Can a hybrid be as fun as a sports car? Can a sports car save fuel like a hybrid?
Honda this week gave automotive journalists their first chance behind the wheel of the 2011 Honda CR-Z Hybrid. Honda’s goal with the all-new two-seater is to combine the fuel parsimony of a hybrid with the sportiness of the company’s classic CRX coupe—and to offer it as the most affordable hybrid on the market.
The fuel economy rating of the standard six-speed manual is 31/37 mpg, with the optional automatic (CVT) rated at 35/39 mpg.
“The CR-Z is as much about the driving experience as it is about our commitment to fuel efficiency and affordable hybrid technology,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales at American Honda Motor Co. “We lit the fuse on hybrids,” Mendel said.
Did they succeed? On affordability, the answer is yes. The MSRP of the CR-Z, which goes on sale on Aug. 24, is not official, but is expected at less than $20,000. That does make it the lowest priced hybrid on the market—and the only one available with a manual transmission.
But on the evaluation of the Honda CR-Z as both a sports car and as a hybrid, the reviews are mixed. And yet, there’s an underlying sentiment that Honda has made a worthwhile contribution to the hybrid field. Here’s a sampling of what auto critics had to say on the twin goals.
“The CR-Z is not a fast car; it is not even a quick car…but it’s still moderately entertaining. Is this the most entertaining hybrid car money can buy? Yes. Is it what I want and, frankly, what the market needs? Not quite…The takeaway? The car you see here is a decent, though not remarkable, answer to the Where’s the fun in green? question.”
“Well, it won’t set your hair on fire, and a small car can feel fast even when it isn’t. Is it more fun to drive than a Prius or Insight? Definitely…A day of spirited country-highway driving netted 35 mpg — not much better than the similarly sized Honda Fit, which isn’t even a hybrid.”
“In the absence of substantially greater acceleration, the CR-Z’s low-mileage rationalization simply falls apart…[Yet] I exceeded the automatic’s highway rating with 39.4 mpg, according to the trip computer.”
“Honda may have come up with the first fun hybrid car…The handling, while good, proved just a little loose. Honda seems to have tuned some softness into the suspension to make the CR-Z a comfortable everyday driver. As such, suspension travel allowed a little bit of lean in the corners. The CR-Z still can claim sports car handling, but there are more tightly screwed down cars available.”
“Somewhat shockingly, however, this hybrid is entertaining, even as it tries to marry the disparate concepts of sport and efficiency… Particularly with the three-mode adjustable drive system in Sport, it’s a relatively fun little car…[Yet] if fuel-efficiency is the goal, better mileage (and practicality) can be found in the Toyota Prius and the Insight, which are EPA-rated for 50 and 41 mpg combined.”