Poor Honda.

It creates the CR-Z, theoretically the perfect mix of fun and fuel efficiency, but ends up alienating both gearheads and green buyers by building something that struggles to satisfy either party.

The 2013 Honda CR-Z should fix some of the car's issues, by improving both performance and gas mileage at the same time.

Visual changes

There was never much wrong with the styling, but Honda has revised the front facia and now offers new color and wheel options, letting it stand out a little more.

Both headlights and tail lamps now have a blue tint--similar to that of the Insight--to play upon the hybrid 'image'. Mesh adorns the front grille while the rear bumper gets an 'aerodynamically functional' diffuser section.

Two new colors join the roster, including the deep purple Passion Berry Pearl, and Polished Metal Metallic.

Inside, the 2013 CR-Z gets new trim finishes, and revised door panels which offer more storage space and now feature bottle holders. A host of interior equipment is also available, while EX models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with navigation, Pandora internet radio and an SMS messaging facility.

Under the skin

As before, the 2013 CR-Z uses a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine, paired with Honda's Integrated Motor Assist mild hybrid system.

Honda has bumped up the power of the electric motor, so peak power is now 130 horsepower, up from 122. Torque in the manual transmission car has risen from 128 pounds-feet to 140 lbs-ft.

In addition, a Plus Sport System provides an extra boost of power for up to five seconds, using a 'S+' button on the steering wheel.

All that is possible thanks to a new 144-volt lithium-ion battery, replacing the old nickel-metal hydride version.

Economy has also improved. Official EPA mileage on CVT-equipped cars is now 36 city, 39 highway and 37 combined--an improvement of 1 mpg in city driving. Manual-transmission cars have gained 1 mpg highway, now rated at 31 city, 38 highway and 34 combined.

While the gains aren't huge, the better mix of performance and gas mileage should make the 2013 CR-Z a little more convincing as an ownership proposition.

The 2013 CR-Z goes on sale November 21, 2012.


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