2011 Honda CR-Z: First Drive

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What do you get when you take some of the inspiration of Honda’s much-loved CRX two-seater from the 1980s and cross it with the also-much-loved Insight coupe from the past decade, then give it the latest version of Honda’s hybrid system? Honda says you get the 2011 Honda CR-Z.


We’re leaning more to “Insight two-door” after our first drive of the CR-Z from Manhattan to the suburbs and back. Even with its own sheetmetal, crisper steering feel and an available six-speed manual transmission, the CR-Z doesn’t add more than a dash or two of driving fun to the usual hybrid driving experience.


It shrinks the appeal of the Insight in two important ways, too: it gets worse fuel economy, and it loses the in-a-pinch usefulness of the Insight’s admittedly smallish back seat.


After a very brief first drive of the CR-Z in and out of New York City, we’re left more wanting of a classic 1984-1991 CRX than ever. If you’ve never driven one, find a good example and get in it—it’s on the bucket list for every driver under 50 years old, in our humble opinion. Unassisted steering and non-anti-lock brakes might sound like something drawn on cave walls, but the CRX was a halo car for Honda when it hadn’t set out to create one.


The CR-Z isn’t one, period. It’s a pioneer, all right—but we’re just not convinced there’s a pack of “hybrid enthusiasts” out there who can overlook either the CR-Z’s numb, hybrid-like driving feel, or its sub-Insight fuel economy. A stock Ford Fiesta will better the CR-Z’s gas mileage—and might feel better, dynamically.


We’ll reserve a final take on the CR-Z for later this year, when we can wring one out on our favorite switchbacks. But we’re pretty sure in our opinion that Honda should have dubbed this car something else. Maybe the CR-Z should have been an Insight Sport. Or maybe Honda could have added hybrid technology to its spunky Civic Si hatchback instead.


Or as our lanky deputy editor Bengt Halvorson asked, “What if Honda had built that diesel it planned for Acura, and put it in a Civic-based coupe?”


It didn’t, and instead, the CR-X feels more like the old fuel-sipper CRX HF than the track-friendly Si versions. Most of all, it feels like the Insight—the sportiest hybrid by far, but a mixed message at best.


We think it’s either way ahead of its time, or plainly off the mark. You can read our full first drive over on TheCarConnection’s 2011 Honda CR-Z page, and stay tuned for a review of other takes on the CR-Z and our own follow-up drives.

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Comments (5)
  1. The Fiesta 5-speed has a combined EPA rating of 32. The automatic is 33. The CR-Z is expected to return a combined EPA rating of 34 for the manual, 37 for the CVT.
    Also, Honda does not make a Civic hatchback.

  2. They do, it's just not available in the states

  3. Great review as always but you are remembering the CRX Si through rose tinted glasses. I drove one back to back with the CR-Z and for one I felt totally unsafe in it and the steering went from heavy to light and back again at a whim. Plus when I turned the A/C on the whole car vibrated. Remember when Honda only offered dealer installed A/C? Those were good times.

  4. You bring up a good point, the Fiesta starts around $13,000 and get 40 mpg, has great handling, and is at least as fast (but probably faster) than the CR-Z and it has a usable back seat. To me this just demonstates that Honda's greatness is fading fast as Ford could produce a car that matches or exceeds the CR-Z's performance for thousands of dollars less and without having to resort to making it a hybrid.

  5. The main issue is that CRZ with a Hybrid system got worse mileage then CRX HF it replaced .The CRX HF got 50 mpg on the highway because it was light.The battery did not do any favors for Honda in many case's it lowered the MPG because of weight .If you in add the environmental effect's of Hybrid Honda's nothing is gained.Honda and Hybrid is a failure as has been the new Civic thats why they are doing a refresh on a new car.

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