May 10, 2011

Honda CR-Z

On the way off the Honda lot, we spotted what they advertise as a Sport Hybrid.  The CR-Z is listed by Honda as having a 1.4L (actually only 3cc from being 1.5L) 122hp I-4 engine.   Awkward looking on the outside, it has three settings for drive mode to change fuel-sipping eco mode to battery draining sport.

Check out the predator fin on the roof!

Stereo without Navigation Package

The interior is lit with blue night club looking gauges.  When you open the door on the lower door frame the letters CR-Z shine up at you in blue light.  The dash was better to look at than the Civic.  Instead of a two-tiered instrument panel, everything is included in one.  The digital speedometer sits inside of the analog tachometer, space saving and attractive.

Automatic transmission shown

Being of unusually long wing-span we noticed that the radio is pretty far away.  Luckily, most of the functions that are needed to control the radio could be done from the steering wheel.  For a small car, the interior was roomy and didn’t feel cramped.  Mostly this feeling comes from the fact that there isn’t a backseat.  It is a hatchback and the rear glass is divided into two pieces.  The top portion distorts the image making normal cars appear insect-like.  Even Beetles look worse…  The bottom portion of the window is only really helpful in figuring out when someone is right up on your bumper.  The view out the back is a bother, but luckily we spent most of the time looking forward.   The blind spot windows are helpful even if we had to dip our heads a little to see out them.    Short people will not have this issue.

Those aren't seats!
                The fin antenna on top gives the CR-Z a shark-like feel.  The car itself is very sleek.  It doesn’t have the same feel of most hybrids that tend to basically be boxes with four wheels.  Aluminum wheels help lend to the weight reduction.  We like the look of it, but don’t suggest it to anyone in their 50’s.  The exterior of the CR-Z feels like it makes tributes to the Impreza WRX and the Mitsubishi Evo.  There are only five colors available., and we drove the red one and felt very ostentatious.  There is only one type of wheel available unless you want to pay extra for 17” alloys.

                The CR-Z surprised us here in multiple ways.  We didn’t expect its three drive modes to really show us that much of a difference.  Eco mode was downright appalling when trying to drive in rush hour traffic.  The acceleration switched to a fuel sipping rate that was about as fast as a senior citizen with a PowerChair, actually the senior citizen may have been faster.  We get why Eco mode is there, but for commuters at rush hour it’s worthless if you actually want to get home and not drive everyone in your lane insane with slowness.  The best part was the on-dash shift indicators.  When it reach certain rpm’s in Eco mode there would be a green arrow indicating up or down shifts.  It will save gas, but if you don’t want to hate the car, just buy the auto transmission.  The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) uses a pulley system to help get the gear ratio with the most power and the best fuel economy.  The manual gets 31 city/37 hwy, while the CVT gets 32 city/39 hwy according to Honda.  Eco mode helps charge the battery the best of all three modes.  We would only use this mode if there was no time table on when we needed to arrive at our destination.
                Normal mode was okay.  It didn’t really get us anywhere fast, but we also weren’t screaming at the car to go!  This was a pretty boring mode that we would use for our daily commute if time is an issue.  The acceleration was more rapid than Eco and the car didn’t tell us when to shift.  Normal mode charges the battery and uses the same amount of energy from it.  More often than not this is the mode most used, but still not the best.  This isn’t the most boring mode, but at least you won’t hate yourself for using it.
                Sport mode was by far the most fun.  It makes the CR-Z feel like a sports car, almost.  It was entertaining to watch the charge on the battery drain as we accelerated in this mode.  We spent most of our time in this mode, but wouldn’t recommend it since it is only a 10.6 gallon tank.  The manual transmission helped with the sporty feel, but didn’t help with the mpgs at all. 

Not a concept car, these are on Honda lots right now!
               The CR-Z came in at $20,905 as tested.  Some weird news is that the car measures a 10 on the Global Warming Scale (10 being cleanest).  The scale is set based on California’s emission standards since theirs are the strictest in the U.S.  The Civic Si was only a 7.  This car was fun as long as you didn’t have to take any one with you.  One passenger is the only legal option, but who only has one friend.  Maybe we should like this car less. 

               Now we will also point out that most manufactures that have production from Japan are going to have reductions in delivery to the U.S.  This is not the best time to try to cut a deal with any of the Japanese manufactures.  Demand will soon outweigh supply.  There will be fewer deliveries for even the imported European models, since most of the electronic components are manufactured in Japan.  Even if the models are put together in the states, the little pieces are all made in the Land of the Rising Sun.  We recently drove a Toyota Prius and the only model on the lot was the demonstrator that the dealership has ruined…  Stay tuned for some gaudy and nauseating pictures.

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