I hate Hybrids. Mixing myself and a Hybrid is much like mixing water and electricity, the car tends to conduct my rage with shocking consequences. A day in hell for me would consist of continuously driving a Prius around the M25 whilst listening to the Eco-Nazi’s tell my about how many polar bears I have saved. If the world wants me to drive a Hybrid then it must offer the same as a proper car, in terms of refinement and performance, or surpass it. Right now trading your car for a green party pacifier would be like swapping your perfectly good 32” T.V. for a 15” on the basis that your saving on electricity, you may well go to bed safe in knowledge that a baby seal lives to fight another day but your still going to wake up tomorrow squinting at the screen in a vain attempt to read the football results. So in my mind the New Honda CR-Z was the Hybrids last chance before I totally disregarded them for eternity.
The CR-Z is based on the same chassis as the Honda Civic, so it has the right building blocks as the Civic gives a pleasant ride whilstnot being docile in its feedback. From the top… The Honda CR-Z is designed to be the world’s first “sporty” hybrid offering drivers a claimed 57MPG whilst keeping the excitement of a nimble hatchback. The exterior of the car echo’s back to Honda’s past as styling aspects have been taken directly from the 1981 CR-X. Though inheriting the rather attractive coupe sloping back, the athletics have been thoroughly modernised and I must say as a complete package makes the car a real head turner. Its sharp pointed nose, meaningful bodylines and rather individual rear end are a credit to the Honda design team as it is certainly the most delectable Hybrid I have ever seen. But beauty is only skin deep, once inside will it be the usual assault of cheap plastics and recycled road kill that the average Hybrid greets you with?
Not a dot! The attractive design work is carried into the cabin and even in this base S model it is a generally nice environment to be in. Everything feels securely attached and every button and leaver is very well finished. Don’t let me mislead you, it’s no Rolls-Royce but for a hatchback costing £16,999 and remember the majority of that cost is the yet discussed technology, the CR-Z scores highly. However, the car in this country is marketed as a 2+2 to keep insurance costs down. The result of this is that the wonderful design element of the steeply sloping roofline beheads any occupant in the rear over 4ft tall. Rear leg room is also an issue and so if you want any hope of riding in the back you had best be well versed in the art of human origami. But the key thing you must remember is that the 2+2 trick is a clever ploy by Honda to save you money, if this was sold as a two-seater your insurance would rocket skywards. There is a rather large positive to all this in terms of practicality as with the rear seats folded flat the boot becomes a vast storage facility, so think of the CR-Z as a car with the designed capacity of 2 but it will carry four when the tax man gets suspicious.
Now for the most crucial point in this review and indeed for Hybrids of the future, if this car can’t perform on the road then it is of little use to me. Priming the ignition brings the dashboard to life in a hallucinogenic light show. You are immediately bathed in a deep blue light as various displays appear making the driver’s seat feel much like the bridge on the USS Enterprise. Starting the car with a starter button instantly makes you feel six years old again, but unlike a noisy child the car starts almost in secret. So with the wheels rolling, I feel now would be an appropriate to tell you about some of the astonishing tech within the CR-Z.
The car has 3 modes to choose from and each has an effect on the cars battery as well as the 1.5 litre engine. Econ, or economy forthose of you who don’t speak Honda, aluminates the rev counter in green hinting at the modes intentions. The car reduces power from the engine and replaces it with energy stored in the battery though deceleration. The air conditioning system is also toned down as the entire car wafts tranquilly down the road with its smooth ride and minimal engine noise. It also completely cuts fuel consumption from the engine whilst stationary and uses the battery until you are mobile again. Next up is normal mode and it is here where the dials turn blue again and it rides around balancing performance and environmental responsibility. The car becomes a bit livelier as the engines power is fully utilized and your air-con is no longer under communist control. But it is in Sport where this car really becomes the first Hybrid to have the ability to excite you. Pressing the button turns the dials red, firms up the suspension and steering. But best of all the Battery is used to boost the power from the engine and as we found whilst driving in 2nd and pushing sport, it gives the car an instant surge of torque propelling the CR-Z toward the horizon. The car is agile whilst remaining comfortable for occupants and when you decide to push on it has the grunt to do so.
The CR-Z without its Hybrid badge could have fooled me as it is an utter joy to spend time with. This car is the way forwards for this technology as it not only offers the driver the opportunity to save the polar ice cubes but also use that battery power for his own ends. Other than a few little niggles like the completely unnecessary daytime running lights (daytime generally means that there is light hence the term “DAY” as opposed to night!) I really can’t fault it.
Now all the world needs to do is make all Hybrids this good.