Tested: Honda CR-Z

The enticing toy

Please excuse my lacklustre typing and slouched posture, I’ve just sold one of my cars. There was no pressing need to do this other than the fact that I simply didn’t have the time to play with my oversized toy. I love cars that double as toys, which is probably why I took a shine to Honda’s revamped CR-Z.

Where my recently departed automobile was as simple as a wooden truck on a string, the CR-Z felt more like the latest and greatest tablet. Shiny. Modern. Complicated. And just like those handheld computers, the mind boggles at how much technology they’ve crammed into such a small package.

The little Honda coupé certainly doesn’t have many direct rivals with its bizarre shape and IMA mild hybrid drive train. Unlike full hybrids, there’s only a small electric motor to help the 1.5-litre petrol engine along, you can’t drive it in pure electric mode and more importantly – it’s got a six-speed manual gearbox.

…it’s got a six-speed manual gearbox.

So you should think of this as a normal petrol hatchback with added vooma for improving either your performance or consumption. Energy is recuperated and stored from deceleration or braking while a clever start/stop system helps to bring its claimed consumption down to just 5.2L/100km.

We often touched 5L/100km in real-world conditions but before I get to the driving experience, you should hear about the toy Honda’s other attributes. That aerodynamic Prius rear end isn’t very attractive and, together with sharply tapered rear windows, makes for absolutely atrocious rear and rear ¾ visibility.

The usable boot space would be a joke if it wasn’t for the rear seats; now those are a joke. As long as you only put children on there, you should be fine. Better still, don’t have any kids and fold the rear bench down (175 – 363L) to accommodate boutique shopping for your childless life.

You should also contemplate a gym membership as the car’s 1.4m height, as well as its low and hard ride will test your leg and back muscles on a daily basis. The front seats are comfortable and supportive but the sporty suspension and 17-inch wheels feed most road irregularities straight into your spine.

And then there’s the interior… After a particularly jovial dinner, I demonstrated the CR-Z to some friends in an almost deserted mall parking lot. As luck would have it, the selected radio station cycled through some sci-fi themes and I was even accused of staging this soundtrack.

Insert X-Files music here.

You see, the Honda CR-Z has an incredibly zany dashboard. Insert X-Files music here. Every surface seems to have a different shape and texture, there are protrusions and LED or neon-coloured items all over the place while the extremely comprehensive instruments wouldn’t look out of place in a UFO.

Save to say that it will take you lots of tinkering to figure everything out but I trust that will be just as pleasurable as discovering a new tablet’s functions. The small multi-function steering wheel is adjustable, all pedals are lightly sprung and the gearbox is a joy to operate.

With maximum combined outputs of 101kW (137hp) or 190Nm shoving along just 1,171kg, the CR-Z can achieve 0-100km/h in 9.4 seconds with a top speed of 200km/h. It also offers a three-way drive mode (Eco, Normal and Sport) as well as a “S+” button for a small bout of all-out performance.

In true Honda fashion, the engine loves to be caned…

In true Honda fashion, the engine loves to be caned to its shrieking red-line which pairs up with the hard suspension to provide lots of handling fun. The electric helper rapidly runs out of battery juice when you constantly floor the car but quickly charges it up again when driven sensibly.

I found the biggest benefit of the IMA power train to sit at low revs – an extra scoop of power in the dull monotony of your daily commute. It is most noticeable when accelerating at low rpm’s, speeding up to change lanes, dabbing the throttle to keep up with traffic; sort of like a turbo-diesel.

The playful CR-Z obviously offers all the mod-cons its potential customers would expect. Many driver and safety aids, Bluetooth streaming, subwoofer, leather, climate control, auto lights and wipers, remote central locking, Xenon lights, two-stage front seat heaters, cruise control, panoramic glass roof and so on and so forth.

The 2013 update donated sharper styling like a new front bumper and grille, rear diffuser and new materials in the cabin. Power increases are 5kW each for the petrol and electric motors, while torque is up about 17Nm. The Sport Plus (S+) button is also new, giving a 10-second power burst if the battery is above 50%.

A Honda CR-Z costs N$332,800 and comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty, five-year/90,000km service plan, one year AA roadside assistance and 15,000km service intervals. So there’s no need to be scared or skeptical of the little coupé, its maintenance is just like any other petrol car.

It’s an expensive and enticing toy.

I could declare this car as too costly but it absolutely won me over, chiefly with its fun and funky character. Honda has absolutely nailed the mild hybrid concept and rolled it into a unique, sporty form which also offers excellent performance and great consumption. It’s an expensive and enticing toy.

Leave a Comment