Mixed Reviews on Honda CR-Z as Hybrid and Sports Car

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.

  • Jalopnik

    “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.”

  • Automotive News

    “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.”

  • Cars.com

    “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.”

  • CNet

    “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.”

  • Car and Driver

    “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.”


  • Charles F.

    CR-Z manual: 31/37
    CR-Z automatic: 35/39
    Fiesta manual: 28/37
    Fiesta automatic: 29/40

    Jalopnik has the Fiesta at 9.5 for 0-60 a full second faster. All reviews I have read for the Fiesta has it as a very fun drive. One thing that most reviews note is that the automatic Fiesta has a fun mode “L” for lowest possible gear for the current RPMs. You will also save a few thousand dollars and get a more practical car with the Fiesta.

    In the past I thought Honda really “Got It”. Now I think those days are past.

  • John K.

    If it were Li ion, the battery pack would be smaller and lighter (better handling and slightly faster). Plus, Li ion charges/discharges faster, so that *might* also make it slightly faster. As you can tell, I wish Honda had used Li ion batteries.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    The biggest limitation on NiMH batteries is that the patent holder (Chevron Texaco) limits the amount of vehicle power that can be provided by the batteries. With Li-ion, there is no such limitation. The only limitation is how much power the battery pack can discharge.

  • Rob D

    It’s a disappointment in terms of fuel economy. Other than that, I like it. Unfortunately, the main reason I was considering the CRZ was because I thought it would get between 40 and 50 MPG.

  • Anonymous

    Robby-d, you are right… fuel economy in the 30′s is much too low for a small car like this!

  • Music Man

    Right on Charles Fiesta starts at $13,320.

  • John K.

    ex-EV1 Driver: acc to the Wiki page “Patent encumbrance of large automotive NiMH batteries” (yes, that is the page’s name), Chevron sold the technology almost a year ago and the patent rights reverted to ECD Ovonics who is prepping the next gen of NiMH batts in large formats. Ck out:
    http://www.ovonics.com/PDFs/Batteries2009OctoberNiceConference.pdf

    A little competition between next gen NiMH and Li ion should help drive prices down.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    John K.
    I’d like to believe that but Wikipedia isn’t a source of news or factual information. The link you point to highlights that “Ovonics owns stationary NiMH rights” on pages 4 and 22. I suspect that they wouldn’t go out of their ways to put the word “stationary” in these slides if they owned all rights or automotive rights.
    I wouldn’t put it past Chevron to ‘adjust’ a Wiki page for their purposes.
    I do agree since it now looks like there will be a EV market then competition is good. Personally, having driven even a Pb-acid EV1 for a month (before it was taken from me for nonsensical reasons), even Pb-acid may have a place in a sustainable future, with enough infrastructure. The 2nd generation Pb-acid batteries were a significant improvement over the early ones in the EV1.

  • benjamin.bouten@telenet.be

    Check out the CR-Z Genuine accessories iPod application!
    http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/honda-cr-z/id358443765?mt=8
    It allows you to enhance your CR-Z with cool and high quality original Honda accessories.
    Also more info, wallpapers and a screensaver on: http://www.honda-access.com/268/en/news/Honda_CRZ10.jsp

  • Shines

    CRZ looks good so it will sell. Comparing it to the Fiesta is not valid. Comparing the Fiesta to the Fit is the proper comparison.
    You could compare the CRZ to a Mini Cooper or Mazda MX5 Miata.
    The CRZ still looks better and has better fuel economy for the same or elss money than those…

  • Rob D

    I don’t think it’s fare to compare the CR-Z with the Cooper, the Fiesta or the Miata. First off, it’s a hybrid and consequently, it should get markedly better gas mileage, but it doesn’t. It’s a disappointment for me. I was really expecting much better gas mileage for the CR-Z. I WAS one of those people that was really interested in purchasing it. It was too good to be true though. A great sporty looking small car that has great fuel economy. I guess I was expecting to have my cake and eat it too. Maybe someone else will get it right.

  • Charles

    I think it is very fair to compare the CR-Z to any fun to drive but slow car that gets very good MPGs. The Miata and Mini Cooper would blow the doors off of the CR-Z. On second thought maybe the Fiesta is not fair, because it is about a second faster in 0-60 and according to the reviews more fun to drive.

    I do agree that the Fix is the most direct Honda to compare with the Fiesta, but for Ford it is using the Fiesta to go head to head with the Fit and CR-Z.

  • Norma

    “CR-Z manual: 31/37
    CR-Z automatic: 35/39
    Fiesta manual: 28/37
    Fiesta automatic: 29/40″

    It looks CR-Z has better fuel economy than Fiesta:
    manual 11% better in city, same for hwy;
    auto 21% better in city, 2.5% worse in hwy.

