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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Honda CR-Z EX doesn't quite fill bill as sporty gas saver

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

Peter Couture

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.

Lyra Solochek

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.









2011 Honda CR-Z EX

Price: $19,345 base, $24,105 as tested

Powertrain: 1.5-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder with Integrated Motor Assist, Continuous Variable Transmission with paddle shifters, FWD

Horsepower: 122 at 6,000 rpm (electric motor: 13 at 1,500)

Torque: 123 pound-

feet at 1,000-2,000 rpm (electric motor: 58 at 1,000)

Seats: 2

Curb weight: 2,707 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 96.9

Length, 160.6

Width, 68.5

Fuel economy:

35 miles per gallon city, 39 highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

Carbon

emissions rating: AT-PZEV

Safety features: Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS, air bags and curtains, ACE body structure, electronic brake control, brake assist, side impact door beams

Website:

automobiles.honda.com/cr-z

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Honda CR-Z EX doesn't quite fill bill as sporty gas saver 02/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011 3:30am]
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