The CR-Z is Honda's answer to an Eco sporty car, trouble is it wouldn't pull the skin off a rice puddin' so there's no substance to the racy style or sporty pretence. Pity that, especially as its dynamics are crying out for some mongrel under the bonnet.
While the base model Honda CR-Z is priced from $34,990, the Luxury tested here starts from $40,790. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming is included as is multimedia connectivity and satnav with traffic bulletins.
It's a great looking little coupe and undoubtedly well-built coming out of Honda's main Japan factory. CR-Z cuts an athletic profile on the street with plenty of glances from male and female admirers but the tiny fast back is totally impractical and the rear seats are useless.
Looks good inside with a driver-focused cockpit-style dash albeit in hard grey plastic. The audio is good and the seats are comfortable though lacking lumbar support adjustment.
It's roomy in the front, forget the back and just fold the seats to form a larger load space. There's plenty of information coming at you from various locations in the dash and a comfortable driving position but no centre arm rest.
UK tuning outfit Mugen has added a turbo to the engine giving around 150kW of power and around 250Nm of torque. It's enough to get the CR-Z from 0-100kmh in 6.0 seconds instead of the current pedestrian 10.0 seconds.
That's what it needs for sure and perhaps Honda might up the ante. Don't hold your breath. Power comes from the combined efforts of a 1.5-litre, single cam, petrol four cylinder engine and an accompanying electric assist motor for a total of 91kW/167Nm available with the constantly variable transmission in CR-Z Luxury.
The petrol engine has VTEC variable valve timing and is capable of consuming as little as 5.4-litres/100km (on test) of regular unleaded. There's a bank of Nickle Metal Hydride (not the newer Lithium Ion) batteries down the back to help the electric motor but you can't drive this car far on electric power alone. It is a petrol powered vehicle with modest assistance from an electric motor. The CVT has paddle shift on the wheel.
CR-Z gets a five star ANCAP rating thanks to its strong chassis construction, six air bags and stability control. There's a reverse camera and daytime running lights.
There's a clever three mode drive system offering Econ, Normal and Sport which changes various inputs such as throttle response and steering. There's a fuel efficiency monitor on Normal and Econ with the latter shutting down air conditioning wherever possible to conserve fuel.
A digital reward system is used to coach drivers how to save fuel. Auto stop/start further reduces fuel consumption around town and it has quick-start to fire the engine immediately as the foot brake is released.
Despite the average performance, CR-Z is fun to drive with direct steering and impressive cornering. The steering is well weighted and the brakes are strong and resist fade. It weighs in at 1190kg which tells under acceleration.
Expect something north of 10.0 seconds for the 0-100kmh dash. Ride quality is good from the strut front and simple torsion beam rear axle. However, it's embarrassing when a 1988 VN Commodore driven by a green P-plater comprehensively hoses your $40 grand CR-Z from the traffic lights without really trying.
Looks good and has impressive dynamics. Do sporty driving and ultimate fuel economy go together? Maybe, maybe not. We'd be waiting for the Hyundai Veloster Turbo at about $35,000 and cop the bigger fuel bill.
Honda CRZ Luxury
Price: from $40,790
Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cylinder, 84kW/167Nm
Transmission: 7-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 4.7L/100Km (5.4-litres on test), CO2 111g/km
Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo
Price: from $31,990
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 150kW/265Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or auto, FWD
Thirst: 6.8L/100Km, CO2 163g/km
Mini Cooper S
Price: from $40,700
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 135kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or auto, FWD
Thirst: 6.3L/100Km, CO2 146g/km
Citroen C4 e-HDi Exclusive
Price: from $32,990
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, 82kW/270Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 4.4L/100Km, CO2 114g/km