Honda: Eco hybrid packs a punch
Honda's long-awaited CR-Z is a hybrid with a hooligan edge, pitched at the sports market yet equally capable of everyday running about.
A sharp-looking new body and cabin, with a new-gen power-pack using metal hydride batteries that are smaller and lighter than before, tucked under the boot floor with the fuel tank beneath the rear seats to better distribute weight.
There's a lower centre of gravity than the Civic Type R sports hatch and a lower floorpan, along with a shorter wheelbase and wide stance, but there's also a fair bit of borrowing.
This 1.5-litre engine takes its block from the Jazz, albeit considerably reworked, then mated to Insight's electric motor, retuned to focus on power rather than economy, and matched to a six-speed manual developed from Accord Euro or a CVT that's similar to Insight's.
The engine boosts power and torque at every point along the rev range, and though maximum figures of 167Nm at rpm and 91kW at 6000rpm don't sound startling, that's on a car weighing less than 1200kg.
The company line
Honda managing director Graeme Seymour allays battery concerns with an eight year, 160,000km warranty. At current prices the battery costs $920 to replace.
Seymour says CR-Z has no direct competitor, citing VW Scirocco and Peugeot RCZ as hitting a similar demographic if not the CR-Z's $44,900 price, and Mini for its combo of everyday ability and sporty flavour.
What we say
Is CR-Z is an everyday hatch with sporting flavour, or a sports car with everyday abilities? Hard to say based on a brief launch drive. It has sporting flavour due to reasonable handling and torque punch at lower revs, not to mention sharp looks, yet it's tractable round town and the rear seats fold to expand the boot from 208 litres to 410. However, there is no five-door version and those rear seats don't supply the head (or leg) room adults require.
On the road
My brief highway taster suggests this CVT auto is less intrusive than earlier examples and it cuts fuel use from the six-speed manual's 5.0l/100km to 4.7.
Overall CR-Z is far livelier than expected especially in sport mode, and I love the buttons to select eco, normal or sport driving - the latter imparting instant pep while the former is super-frugal.
Why you'll buy one?
A sharp looker with an eco aura, weekday fuel economy and lively performance.
Why you won't?
You need four seats, or you want a sports car with grunt.