"With a hi-tech hybrid engine and sporty set-up, the Honda CR-Z attempts to be the first car to offer driving thrills with low hybrid running costs."
The Honda CR-Z is arguably the world's first fun hybrid. It certainly looks more like a sports car than an ecologically minded Toyota Prius. Then there's its drive, which actually manages to provide genuine thrills and low running costs. It even comes with a manual gearbox – another first for a hybrid car. It's based on the Honda Insight, but combines a 1.5-litre engine with an electric motor to generate up to 135bhp of total power. We know that doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but the CR-Z shines in the corners, helping it back up its title as the first hybrid sports car. However, like many sports cars, it sacrifices the practicality for a sleek design – and while it does technically have backseats, they’re so small that you’re better off folding them down to turn the tiny boot into a reasonable one. Since 2012, the batteries have been upgraded to more efficient lithium-ion cells. It comes in four versions, Sport, Sport-T, GT and GT-T.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Unsurprisingly, this is where the CR-Z truly shines. The petrol-electric set-up returns an average 56.5mpg and emits 117g/km – numbers that don’t stack up to the best economical diesels on the market, but are very impressive for a car that offers this level of performance. Buy a GT model, with its larger alloy wheels, and that economy worsens slightly, to 54.3mpg. The CR-Z also comes fitted with stop-start as standard to further cut down on fuel consumption and emissions – handy if you're considering the CR-Z as a company car. Also, servicing costs tend to be a bit expensive for Hondas and don’t expect any Kia-sized long warranties either.
Interior & comfort
Continuing on the theme of breaking the fuddy-duddy image of hybrid cars, the CR-Z is not focused on comfort. It comes with the kind of stiff suspension any self-respecting sports car owner expects to have, which improves its grip and cornering ability. This also means that any bumps in the road become more pronounced, which combines with intrusive road noise on the motorway and it's not as good for long journeys as you might hope. Those sitting in the front get supportive and comfy seats that have plenty of head, leg and shoulder room, but you should really forget about the backseats as even small children will feel a bit claustrophobic squeezed in there. Overall, it's not as comfortable as something like an Astra GTC.
Practicality & boot space
Hey, it's a hybrid sports car – if it was practical, that just wouldn’t be right. Seriously, it isn’t the most versatile of cars, offering only a tiny 225 litres of bootspace thanks to the bulky batteries stored in there. If you do the sensible thing and ignore the microscopic back seats, you can fold them down to offer a more reasonable 401 litres. Only small children – and we mean properly small, no teenagers – will be able to fit comfortably in the rear seats anyway. The visibility out of the rear windscreen is also poor because of an intrusive rear spoiler, making parking and reversing difficult and drivers should be aware of increased blind spots, as well.
Reliability & safety
Honda placed sixth overall in the manufacturers’ section of the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, so you can expect the CR-Z to be reliable, despite the complicated petrol-electric set-up used to drive it. It uses a combination of technology from the current Honda Insight and the old Honda Civic hybrid, neither of which have had any major problems since they hit the UK market. And buyers can take even more peace of mind from the CR-Z's excellent five-star rating from the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, scoring an impressive 93 per cent for adult protection, with six airbags, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist, hill start assist, ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and electronic stability control all fitted as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
The CR-Z has three driving modes to choose from – Eco, Sport and Normal. Honda claims that the Eco mode improves fuel economy by up to 10 per cent, and you do need to run it in that mode to hit the claimed mpg figures. Normal mode feels a bit slow, too, but Sport is much more exciting, with a more responsive throttle and engine. Models from 2013 onwards get a new S+ button, which gives even better acceleration for up to 10 seconds. Since 2012 it can go from 0-62mph in 9 seconds, knocking 0.7 seconds off its previous time, up to a top speed of 124mph. That's hardly a blistering pace, but when you’re sat in the car's low driving position it definitely feels exciting. One word of caution – the drive feels so sporty that you may be tempted to drive like a true sports car, but if you do, there is a lot of body roll because of the heavy battery pack. The six-speed manual gearbox, a first for a hybrid, is accurate and adds to the general sporty feel of the car. It's not as fun to drive as a Mazda MX-5 or VW Scirocco, but the CR-Z can be an exciting drive if you push it.
Price, value for money & options
Unsurprisingly, this is where the CR-Z truly shines. The petrol-electric set-up returns an average 56.5mpg and emits 117g/km – numbers that don’t stack up to the best economical diesels on the market, but are very impressive for a car that offers this level of performance. Buy a GT model, with its larger alloy wheels, and that economy worsens slightly to 54.3mpg. The CR-Z also comes fitted with stop-start as standard to further cut down on fuel consumption and emissions – useful if you're a company car driver looking to cut your tax bills. Also, servicing costs tend to be a bit expensive for Hondas and don’t expect any Kia-sized long warranties either.