Honda: 2015 CR-Z Sport review

Honda: 2015 CR-Z Sport review

The Honda CR-Z is a hybrid sports hatchback that harks back to the original CR-X which was built from 1983-91. The flat back and split rear windscreen are the signature elements, and it retains its two-door design with rear seats simply there for show as opposed to being able to fit anyone in them.

The first thing I noticed was the rapid and precise steering that actually does give you a sports-like feel. While our test car was endowed with a non-sporty (but traffic-convenient) CVT gearbox, you can go for a manual gearbox and have a bit more fun. Still, despite the CVT’s characteristics, the 1.5-litre engine (which is boosted by hybrid technology to give a maximum of 100kW and 190Nm of torque) gives adequate acceleration, if not the pleasing revs-based auditory rhythm of a conventional gearbox changing gears.Honda CRZ 2014 rear quarter

I had fun using the brakes to tighten the corner line and then using the Plus Sport to power out of the corner with a bit of predictable front-wheel drive understeer. Overall, it earned good marks for handling and sports feel with nicely bolstered seats, a chunky steering wheel and good driving position.

Honda quotes 5.3l/100km fuel economy; in the real world, you’ll probably be in the 7l/100km range unless you drive it in ECON mode and hold up everyone behind you as you crawl away from the lights. There are four modes:

  • Sports mode – this one is the best for winding roads where you need to keep braking and accelerating as it’s more responsive on the throttle and steering
  • Normal mode – the default mode with linear throttle and steering response and fuel economy balanced with performance. I used this mode most of the time
  • ECON mode – reduced throttle and steering response to improve fuel economy; works well in rush hour
  • Plus Sport button – a button on the steering wheel gives you an instant power boost when you need it, just like Formula 1’s KERS.

Honda CRZ 2014 front seatsThe instruments are slightly futuristic and perfectly positioned. In the centre of the dash there’s a large touchscreen display which comes with Honda’s G5 multimedia system and also displays the reversing camera image. You can connect your smartphone for Bluetooth streaming or directly via USB, and there are many other options for your sound such as USB, SD card, auxiliary in, and radio, but no CD player as they’re so last decade. Above the screen is a useful storage bin.

The CR-Z comes with the requisite safety features to ensure a 5-star ANCAP crash rating – 6 airbags, traction control, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and more.

The outside looks sharp but comes with compromises. It’s a blunted wedge with the truncated rear that gives the front end a muscular proportion. I understand Honda CRZ 2014 sidethe need to bring a brand statement through from a previously loved model – it’s the reason why Porsche has persevered with its rear engine design – but Porsche has perfected it, whereas the horizontal bar across the rear window of the CR-Z is obstructive, and I can’t see how it could be any different. It blocks important views, like the flashing lights of an ambulance approaching from behind. There is a reversing camera, so this isn’t a problem when manoeuvring. Eventually you become more reliant on your wing mirrors rather than your rear mirror, and on the nearside it’s really important to set it up correctly because the steeply rising shoulder line of the rear window creates a blind spot.

In summary, the CR-Z is a fun car but with compromises. I really liked the styling from the outside, but there are obviously visibility issues when driving. On the inside it’s a great car to drive – it’s not a sports car, but it’s sportier than a city runabout – but the boot is small and it might as well just have two seats. It’s not particularly frugal in real-world driving, but it does have style. The question remains whether it’s good to bring back design elements for the sake of it. In the case of the CR-Z, I think it would be a better car without the stylised rear treatment. It is, however, the only inexpensive, mildly sporty hybrid that I can think of, so it’s dominating in that niche.

Price: $44,100 (CVT or manual gearbox)

Pros

  • Handles like you want it to
  • G5 sat nav/multimedia system

Cons

  • Hybrid powertrain doesn’t seem to deliver great fuel economy
  • Blind spot in the rear nearside quarter, plus limited visibility out the back
  • Rear seats are pointless unless the driver is very short


Words and photos:

Hybrid, Honda, CR-Z, coupe

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