbs.
Sticker: $19,200 (base) EX with navigation base $20,760 plus $750 destination charge Five reasons to buy this car: 1. Economy 2. Handling 3. Unique 4. Decent price point 5. Only need a two-seater

The Bottom Line: The 2011 Honda CR-Z is a decent hybrid with very good fuel economy. However, it’s saddled with the fact that it’s only a two-seater that resembles a shortened Civic CRX two-seater.

I must admit I wasn’t CRaZy about the new 2011 Honda CR-Z Hybrid. Sure, the economy is great. We achieved more than 43 mpg on the highway, and that’s more than just about any car we’ve driven. And I must admit that it has cool looks, resembling the old Civic CRX.

But, like the CRX, the CR-Z is only a two-seater. Like the CRX (and the Insight and Prius) it has an annoying bar across the rear window that makes rearward vision an almost impossibility. The bar is necessary because the two-piece windshield has a horizontal and vertical section that, without the bar, would be connected with a curved glass that would drive up the cost and probably introduce distortion.

On the plus side, the CR-Z has radical front-end styling that looks like a combination between Audi and Mitsubishi. Handling is outstanding, just what you’d expect from a car with a short 95.9-inch wheelbase. To get an idea of the difference, try a full-size shopping cart with one of the shortened two-level ones at your local supermarket.

We used the “sport” setting and downshifted as I would with a normal car powered by a 1.5-liter engine. I was able to attack curves aggressively and the CR-Z’s front wheel drive pulled me through. There was a hint of oversteer, which was unusual since most cars these days seem to understeer. It made me look for longer winding roads.

The CR-Z has three modes of operation. We used “economy” (ECON) most of the time. But you can choose among normal (which is the default), ECON and Sport. ECON offers no performance (sluggish acceleration, for example), but it’s fine when you don’t need acceleration, like when you’re on the highway. Normal is, well, normal small car. Sport gives you better shift points so that performance is a bit better and you can zip along reasonably well. I’m sure that economy suffers.

The gear box is sometimes vague, and I often worried which gear I was in. It would be nice to have a gear indicator on the instrument panel.

The i.p. itself is a killer. There’s a digital speedometer inside the tachometer with accessory gauges on the side. These are bar graphs for the fuel, water temperature and instant mpg. As a hint of its hybridness, the lighted ring around the speedometer is green when you’re driving economically and blue when you aren’t.

General ride quality is poor, but it’s what you might expect from a car with a short wheelbase and light weight. However, the demographic that would buy this car doesn’t worry about ride quality. It’s only us old geezers who are concerned about that point.

The car is still okay as an Interstate cruiser, although semis are intimidating. The seats are reasonably comfortable but there could be more side support, especially when you want to play with it.

The CR-Z is a two-seater without even a hint of a rear seat. You can still use the space behind the front seats for luggage, and in that sense I‘m reminded of the original Mercedes-Benz 300SL. The best thing to do is fold the rear seat backs down and keep them that way. With the backs down we were able to carry two golf bags and later, luggage.

While the HVAC system was awesome in some staggering heat, I was upset with the audio system. On our long trip we plugged in my iPod, but the audio system skipped songs, even on shuffle. We could see the skip on the display screen. Not only that, but it was nearly impossible to get it to play some songs. The tone quality was fine, however, even with a range that included George Jones and Gustav Holz.

While I liked the 2011 Honda CR-Z for its economy and two-seater practicality, there were some features (like the rear visibility and annoying audio system that would only play the songs it liked) that tended to grate on me as the miles wore on. As a commuter, it’s great and it has a decent price point.

2010 The Auto Page Syndicate

2011 Honda CR-Z SE Hybrid (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Honda CR-Z SE Hybrid