Posted on: Nov 01, 2010
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First Look: 2011 Honda CR-Z

The Honda CR-Z occupies a very interesting place in the automotive market. It draws from two very different predecessors in a way that you might think could never possibly work. You'd be right, of course, dressing up an Insight in a sports car costume doesn't make it a sports car any more than the plastic Hummer costume on the Yukon that made it into a military vehicle. The body style and sporting pretensions of the CR-Z are owed to the legacy of the old CR-X.

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The larger part of the mechanical underpinnings (mainly the hybrid drivetrain) come from the Insight. These two cars are so different from one another that Honda deserves a certain amount of credit just for being able to mention both cars in the same sentence with a straight face. The old CR-X was a great car. It had the stripped-down kind of charm you'd find in a Lotus Elise, but for a fraction of the cost. My high school girlfriend had one, and while the lack of power steering made for a lot of work in parking garages, it was otherwise nothing but smiles the whole time you were in the car.
The Insight was also a very significant car, although in a much less visceral way. The Insight was Honda's first real hybrid, and the current generation is still their cheapest hybrid. The fuel economy figures continue to give all other makers of hybrids something to shoot for, so it's safe to say that the Insight has made its mark. That said, for those of us who actually want to enjoy their time spent behind the wheel for reasons other than feeling self-righteous, the Insight is about as bad as it gets. Makers of hybrids generally know who they're selling to, and hybrids (especially cheap ones) aren't exactly driver's cars.
The Insight offers low power, bad handling and an interior that's about as unpleasant as a modern car can be. Honda insists that the CR-Z has a minimum of Insight parts, but despite the changes they've made, you aren't going to get much more in the way of performance. The 1.5-liter engine produces a none-too-impressive 124 horsepower, which combines with the 2,568 lb curb weight to give you a 0-60 time in the neighborhood of 10 seconds. Sure, that's fine for a hybrid, but we're being told that this is a sports coupe, and performance figures like these just won't cut it.
Especially when a Scion tC will give you much better performance for a lot less money. Yes, the CR-Z is a good looking car, and Honda can now brag that they make the best looking hybrid on the market. Their claims to be making the first sports coupe hybrid still fall well short of their mark. Such a car may still come around, but it won't come out of the Insight.


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