Honda CR-Z

 

By Tim Saunders

Travel over three-hundred-and-fifty miles in style, on just 40 litres of petrol, while being environmentally friendly.

 

That’s the offering from Honda with its sleek, aerodynamic Honda CR-Z hybrid coupe where the road tax is just £20 a year because of its low emissions. But there’s a drawback, if you want reasonable efficiency, you have to be really light-footed. That said travelling at 50mph for a straight 30-mile stretch still seems to use as much fuel as slowly hauling it up to 70mph over the same distance, according to my interpretation of the digital reading.

Hybrids are an interesting phenomenon whereby the engine charges an electric motor, which kicks in, typically at low speeds. It also assists the engine when climbing hills. Therefore you would think that they were super-efficient. But I am yet to test one that is and sadly the Honda doesn’t surprise me.

When travelling uphill efficiency seems to halve, according to the digital reading - despite assistance from the electric motor, which charges while travelling on the flat. As I crawl past filling stations charging an eye-watering £140.9 per litre of unleaded and despair at the government’s insatiable greed, the CR-Z refuses to return anything more than 45.7mpg, according to the digital read out - far short of the claimed 56mpg. But then I do get a surprise, because a few miles after showing it some fuel, the reading leaps to 65mpg… Baffled once again by technology I resort to a rough bit of arithmetic converting the 40 litre fuel tank into 8.79 gallons and dividing this into the 350 miles travelled, giving an average 39.8mpg. Disappointing particularly when considering that the vast majority of this test is conducted in economy mode with careful use of the cruise control and six-speed box. There are only a few joyful seconds, literally, in sports mode.

For me, the CR-Z should start in economy mode. Forgetful motorists, like me, only remember to engage this function 10 or 15 miles into their journey.

This aside, when driving the 1.5-litre petrol coupe, you don’t realise it’s a hybrid and it doesn’t look like one either. On checking the wing mirrors are correctly adjusted, the attractive rear haunches leap out at you.

“I don’t know of any other car whose rear looks like a sort of cool dorsal fin,” says a work colleague. There aren’t many, although the Smart coupe and the original Citroen C4 share similar looks but the CR-Z is clearly inspired by its predecessor, the CR-X from the ‘90s. She’s right though, it does have a particularly striking, wind cheating design.

The engine bursts into life by turning the key in the ignition, pressing the clutch and pushing the start button to the left of the steering wheel. It took me a while to realise this as usually there’s either one or the other but never normally a key and a button as you can see from the video at testdrives.biz.

Hard ride and excellent handling coupled with its low-to-the-ground design makes it a fun car to drive, even at low speeds, much like a go-kart. If fuel costs are pushed to the back of your mind, this is a thoroughly enjoyable car to drive; sports mode really making it urgent and responsive.

But I’m not a great fan of the bar over the rear window because it hinders the vision, although a necessary part of the design. A wiper on the rear window would be beneficial as the heating element takes a while to warm up and clear a dew covered screen. There’s really only room for two in this car with the rear seats not being of an adequate size for rear passengers. The boot is reasonable. I recommend that the rear seats are removed and the boot is enlarged.

Equipment includes air conditioning and electric windows and, as in the Civic and CR-V, there’s a traditional handbrake, which I like, as well as the electrically folding wing mirrors.

Parkers, the car experts, say: “Honda’s brief was simple. Create the world’s first fun-to-drive hybrid. The Honda CR-Z is the result and, if successful, it could be the perfect car for enthusiasts with a conscience.”

Definitely a fun alternative to traditional hybrids the CR-Z is the ideal city car. If the fuel tank was increased to 50-litres and it was coupled to a clean diesel engine, this coupe would become a worthy and fun long distance companion, too.

New price range: £17,400 - £23,080

 

Economy: 45mpg

 

0-60mph: 9.6secs

Top speed: 124mph

Power: 122bhp

CO2 emissions: 117 g/km

Road tax: £20

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