    Furthermore, I read reviews saying that CR-Z gets similar if not better acceleration in M/T, about 3/10 sec worse in CVT.

    Fiesta vs. CR-Z:
    CR-Z, no rear seats;
    Fiesta, useless rear seats.

  • Shines

    Based on the reviews (yes I am purposefully picking the positives) and its cool looks and relatively low cost: This sounds like a good buy:
    This is the most entertaining hybrid car money can buy.
    It is it more fun to drive than a Prius or Insight.
    Honda may have come up with the first fun hybrid car.
    This hybrid is entertaining… it’s a relatively fun little car.
    And finally – it is a reliable Honda.

  • veek

    -It’s nice to see fuel-efficient cars expand into the “enjoyable to drive” realm, and it will be interesting to actually compare the CRZ, Fiesta, and similar cars.

    -As long as hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles have kind of a “hair shirt” image, their popularity will suffer somewhat. After all, new cars are expensive, they often project an image, and people often spend much time in them. I’ve talked with people who considered hybrids but concluded that, like public transportation, hybrids are great — for somebody else. Vehicles like the CRZ should help break the association of “enjoyable” with “wasteful engine,” just as Lincoln’s new hybrid should help dissociate “luxury” from “bloated.”

  • Forrest Dungan

    I think this is the stupidest car I have ever seen. Any 2700lb can get that mpg. Did Honda have to try to keep the fuel efficiency low? I’m not sure what they were thinking on this one.

  • Dennis Carr

    I have a 2007 Prius,which I drive hard and fast, the last GPS recording (yes, the Garmin GPS records you max speed, so be careful if the law wants to look at it) was 97.1 and in comfort! Since I got the car I have recorded every gasoline purchase on MS

    The CR-Z looks great, however I like to take my daughter and two large grandchilden with me, with the CR-Z I would have to pack them into the “trunk area” which I believe they would not like..

    Mileage is thus:

    MILES TOTAL GALLONS AVERAGE
    Prius 2006 2963.8 $174.85 77.569 38.428
    Prius 2007 19501.9 $1,406.33 494.887 39.464
    Prius 2008 15280.6 $1,289.08 356.551 40.903
    Prius 2009 15971.5 $924.34 378.745 41.435
    Prius 2010 11677.7 $785.51 280.151 41.658

    Average…… 65395.5 $4,580.11 1587.903 40.378

  • Happy CRZ owner

    I test road the Ford Fiesta and Fusion which I was considering until I test drove a Honda CRZ.

    The Fiesta is fairly nice looking from the outside. Then when you get inside and sit in it the quality fails miserably. It is cheap looking and very cramped. I am only 5’9” @ 180 lbs and felt like I was in a mummy bag, way too cramped, the interior and instrumentation looks cheap and is not driver friendly or intuitive at all. Even the sales person could not figure out how to operate almost everything!

    To add to it, almost the entire car is built in Mexico, which means cheap crap that will fail and fall apart. The only thing worth purchasing made in Mexico, is Tequila. Every company that moves manufacturing of anything to Mexico fails miserably. I had over 30,000.00 in Ford stock and after test driving a few of their cars recently and seeing that they were now building them in Mexico, I sold all of my Ford stock and changed my mind about purchasing Fords.

    Toyota, my first new car; we all know too well how Toyota has turned the corner on customer loyalty, or rather lack of. My first new car was a Toyota in 1981. It was the best new car I have owned of the six new cars so far that I have now purchased, until I just purchased the Honda CRZ.

    About two years ago I was considering purchasing a New Toyota Prius and started my research. I saw so many owner complaints on Consumer Reports on-line a few years ago about their problems with the Prius that were exactly the same ones we are all hearing about this last year, and Toyota did nothing to help their customers with the multiple problems they were having. I will never purchase another Toyota due to this.

    Honda is and has always been rock solid and I love my new CRZ. I commute from the mountains to the city every day, about 50% mountain driving and 50% highway – City and have been consistently averaging 39-41 MPG. I own a CRZ and have put almost 1000 miles on it now and can honestly tell you all that this is a great car on all levels and expectations that are reasonable. Most probably the best car for the associated cost available, if you can live with a two seat vehicle.

  • TriumphSteve

    I am averaging 42 mpg in my 2011 CR-Z (economy mode), and I am very happy with the car. Rides great, accelerates great, has a super sounding 320 watt 7-speaker stereo (EX model), excellent quality build, plus gets lots of favorable looks and comments. Far, far more cool looking than a Prius. And no doubt, much more fun to drive.