By/Por Ed Madinya
Photos by Ed Madinya
I recall that when I was in college studying Industrial Design, students would draw representations of automobiles that had a futuristic feel. To the contrary, I drew automotive styles that seemed more realistic as opposed to the other sci-fi representations. I always felt that automotive design should have a contemporary look plus a broad appeal. Further, it should be something that you can immediately imagine driving down the road. Call it my hunch, my instinct or my intuition.
The Honda CR-Z is that car–the commuter car that has the sports car look, the fuel efficient engine, and room for another passenger (plus a set of golf clubs). This car, with its small footprint, strikes a big blow to the segment of cars that look mild, boxy, and boring. Other two seat commuters successfully managed to come off of the drawing boards, but failed to achieve the appeal of the CR-Z.
The designers at Honda have made a leap, reminiscent of a Carl Lewis long jump, to create a car that breaks the mold of the particularly odd looking class of vehicles. Their engineers also set a course that will continue to improve the direction that Honda has taken to manufacture vehicles that are environmentally sound and reliable forms of transportation.
The CR-Z has a four-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower and 123 pound feet of torque with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The 6-speed transmission was fun because Honda engineers added paddle shifters that were located on the steering wheel. This engine and transmission combination was monitored by computers that control the vehicles performance and fuel efficiency levels at the touch of a button. Actually, three buttons give the driver access to three driving modes.
First, the Normal Mode is designed to give the driver standard traffic driving fuel efficiency. This is ideal for cruising and going to and from the market to home and from the office to your favorite lunch spot.
Second is the Sport Mode. The performance level is increased as you feel a responsive throttle and energetic sounding engine. The fuel consumption increases as the engine seeks to awaken the horsepower that is lessened during the normal mode. So when the road opens a bit and allows for safe lane changes or when the road becomes a bit windy, this is the mode of choice.
The third selection is ECO Mode. This one quarters the ponies. It decreases the performance to levels that increase the fuel economy and lower the already clean emissions. We selected this mode when it was bumper-to-bumper traffic and when driving in the center of downtown L.A.
The two-seater was comfortable for a pair of tall adults. The golf clubs didn’t complain as they sat in the back area that resembled seats but were merely contoured locations for items. Upfront, the sporty bucket seats were race inspired and the suspension and ride height gave you the impression that you were in a tuner styled import. All the necessary controls were either on the steering wheel or located perfectly in the middle of the dash.
Outside, the look of the car gained the attention of many other commuters. We could even see the envy of other hybrid owners as they sought less conspicuous vantage points. We suspect that they felt like they were driving bread boxes compared to the dramatic rake of the CR-Z’s profile.
After a week-long evaluation, we really believe that the CR-Z is a well-developed hybrid. It has a multitude of modern amenities that drivers expect especially in a day and age where technology and fuel efficiency are paired up in the same thought when considering a new hybrid.
The basic information
- Transmission: Automatic
- Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive
- MPG: 35 City / 39 Hwy
- Engine: Gas/Electric I4 1.5L/91
- Horsepower: 122 @ 6000 rpm
- Torque: 123 @ 1000 – 2000 1.5L/91
- Wheels & Tires: 16″ Alloy with P195/55R16/16 86V
- Color: North Shore Blue Pearl
- Pricing: Starting at $22,905
An abbreviated list of options on the CR-Z we evaluated
- 3-mode drive system (ECON, Normal, Sport)
- Eco Assist™
- Vehicle Stability Assist™ with Traction Control
- Side Curtain Airbags
- Security System with Remote Entry
- Air-Conditioning with Air-Filtration System
- Daytime Running Lights
- LED brake lights
- 360-Watt AM/FM/CD Premium Audio System with 7 Speakers including Subwoofer
- Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® and USB Audio Interface
- Fog Lights
- Daytime Running Lights
- LED brake lights
- High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights with Auto-On/Off
- Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel and Shift Knob
- Textured Aluminum Pedals
- Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ with Voice Recognition