Sunday, 4 March 2012

REVIEW - Honda CR-Z GT

As any self-proclaimed petrolhead will tell you, the word 'Hybrid' is practically swearing. I would never approach a hybrid due to the connotations surrounding them; boring eco boxes that are as much fun as banging your head against a wall. However, this is not the case, as there is a hybrid sports car out there, and as you may have seen from my March Column, its brilliant! Pray silence please, for the Honda CR-Z.



Looks - 9/10 

I may not have been born when it was launched, but I am certainly aware of the Honda CR-X. I know exactly what it looked like, and that it had many admirers. Well you will be pleased to know that the CR-Z pays homage to this look. There are many similarities with the CR-X and this gives the new car a sort of 'retro' feel to it. Put them next to each other and you will understand what I mean. With daytime-running lights and a shark-fin aerial, the modern touches are there, and the car looks brilliant. Where it falls down on the exterior is the wheels; the standard 16-inch alloys just look too small, particularly against the large rear quarter. Fear not though, because 17-inch wheels are available as an optional extra, and these will solve this issue.

The model I tested was the top-spec GT, meaning leather front seats which were heated too. The cabin is well thought out and the 3-dimensional dashboard is very space-age. Everything is easy to use, and feels of good quality throughout. I felt that some higher-quility materials in the cabin could have added to the sporty feel, but the CR-Z manages nevertheless.

Handling/Performance - 8/10

There are three driving modes in the CR-Z; Normal, Eco and Sport. Each of these has a completely different feel to them, and you can quickly change to suit the circumstances. The car automatically starts in Normal mode. If you switch to Eco, the throttle becomes less responsive; encouraging you to accelerate less harshly. The engine also uses the IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) to a greater degree to aid fuel-saving. Put it in sport mode, and the electric power steering becomes heavier, the throttle becomes more responsive and the IMA is set to delivering maximum torque and power. The ride is comfortable on all roads, but is firm enough to give a sporty feel on twisty A-roads. With cruise control you can happily complete long journeys, and the CR-Z is a well rounded handler.

The car works best in sports mode, with cornering being sharp and the 6-speed close-ratio manual box makes use of the 1.5-litre hybrid power; 124PS and 174Nm of torque. 0-62mph is dealt with in 10 seconds and the top speed is 124mph. For a sports car I would have liked a little bit more acceleration power, but with its green credentials you can let the CR-Z off a little bit, and the car is so much fun in sports mode that you can sometimes forget it completely.

The dashboard changes colour depending on the driving mode selected. In Normal the dash is blue. In Eco mode it goes green, and in Sports mode it glows red, and I liked this. It was a good way to emphasise that the car does actually change when you select certain modes; unlike some 'sport' buttons which seem to merely illuminate a light on the dash.

Economy - 9/10 

Being a hybrid, fuel consumption is very good. The combined figure is 56.5mpg, and CO2 emissions are 117g/km. This puts the CR-Z in VED band C, with 12 months tax costing you £30 (free first year). The car makes sense when you look at this. We have a sports car which won't eat your wallet at the pumps, and wont cost you the earth to tax. The only slight issue is that unless you are cruising at a steady speed the Eco mode isn't overly useable. This can affect fuel economy slightly when driving around town, where Normal mode is better suited.


Practicality - 6/10 

If you have more than two children, or they are taller than maybe 4ft, then look away now. Although sold as a 2+2 coupe, the rear seats in the CR-Z appear to be more for decoration. Being only 5ft 7 myself, I thought that my driving position would allow for someone to sit behind me. 'Fraid not. Even if you can move the seats to fit me in the back, my head has to be cocked to one side to prevent banging it on the roof. If you have small (or no) children, then this will be of no issue whatsoever. If you do need to put people in the back of this car then you may struggle if they have legs. Or a head. On a more serious note, the boot space is reasonable, and if you fold the rear seats down is even better. With a load cover to hide valuables, you can fit more than you would expect in the boot of the CR-Z.

When driving as with most coupe's, there is a slight issue of blind spot visibility, as you can't see much over your shoulder. The split rear window creates no problems though, and overall visibility is good. Parking the CR-Z is easy, as a good turning circle and parking sensors will aid you greatly. The car is easy to judge on roads, and being low down gives you a good perspective.

Fun - 10/10

Absolutely no complaints here whatsoever. Put the CR-Z into sports mode, and it becomes an extremely fun car to drive. A car doesn't have to be mind-bendingly fast to be fun. The CR-Z in sports mode is responsive, sharp and 'nippy' and so will never fail to put a smile on your face. The engine is revvy and you can feel a second burst of power once you reach 4000rpm. You can chuck it into the bends and it will grip, and with the weighty steering you can feel exactly where the front wheels are and what they are doing; you really can put the car exactly where you want it with ease.

Concluding Remarks

This car made me want to drive; I would make any excuse to drive down a twisty road in Sport mode. So in this sense, it fails in its war against pollution. But where it succeeds is in making environmentally friendly cars fun, and appealing. If there were more hybrids like this out there, then more people would drive hybrids. And whilst it is fun to have the B-road blast, it was equally pleasing to set the cruise control and hit Eco, to see the fuel economy soar and count the money being saved. The CR-Z then, the worlds first interesting and desirable hybrid car, I just hope its not the last!

Score 42/50

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