Tuesday, 20 August 2013

REVIEW - Honda CR-Z Sport [Facelift]

The Honda CR-Z was marketed as the world's first 'Hybrid Sports Car'. It combined iconic styling reminiscent of the CRX and brilliant hybrid technology. It has recently undergone some cosmetic facelifting to keep the image fresh, and Honda took this opportunity to improve some of the technologies too. As I liked the CR-Z last time around, I thought I should give version 2.0 a try to see how the differences affect the car. Read on to see how I got on...

Looks - 9/10

There are absolutely no issues with how the CR-Z looks. On the outside the lines are superb. There are many hints to the CRX of old, but the lines on the CR-Z are much more bold and fitting. The whole stance of the car suits the notion that it is a sports car, and with the low, imposing front end people will share this perception as you fill their rear-view mirror. Other exterior features to note are the shark-fin aerial, the glass split-tailgate, fantastic running lights and smart door handles. Where I feel the CR-Z was let down was in the wheel department. The 'Sport' model gets 16-inch wheels which don't give off the best look. If you opt for the higher-spec 'GT' model then 17-inch wheels are standard. However you can add the 17's to the 'Sport' as an optional extra so it isn't all bad.

On the inside the sporty theme continues. From the big red 'Start' button to the aluminium pedals, sporty seats and small steering wheel, you do get the impression that you're in a sports car. I like
the attention to detail in the little Honda, and in particular the dials are a work of art. You could be forgiven for thinking you were on board a space ship. If I were being picky, then the stereo controls are a bit primitive, but the quality of the finish and materials is fantastic. The standard cloth seats look great, but you can add black or even red leather should you wish to tart it up a bit, although be warned this could cause a bit of a price jump.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

The basic setup of the CR-Z remains unchanged. There is a 1.5-litre petrol engine, a large battery, a 6-speed gearbox and a variety of driving modes. However Honda did make a few changes to the mechanics of the CR-Z and these help to improve the driving experience. Total combined power is 121PS and 146Nm of torque, which in a car this size is enough to make for a 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. It's not exactly slow, but doesn't exactly sound like a sports car.

Well you have to drive the CR-Z to get it. With the battery assisting the petrol engine and the car's love for being revved the CR-Z feels a lot faster than the figures suggest. What's more, with different driving modes you can alter this. In 'Sport' mode for example, throttle response quickens and the battery assists more. Another change includes the introduction of the 'S+' button. This offers a short, boost-like burst from the battery, and if used at the right time can help forward momentum. And of course it is a rather cool feature.

The handling of the CR-Z is one of the main selling points. with such a short body and low centre of gravity, this car was meant for twisty roads. In 'Sport' mode the steering becomes heavy and coupled to the sharp turn-in gives an ability to stick the nose wherever you want it. The weightiness adds to the sporty appeal, and the car zips from bend to bend, hugging every apex effortlessly. The suspension offers feel but is in no way harsh, and I found the driving position rather pleasant. One of the gems when driving the CR-Z is the gearbox. The short-throw gearstick allows you to dart from gear to gear, and the ratios are precise and help you get the most out of whichever road you find yourself on. 

Economy - 10/10

One of the main reasons for the existence of the CR-Z- and indeed one of the main incentives to buy one- is the sports car appeal without the hefty running costs. Thankfully the CR-Z doesn't disappoint here. Combined fuel economy is 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions on the 'Sport' model are 116g/km. This puts the Honda in VED band C at £30 per year (free first year). Not too bad at all. This can be attributed to the useful 'Eco' mode which- particularly when cruising on the motorway- helps to sip petrol at a more preferential rate. The aforementioned 'S+' button is another useful feature. To use it you need a decent amount of charge, and to do this you should drive economically. So you see, drive for 5/10 minutes kissing the trees and you get 5 seconds of boost. Clever one that, Honda.

Practicality - 7/10

As you would expect the CR-Z- being a sports car after all- isn't exactly a spacious palace for the whole family. Realistically it's a two-seater. Don't get me wrong, the front passengers get plenty of room, but unless you are a small child (or don't have a head) you won't fit in the back. I tried, and did manage to sit down. My head was at 90 degrees owing to the low rear window, and it took bending in ways I didn't think were humanly possible to get out again. I digress. The boot is a reasonable size and even more so if you fold down the useless rear seats. Another issue is with blind spot visibility; there isn't any. However, as I stuck to the front seats, and was careful with my mirrors, I managed to avoid these flaws and found the CR-Z easy to live with. Cruise control and a comfortable ride make it a great cruiser, and it's not too bad to park given the lack of rear visibility from the split rear window.

Fun - 10/10

The CR-Z already ticked all the boxes when it came to putting a smile on your face. The way it drives on the country roads will appeal to anybody who enjoys driving. I particularly like the fact you can feel smug as you drive past all the Weird Beard's with their hatred of anything sporty, thanks to the green credentials offered by the CR-Z. Take time and get to know the car, and you will appreciate the brilliance of it. The 'S+' button adds a new dynamic, and it gives you something to do. The little Honda looks great whenever you catch yourself in a shop window, and I found myself wanting to go out for a drive. I give credit to any car which fills you with this urge.

Concluding Remarks

So, to sum up then. The CR-Z was a good car. The updated version is also good, and it is a cracking car to drive. You could drive this car to work every day in Eco mode, and then push the Sport button at weekends. Obviously if you have children with heads who are taller than, oh about 2'6", then the CR-Z may not be for you. But you have to take it for what it is, and it hardly claims to be a minibus. So what do I think? Easy- go and find a wonderful twisty road, pack some lunch, tell the kids they can't come, and go for on helluva drive. The Honda CR-Z then; a hybrid sports car. I'll testify to that.

Total Score - 45/50

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