The 2012 Honda CR-Z is the only two-seat sports coupe hybrid sold in the U.S., and one of the smallest hybrids you can buy today.
Styled to look a lot like a modern version of Honda's classic 1980s CRX coupe, the Honda CR-Z tries to bridge the gap between green motoring and pure driving fun.
Unfortunately, while the CR-Z tries to offer sportiness and high mileage, it fails to do both. It's unable to match the 53-mpg city rating of the 2012 Toyota Prius C, while the added weight of a complicated hybrid system and modern safety features means it isn't as sporty as its spiritual parent, the Honda CRX.
That said, although the CR-Z shares the same drivetrain and platform as Honda's larger five-door 2012 Insight hatchback, it offers a much more fun driving experience. But because the CR-Z weighs in at around 2,600 pounds and only has a 122-horsepower, 1.5-liter engine to move it along (paired with a 15-kilowatt electric motor), we like to think of it as fun with a small "f".
The CR-Z isn't all bark and no bite, however. Honda gets points for offering a stick-shifting six-speed manual transmission alongside the continuously variable transmission (CVT) normally offered with Honda hybrids.
In our opinion, the six-speed stick shift turns the Honda CR-Z into a much more exciting drive. it also eliminates the engine howl under heavy acceleration that you experience with Honda's standard CVT transmission. We recommend giving the stick shift a try.
Sadly, the stick shift has its disadvantages, reducing fuel economy from the CVT's EPA ratings of 35 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined to 31 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. For comparison, the four-seat, five-door Insight is rated at 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, and 41 mpg combined--though you'll sacrifice a fair amount of driving pleasure.
Because it's the only two-seat hybrid coupe on the market, it's difficult to find direct competition for the CR-Z. But we think its closest competitors come in the form of other retro-styled cars like the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe and the new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, as well as sportier subcompacts like the 2012 Ford Fiesta.
It may even have to compete, just as the Insight does, with Honda’s own, excellent Fit subcompact.
When it comes to safety, the 2012 Honda CR-Z has suffered a little at the hands of the NHTSA's revised and more stringent crash tests. Under this new testing regime, it has been awarded a 4-star overall safety rating, let down in part by its 3-star side-impact rating.
That didn't stop the CR-Z from winning an IIHS Top Safety Pick however, with good performance otherwise in front, rear, side, rollover and stability tests.
Being a coupe, there's very little space behind the CR-Z's two (reasonably-sized) seats. In fact, because of the battery pack and other hardware behind the driver and passenger, the rear load bay is rather shallow, reminding us in some ways of the Honda Insight, Honda's first hybrid car.
The instrument panel is the best among Honda’s various hybrids, with crisp colors and a two-level layout that separates the detailed displays (of energy flow and so forth) from basics like road speed, which are high up and closer to the driver’s natural field of vision.
It's possible to buy a base-level 2012 Honda CR-Z for around $20,000, although pick the better equipped 2012 Honda CR-Z EX, and you'll find yourself handing over nearly $24,000 before you've added any extras.
For more details, see the full review of the 2012 Honda CR-Z on our sister site, TheCarConnection.