2014 Honda CRZ review

10 Апр 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи 2014 Honda CRZ review отключены
Honda CR-Z Electric Cars

2014 Honda CR-Z

The Prius Rule: Electric motors attached to internal combustion units mercilessly dispose of any pleasure left in the already sanitized modern driving experience.

Glance at its lineup and you could be forgiven for thinking that Honda closely adheres to The Prius Rule. Despite Honda’s efforts to persuade us otherwise, the automaker’s Insight, the cheapest hybrid currently on sale in North America, is a Prius by another name.

Yet this is the brand that has given us the zippy S2000, the sublime NSX and even the highly-entertaining mainstream Accord sedan and coupe. Stretch back a few years and you’ll find one of the greatest affordable enthusiast cars ever created, the Honda CRX. These little two-door fastbacks are the automotive gods’ gift to autocrossers and canyon carvers thanks to their trim dimensions and sporty demeanor.

And that’s precisely what the CR-Z is designed to recreate, albeit in a politically correct 2011 sort of way. Call it a new segment: The world’s first hybrid sports car.

Channeling Honda of yore

Sure, Honda could have simply rebuilt the CRX, or even weeded through Craigslist to find all six unmolested ones still on the road, but modern safety and emissions standards stood in the way. The little sub-2,000 lbs. sportster sold in the ’80s and early ’90s instead needed to serve as an inspirational launchpad for a 21st century low-emissions recreation of sorts.

Enter the CR-Z, the world’s first mass production hybrid sports car. Looking a little bit like the CRX, the CR-Z is a two-seat hatchback boasting not much power, but also not much weight. Tipping the scales at a mere 2,637 lbs. it is about 100 lbs. lighter than an Insight.

It is a few Big Macs portlier than a MINI Cooper, but, at 160.6 inches long and 68.5 inches wide, it boasts a considerably larger footprint. A MINI measures 145.6 by 57.4.

By 2011 standards, the CR-Z is a genuine lightweight.

It utilizes a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with variable valve timing (VTEC in Honda-speak), derived from the Honda Fit’s mull, mated here to a 10 kW electric motor. Combined, the two units produce 122 horsepower and 128 lb-ft. of torque when hooked up to the standard six-speed manual transmission (123 lb-ft. with the optional CVT). Like most hybrids, the CR-Z’s engine clicks off at stop lights and provides some boost under acceleration while serving as a generator during braking or coasting.

What it won’t do is move under its own power using only the electric motor. Still, fuel economy is impressive at 35 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway with the CVT, or 31/37 mpg with the stick.

This isn’t the first time Honda has tried making a hybrid aimed at a mainstream audience, or at least one outside of the green car niche. The Accord Hybrid lasted for three model years (2005-2007), but failed to catch on with the buying public despite offering a sub-7 second 0-60 sprint and about 30 mpg combined. The CR-Z represents a thorough rethink of hybrid performance by offering expressive style in a dedicated sporty car package instead.

Three CR-Z variants will be availalbe, each in a handful of exterior colors and all with silver-tinted cloth seats. The base model gets a decent level of equipment including alloy wheels and automatic climate control, while the EX adds a high-zoot stereo, leather around the steering wheel and Bluetooth. The EX-Navi adds — you guessed it — a somewhat dated voice-activated navigation system.

Hybrid performance?

Like the original CRX, the CR-Z wasn’t built to take on Dodge Challengers and Ford Mustangs. Instead, Honda focused on making the little two door into a docile puppy dog that can play in the corners when called upon. Agility reigns supreme here.

Sitting low in the especially supportive sports seats, the CR-Z’s dashboard wraps neatly around the driver. The execution isn’t necessarily artistic, but the spaceship-style command center is nonetheless interesting and convenient. No control is a long reach away from the driver aside from the far side of the audio head unit.

But the most important buttons to become familiar with are on the left side of the steering wheel — Sport, Normal and Econ. Their intentions are obvious; press Sport for increased steering resistance and more throttle response and press Eco for borderline dangerously weak performance aimed at minimizing consumption. The system reverts to Normal after every restart, so get used to pressing Sport before taking off if driving is your thing.

With Sport engaged, the CR-Z’s steering is rapidly responsive, endowing the little personal coupe with the moves of a genuine compact sportster. Steering feel isn’t its forte, but combined with a simple-is-better suspension (MacPherson struts up front with an H-shaped torsion beam out back), the front-wheel-drive CR-Z is genuinely entertaining to throw into corners.

Better yet, the standard six-speed manual (expected to account for around a quarter of all sales) is delightfully pleasing to chuck between the nicely spaced gears. It lacks the overall precision of, say, a German unit, but it matches nicely with a well-weighted clutch.

Don’t look for rip-roaring performance, but the little hybrid powertrain is a veritable torque monster at lower rpms. Honda motors love to sing up high in the rev band, but we found more joy in keeping the 1.5-liter under 3,000 rpm, where it emits a raspy growl and just enough vibration into the cabin to qualify as sporty, not unrefined.

The optional CVT is among the better we’ve experienced, but we’ll reserve full judgment for a more extended drive in the near future.

Two’s a crowd

With its tossable nature and slot car-like performance, the CR-Z begs to be compared to the MINI Cooper. Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing. The Cooper has room for four, but the CR-Z is strictly a two person affair. Europe and Japan get a small back seat, while North America gets a parcel shelf. Trust us, we’re the lucky ones.

An average size … simply won’t fit in the JDM CR-Z’s seating area. It’s not a matter of comfort, it’s a matter of impossibility.

Instead, we get a flop-down partition that gives the CR-Z decent room for a weekend away — about 25.1 cubic feet with the partition stowed. You won’t fit much of a suitcase back there beyond a roll-on overnight bag. But with the prices airlines charge for checked luggage these days, maybe the CR-Z’s limited cargo capacity will help save a few bucks.

Practical for a family of four, the CR-Z is not. But that’s not the point here.

Why you would buy it:

Always an early adopter, you think (rightly so, we estimate) Honda is on to something with the world’s first hybrid sports car.

Why you wouldn’t:

You’ve got MINI fever.

Leftlane’s bottom line

By defining a new automotive niche, Honda has channeled one of its most important and most respected vehicles to help legitimize the concept of a hybrid sports car. In an era where steering feel and sporty suspensions take a back seat to lowered emissions and reduced fuel consumption, the CR-Z manages to remind us that it’s possible to have fun while using less.

And that’s not just because it doesn’t have a back seat.

2011 Honda CR-Z base price, $19,800 (estimated).

A 9,700-mile 1985 Honda CRX Si

Although Honda doesn’t necessarily bill the CR-Z as a reincarnated CRX, the automaker realized that only someone who slept through the ’80s and early ’90s would think otherwise. Capitalizing on the connection, the automaker resuscitated a showroom fresh 1985 CRX Si from its Southern California museum and allowed us to take it for a quick spin.

Weighing in at about 1,900 lbs. the CRX is a study in simplicity. Luxuries are relative — how about an ashtray and lighter and a graphic equalizer for the AM/FM/cassette unit?

Hustled through the curves of Sonoma, California, the CRX reveals its true mission. Despite its surprisingly plush and cossetting ride, the CRX is as positively connected to the road as any sports car costing ten times its original list price. The large steering wheel seems archaic by 2010 standards, but it serves up gobs of natural, unassisted feel, while a short throw five-speed manual transmission makes the most of the available 91 horsepower from a 1.5-liter four-banger.

The CRX is pure, undiluted fun.

As for a CR-Z Si? Honda’s executives have their lips sealed. But we saw that glimmer in their eyes. And we like it.

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