Honda bills the CR-Z as a sporty hybrid. That's a bit of a stretch. It's a cute, occasionally fun two-seater that gets decent gas mileage and has a design that recalls the much-loved Honda CR-X or the Del Sol. Is that enough? It depends on your expectations. (Already there's talk of a non-hybrid turbo version with up 200 hp.)
Appearance: One of Peter's daughters thought the car looked like a computer mouse, so that became its name. But this "mouse" has clean lines and bold side creases. The CR-Z has a rounded, stylish front, with a domed hood and a large black-mesh grille that gives it a slightly puckered look. The rear is high with a flat hatch window that severely limits visibility. The 16-inch alloy wheels give the CR-Z a grounded look, and the short overhang in the front and rear give it a sporty feel.
Performance: It's a relative term with a hybrid, right? Honda has the Integrated Motor Assist system, which we've seen in its Civic and Insight. There are three driving modes: Econ, Normal and Sport, and the EcoAssist helps you monitor your driving as the color of the tach/speedometer shifts from conservative green to its normal blue to red for aggressive driving. About that red glow: The CR-Z has a combined output from its 1.5-liter engine and electric motor of 122 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. You simply aren't going to get too aggressive — or fast — in a straight line, even in the high-revving Sport mode (0-60 in about 9 seconds). We may have been hampered somewhat by the Continuous Variable Transmission, which will probably be the choice for most buyers. (There also are paddle shifters.) We'd like to try the available 6-speed manual, which might better complement the CR-Z's strength: its handling. The car's low center of gravity, wide stance and independent front and torsion-beam rear suspension make for nimble cornering.
Interior: First off, we both complained about the squeaky horn. Can't they make it sound a little more . . . macho? When you slide into the CR-Z's comfortable and well-bolstered seats, you'll feel low to the ground. The interior is simple, except for some '80s sci-fi treatments such as the aluminum-mesh-look door trim. The dash is dominated by the tach/speedo that has a 3-D look — blue lights playing on plastic — that can be hard to see in bright sunlight. The navigation screen is conveniently angled toward the driver, and the CR-Z has the requisite Bluetooth and USB connections. There are no backseats, just two storage bins and a divider that folds flat for lots of cargo space.
Our 3 favorites
Futuristic: Even with a fair amount of hard plastic, I liked the look of the dash.
Pedals: They are grippy and aluminum.
Exterior touches: Sleek, swept-back headlights and five-spoke wheels.
Handling: Peppy ride and zippy cornering (though not the most green way to drive).
Color-coded: The speedometer tells you how you're driving with changing colors.
Exterior design: Bold, with a hint of Hondas past.
The bottom line: The Honda CR-Z isn't all-in either as a gas saver or a two-seat sports car. But if you want to wear the hybrid badge of honor while having some fun and looking cool, it's worth considering.