Honda’s distinctive CR-Z gets credit where due for its blend of sporty and eco sensibility. It has been refreshed for 2013 with a long list of tweaks that should add up to a better total package.

The two-seater car with its aerodynamic front and kammback rear hearkens to the design of that autocrosser and performance tuner’s favorite, the CR-X that was part of the Civic line in the mid 80s to early 90s.

This time around, Honda’s unique car makes use of Integrated Motor Assist hybrid powertrain in a modified version of the Insight’s Chassis.


Like many hybrids, it’s been sort of a niche vehicle, ranking 18th overall in 2012 with 4,192 total units sold in the U.S.

It’s had mixed reviews as it’s neither a true hot hatch, nor an exceptionally fuel efficient hybrid, and one could say it almost looks more sporty than it is, not that it’s utterly lacking. Sporty is a qualified term, not to be confused with being an outright sports car. And with that understanding in place, it’s actually pretty entertaining and fairly sharp handling, but just don’t go picking any street fights with a Subaru WRX with a car like this.

And where the CR-Z does excel over other actual hot hatches is it does rank among the more efficient cars sold. It also happens to be the only hybrid with a six-speed manual transmission option, as well as the near-ubiquitous continuously variable transmission (CVT).


EPA-rated fuel efficiency and peak power output ratings vary between the CVT version – which is also capable of manual shifting via paddles that fully simulate a manual shifter – and the actual manual with clutch and gear shifter.

The one postured toward a little more of the sporty side, the manual, offers a scooch more power at the expense of mileage. This year’s improved versions sees the manual transmission model achieving 1 mpg better on the highway. Its EPA mpg rating is 31 city/38 highway/34 combined. The CVT-equipped models deliver an EPA city rating up 1 mpg. Its rating is 36 city/39 highway/37 combined. The


Following is a list of most of the changes Honda made to the car for the 2013 model year:

  • Revised front fascia styling
  • New 16-inch alloy wheel finish
  • New rear diffuser
  • New Lithium-Ion battery pack
  • Increased horsepower and torque
  • New Plus Sport System
  • Revised interior trim
  • Available two-tone combi (black/red) seats
  • StandardExpanded View Driver’s Mirror
  • Standard Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®
  • Standard Bluetooth® Audio
  • Standardrearview camera
  • Available Pandora® Interface and SMS text message function
  • Available LED daytime running lights (DRL)
  • New Passion Berry Pearl and Polished Metal Metallic exterior colors


Under the Hood

The same displacement engine is carried forward – a 1.5-liter four cylinder, but the electric side of the equation was increased. This year the pancake motor that “assists” the gas engine is increased from 10 kw to 15.

Also new this year is a higher voltage 144-volt lithium-ion battery pack to replace last year’s nickel metal hydride unit.

The manual-transmission 2013 CR-Z now delivers a combined peak output of 130 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 140 pound-feet of torque. This is an increase of eight horsepower and 12 pound-feet of torque. The CVT-equipped CR-Z has the same horsepower but its peak torque is rated at 127 pound-feet, which is a 4 pound-feet increase over 2012.

Manual-transmission versions also get a larger clutch and a new lower final drive ratio – all to help that sporty factor.


To further increase the “sporty” factor is a new for this year Plus Sport System equipped as standard on all CR-Zs.

The way it works is, if the battery is more than half charged and car is moving over 19 mph, the driver can activate an “S+” button on the steering wheel. When the accelerator is pressed, this feature electrically boosts the acceleration for up to five seconds.

A flashing gauge on the dash shows when the Plus Sport System is activated. The Plus Sport System can be used in Econ, Normal or Sport modes.

Further Tweaks and Refinements

For 2013, the car gets a new front fascia and mesh grille to create a wider appearance along with a new “floating” lower front spoiler lip.

Also, brighter chrome on the headlights tinged with blue clearcoat are meant to cue people to the CR-Z’s hybrid powertrain.

The vehicle carries forward this year with its MacPherson front strut, rear H-shaped torsion beam rear suspension.

This year, the CR-Z gets new darker-tinged 16×6-inch aluminum wheels with finished spoke tips and 195/55R-16 tires. Honda also offers optional 17×7 alloy wheels with 205/45R-17 tires.

Inside the car, the high-tech treatment continues. Interior updates include metallic trim on the door pulls and latches, center console, speaker grilles and lower steering-wheel spokes.


A redesigned inner door panel is intended to provide easier access to the storage space, with the horizontal bar on the speaker housing eliminated, and a bottle holder added to the pocket.

The door-pad trim has also been upgraded with a new, more upscale lamination. For 2013, CR-Z EX and Navi trims will provide an all-new black and red interior trim combination that adds new two-toned combi seats, and colored accents to the door panels and floor mats.

The CR-Z EX and Navi trims will come with an all-new black and red interior trim combination that adds new two-toned combi seats, and colored accents to the door panels and floor mats.


Safety features are numerous as one might expect. The car has earned a TOP SAFETY PICK rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and 4-star Overall Vehicle Score in federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests.

Pricing for the five trim packages is as follows:

CR-Z with 6-speed, $19,975; with CVT, $20,625.

CR-Z EX with 6-speed, $21,655; with CVT, $22,305.

CR-Z EX with Navigation and 6-speed, $23,155; with CVT, $23,805.

All cars have an extra $790 destination charge and are subject to the usual taxes and other potential fees through the dealer.

For a more comprehensive review and road review of the 2012 that is very similar to this car, please click here