In a world where big high street names are disappearing faster than Usain Bolt on a sugar rush and jobs are being cut more often than horse meat finds its way into a leading supermarkets burgers, every company is tightening their belts. Risk must be reduced and high volume products should take priority. So when Honda announced that for 2013 we would be getting a mid-life refresh of the CR-Z I was surprised to say the least. It’s not that it is a bad car or anything of that nature, but it is a niche product and Honda know that it doesn’t sell in big numbers. This car is a gamble, but it is one that I am very glad they have made.
The Honda CR-Z is officially a hybrid 2+2 coupe, however, some people class it as a rather impractical example of style over substance. It is very true that the rear seats could be described as not being suitable for amputees, and yes that shark fin on the roof isn’t the ideal shape for a radio antenna, but to call it over styled is like criticising Rihanna for being too beautiful. It looks sharp as razor and never fails capture peoples attention. One day it maybe even be a future classic… But there is much more to the CR-Z than its handsome appearance.
If you want to drive a hybrid car your choices are very limited, and almost nonexistent if you want something that is involving to drive. The beauty of the CR-Z is that it is the first hybrid car that will let you have your cake and eat as much of it as you like. Returning a reasonable 54MPG, this funky little cars 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine is not only economical but also brilliant fun. Revving the nuts off of it whilst blasting down a country road is fantastically satisfying and in tandem a very well sorted chassis, the car dances from bend to bend. The high levels of grip inspires the confidence to make the most out of all 135BHP, a rare thing amongst front wheel drive cars. The CR-Z has three driving modes; Econ, normal and sport. Whilst in sport mode not only does the Knight Rider influenced dashboard glow red, but the suspension firms up and the steering becomes more weighted. The battery changes its core occupation from saving the environment to boosting the engines performance. In this state the CR-Z is direct, responsive and utterly rewarding to drive. New for 2013, aside from those snazzy 17 inch alloys and an increase in power, is a neon blue button on the steering wheel marked S+. This gizmo when pushed gives the car all of the power the battery has to offer in one big 15 second blast. What’s that? A big blue “go faster” button? Every mans dream! Though its effect on overall acceleration isn’t massive, the instant increase in torque is very noticeable and can be used effectively upon exiting a corner. It might be a bit of a novelty but I found it intoxicating as in my head for those few seconds I was Jenson Button deploying my KERS in an F1 car.
In an everyday capacity the 2013 Honda CR-Z isn’t all that different from the model it replaces. Folding flat those useless rear seats transforms the car into a very practical two seater and in the normal driving mode it merrily goes about its business of taking you where you want to go. I still find the Econ environmental mode a little bit frustrating as though it does indeed save fuel, I hate how it restricts how much power the car can summon and how quickly. The parking sensors are a god send as rear visibility, thanks to its CR-X inspired rear, is almost none existent. My only other gripe with the new CR-Z is that the new rims on this GT spec car do produce more road noise than its predecessor and the ride is notably harsher. That said it is far from unbearable and I feel that these diamond-turned alloy wheels are a must on a car that turns so many heads.
Some people will never “get” the CR-Z, there will always be those people who prefer the more sober VW Scirocco, but that is exactly why this is a niche product… Because there are a select few who do very much “get” what the CR-Z is all about. It is style, it is driving pleasure, it is a bold statement to the world showing that you don’t have to drive something dull to have a hybrid. I am one of those people. I completely “get” the Honda CR-Z.