2011 Honda CR-Z Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Hybrid, 2-passenger sport coupe
  • Based on Honda Insight platform, with a shorter wheelbase
  • Spiritual successor to beloved Honda CRX
  • Base and EX models available
  • Fuel economy ranges from 31 mpg city to 38 mpg highway
  • 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine
  • Features Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system
  • IMA has new 3-mode power delivery system with Normal, Sport and Economy modes
  • Combined 122 horsepower and 123-128 lb.-ft. of torque
  • AT-PZEV emissions rating in California and New England
  • Standard 6-speed manual transmission with Hill Start Assist
  • Available continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters
  • Standard sport-tuned suspension with 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Standard stability control
  • Standard automatic climate control
  • Available 17-inch wheels, 360-watt audio, Bluetooth, and navigation system
  • On sale in summer of 2010

Introduction

2011 Honda CR-ZHonda has been teasing fans of the dearly departed Honda CRX with the , a hybrid-powered sports coupe with clearly defined CRX lineage, for more than a year. The production 2011 Honda CR-Z finally debuted at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, promising a combined horsepower rating of 122 and maximum fuel economy of 38 mpg. Honda says the name of its new 2-seat hybrid sports coupe means "Compact Renaissance Zero," and before we get into the details.

First, A Little History
If you're under 25 years of age, you might wonder what the heck a CRX is. Back in the 1980s, Honda sold a tiny, 2-seat hatchback in the U.S. It was designed for commuters who wanted maximum fuel economy for a minimal price, but it wasn't long before Honda rolled out a CRX Si model with more power, sporty suspension tuning, and other performance tweaks. The rather homely first-generation CRX morphed into a beautiful, elemental sports coupe with a 1988 redesign, and the Si version was a riot to drive-lightweight, just enough power to cause trouble, and razor sharp handling. Google it to find some pictures. Anyway, Honda cancelled the CRX after the 1991 model year, replacing it with an odd little car called the Civic del Sol. But that's another story.

Design

2011 Honda CR-ZThe 2011 Honda CR-Z's exterior design clearly shows the influence of the CRX and the first-generation Honda Insight, the company's first production hybrid model. The profile and overall proportions are similar to the second-generation (1988-1991) CRX with the exception of the CR-Z's impressive front overhang, while the roofline bears a resemblance to the Insight. The two-piece rear window, with a second vertical pane stretched between the taillights, is lifted directly from the CRX and has also been used on the FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle, as well as today's production Insight.

Viewing the CR-Z from the front reveals more recent Honda design cues. The sharp lines of the headlights are strongly-emphasized versions of those found on the current Honda Accord coupe, while the pronounced snout is designed to help mitigate pedestrian injury in the event of an accident. Bold diagonal lines running from just behind the front fenders, under the side glass and straight to the back of the car-a look Honda calls a "one motion" wedge-resemble today's Civic coupe design. Big 19-inch wheels on the CR-Z concept, strongly emphasized fender lines, and the towering rear end gave the concept car an aggressive, muscular look, but the standard 16-inch alloys on the production car lessen the effect.

Unlike the concept car, the production 2011 Honda CR-Z will seat two people instead of four, on cloth sport seats designed for sporty driving. The dashboard is simple in appearance, taking cues from the Honda Insight. Primary controls are clustered around the steering wheel and gauges within fingertip reach of the driver, and Honda says the instrument clusters illuminate with a vibrant blue 3-D effect. Offset toward the passenger in the center of the dash is the available navigation and entertainment screen, and aft of the front seats are covered storage bins.

Model Lineup

Honda will sell the 2011 CR-Z in standard and EX trim levels. Among the standard features are an automatic climate control system, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, 6-speaker stereo with CD player and USB port, and alloy wheels. The EX model adds automatic HID headlights, fog lights, Bluetooth hands-free wireless connectivity, 360-watt stereo system, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A navigation system is optional on the EX, and Honda will offer upgraded 17-inch wheels as a dealer-installed accessory.

Hardware

2011 Honda CR-ZBased on the current Honda Insight platform, but with a shorter wheelbase, tauter suspension, larger 1.5-liter gasoline engine, and an honest-to-God 6-speed manual transmission, the new 2011 Honda CR-Z aims to blend driving enjoyment with high fuel economy and environmental responsibility.

Whereas the original CRX used the same engine as bigger and heavier Civic models, relying on its light weight to provide rapid performance (and, as an added bonus, excellent fuel economy), the CR-Z's hybrid powertrain depends on an electric motor's inherently broad torque curve to maximize performance. Honda pairs the 1.5-liter gasoline-fueled engine with its electric Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, a "series" hybrid design with the 10-kilowatt electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. The IMA setup provides lots of torque off the line when maximum acceleration is desired, or the bulk of motivational force when idling along in stop-and-start traffic.

The hybrid powertrain drives the CR-Z's front wheels through a standard 6-speed manual gearbox or an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 6-speed manual includes Hill Start Assist, which will hold the CR-Z in place on a hill for up to 1.5 seconds while the driver switches her right foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator and releases the clutch. Perhaps optimistically, the CVT includes paddle shifters that allow the driver to maximum use of what power the CR-Z develops.

Speaking of which, the combined power output for this setup is rated at 122 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 128 lb.-ft. of torque between 1000 and 1500 rpm (123 lb.-ft. when paired with the optional CVT). Equipped with auto-stop technology, which shuts the engine down when sitting in traffic or at a red light, the Honda CR-Z's fuel economy rating is 31 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with the standard manual transmission, or 36 mpg city/38 mpg highway with the optional CVT. Additionally, the CR-Z meets Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV) standards in states that have adopted California Air Resources Board (CARB) emissions rules.

Three driver-selectable power delivery modes are offered on the CR-Z. Normal mode is the default, providing standard electric power steering, engine response, electric motor assist, and air conditioning settings. If the driver selects Econ, or Economy, mode, the CR-Z's systems work to conserve as much fuel as possible. In Sport mode, the CR-Z's throttle is more responsive, the steering requires more effort, and the electric power assist is more eager to step in and, uh, assist. A ring in the CR-Z's tachometer glows red when the car is in Sport mode. In Normal and Econ modes, the ring changes color from blue to green, becoming greener the more economically the car is driven.

The 2011 Honda CR-Z employs a MacPherson strut independent suspension in front, and a torsion-beam rear axle. Alloy wheels are standard, sized 16 inches in diameter, shod with 195/55 tires. An optional 17-inch wheel includes more aggressive 205/45 rubber. Four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard.

Safety

2011 Honda CR-ZHonda says the diminutive 2011 CR-Z is designed to the company's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) crashworthiness standards, which means the CR-Z's underlying forward structural elements are intended to deflect crash energy away from the passenger compartment in a frontal impact. Honda has also designed the front end to help reduce pedestrian injuries in the event the CR-Z enters a crosswalk at an inopportune moment for passersby. Stability control is standard on the CR-Z, as well as anti-lock brakes, multiple-threshold dual front air bags, side-impact air bags, and side curtain air bags.

Technology

With the majority of the CR-Z's noteworthy technologies stuffed under the hood and rear cargo floor, owners are left with few high-tech interior gadgets. There's the glowing eco-ring embedded into the tachometer, of course, and the CR-Z does offer an Eco Guide system that includes a driver Eco scoring feature and other fun and informative screens of data. A USB port is also standard, making it easier to plug various communication and entertainment devices into the car, and buyers of the CR-Z EX get Bluetooth as part of the package. Otherwise, the only option is a touch-screen navigation system with voice recognition capability.