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Week at the wheel: Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.

Week at the wheel: Honda CR-Z
Honda makes a small, fun coupé and gets it just about right. Shame its eco-centricity saps power.


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| Week at the Wheel | Honda CR-Z |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

On the right road and in the right mood few cars are as capable of dishing out the unbridled fun that the Honda CR-Z can. Nothing else has this combination of eccentric but masculine styling, thrilling but safe dynamics, mechanical integrity and environmental kudos. As a second car - an antidote to your people carrier - it's nigh on perfect. Just don't expect practicality. Or power.

Key Facts

Model tested: Honda CR-Z 1.5i V-TEC Sport
Price: £18,735 (as at 28 March, 2011)
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with electric motor-generator assist
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé, Peugeot RCZ, Volkswagen Scirocco
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Combined economy: 56.5 mpg
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 10.0 seconds
Power: 122bhp at 6,100rpm
Torque: 128lb.ft at 1,000 - 1,500rpm

Inside & Out: 4 4 4 4 4

We love the Honda CR-Z's design. Really love it. It's a proper, head-turning, otherworldly coupé. From some angles it looks almost alien and inside, the changing glow of the instrument backlighting - whose colour shifts depending on which of three driving modes you're in - is a wonderful touch.

But because it's styled as it is, there's zero rear visibility, no space in the back, and actually not much more in the front. If you're a driver long in the leg department, you might find your knees bruised by the dashboard edges after a particularly keen drive. Its coupé credentials are enhanced by a lovely, low-slung driving position, though

Ride & Handling: 5 5 5 5 5

The Honda CR-Z's ride characteristics sit somewhere between the floating suppleness of an Accord (on smaller wheels) and the tactile tyres-to-hands connection of a Civic Type-R. It really works well, with an un-jarring subtlety most of the time, but a heft and sense of mechanical precision. Sport mode beefs up the steering resistance without touching the suspension, and it works well.

So, combine that with the sort of forgiveness that only a good front-wheel drive setup can provide, and you've got one of the most thrash-tastic cars money can buy. Bring on the MUGEN version, we say - this car could handle at least twice as much power.

Engine & Transmission: 3 3 3 3 3

Power comes from the same Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid setup that the Honda Insight gets, with 122bhp. As that figure suggests, the CR-Z isn't quick. The combination of 14bhp electric motor and 1.5-litre petrol engine does have a VTEC quality about it, though, in the sense that it's free revving and far better near the limiter than at the bottom end. And that makes it fun, especially when the CR-Z has a chassis this good - and a tight gearbox in the Civic Type-R mould.

On a good road, with nobody else in the car and in the right gear, it probably has all the poke the average driver will really need to get the chassis lit up. Sport mode makes a big difference too, ramping up the accelerative assistance of the electric motor and sharpening the throttle response. The frustration arises when you're lazily coursing from one junction to the next, particularly in Eco mode: more torque, please.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 4 4 4 4 4

The CR-Z occupies a little space that encroaches on a few cars, but doesn't really compete directly with anything. Its anagrammatic French rival, the Peugeot RCZ, is probably closest to it, although that's significantly more expensive and you'll have to buy a diesel version to match the CR-Z's fuel economy.

Volkswagen's Scirocco is even bigger, leaving the Mazda MX-5 - a car that, unlike the Honda, at least doesn't pretend to have back seats. The CR-Z is the idiosyncratic choice, but with the bonus sensibility of being more economical than all of them. With 56.5mpg and 117g/km it isn't groundbreaking, but for a petrol sports car it's not half bad. Our money would probably go on this Sport version, which, at less than £19,000, is two grand cheaper than a fully loaded GT, but has all you'll need.

Mark Nichol - 17 Mar 2011    - Honda road tests
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2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.

2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.

2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.

2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.

2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.

2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.

2011 Honda CR-Z. Image by Honda.


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