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2012 Honda CR-Z Sport review (video)

Drawing inspiration from the iconic 1980s CR-X, Honda has built the 2012 Honda CR-Z Sport; a sporty city car that touts green and mean as its credentials. Is the CR-Z a worthy heir to the cult classic CR-X, or is the badge the only thing sporty about it?

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – PROS AND CONS

PROS:

  • Sporty looks
  • Great build quality
  • Shifting gears is a joy
  • Sporty handling
  • Miserly on fuel

CONS:

  • The asking price
  • Rear seats too small
  • Could do with more power
  • Very bouncy ride

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – OVERVIEW

Is there a way to save the environment through spirited driving? The CR-Z may be Honda’s answer to that question. By squeezing a hybrid drivetrain into a small sporty two-door hatchback, Honda has offered the spirited driver a car that can rescue Mother Earth without sacrificing the thrills of driving. But can a 1.5-litre four pot engine mated to an electric motor making just 91kW and 172Nm be any fun?

Priced from $34,990, the CR-Z Sport is the entry CR-Z. Some might consider the price quite high for a two-door sports car that has about as much room as a woman’s handbag, but, we have to remember there is a lot of technology in this car, and it puffs very little in the way of toxic gas. It does have ‘Sport’ in its title as well, so it’d better be a cracking drive nonetheless. Start your engines (and batteries).

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – TEST DRIVE VIDEO

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – ACCOMMODATION AND EQUIPMENT

In the premium city car segment, the options and standard equipment list can take a car only so far. However, if it is done in style, there won’t be complaints from the customers that the company is a bit stingy with the dollars.

The CR-Z Sport manual we tested here may not have all the bells and whistles of the 2012 CR-Z Luxury variant, but it doesn’t feel Spartan at all despite the $34,999 asking price. Drop in to the supportive cloth seats and you will notice that every surface you touch and see has a distinctive upmarket feel to it.

The cluster looks like a prop from Star Trek, and while it’s missing the multimedia LCD unit from the Luxury option, the stock radio controls won’t look out of place in a Lexus. The Bluetooth handsfree system is unwieldy to use without a proper screen however, thus making a call or saving numbers can get annoying.

Once you’ve taken stock of all the equipment, it’s time to delve a little deeper. The cabin is a sporty cockpit, with the seating position low slung and the doors coming right up to your shoulders. It feels snug and focused, not unlike a sporty coupe without being claustrophobic.

Turn the key and the digital blue cluster lights up with barely a whirr from the engine, the tachometer making an artistic sweep across the range before settling down. The needle revolves around the latest Honda interior trademark; a digital speedometer.

While there are plenty of cubby holes and cup holders scattered around the cabin, it’s not what you’d call spacious. There is about an inch of legroom for anyone who dares to take on the rear seats and about no headroom at all. The boot space is 225 litres, holding not much more than a week’s grocery shopping for a small family.

Fold the rear seats down and it expands to an acceptable 401 litres. In comparison, the MINI Cooper has 160 litres of boot space, but it can expand to a massive 680-litres with the seats folded down. The swooping roofline and the split glass hatch are to blame for the tight space, cutting severely into trunk real estate.

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – DESIGN AND SAFETY

The overall silhouette of the CR-Z is a tribute to the first and second generation of the CR-X; a cult classic car for the Hondaphile. There are also little homages to other notable Hondas, such as the sideways opening door handles (found on the 1992 Civic), and the split-glass hatch from the 80’s CR-X. The hatch looks terrific, although it severely hampers the rear view.

The sharply raked windscreen, angular lines and the supercar low ride height combines together to give the CR-Z a very sporty presence on the road, even though its chassis may come from something more humdrum; a Honda Jazz. Overall we think it’s a good looking car in an understated way.

The Honda CR-Z comes with a whole host of electronic aids to keep the car on the road, especially if you enjoy driving in a spirited manner. There is your usual anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution, vehicle stability assist and a traction control system… which we recommend you switch off for proper enthusiastic driving.

The little hybrid may look fragile next to hulking SUVs and trucks, but the CR-Z has been given a five-star ANCAP safety rating for good reason. The body structure and G-Con technology developed by Honda redirects the energy of any crash up, over and around the cabin frame, whether it’s from another low-slung sports car or a two-metre tall truck.

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – ON THE ROAD

It’s a car that promises a lot, from the moment you see it right up to the second you turn the key. Honda says it’s the only hybrid on offer that combines driving excitement with environmental kindness, and that double personality comes in the form of the Eco, Normal and Sport buttons located on the right side of the dash.

Press Eco mode and the centre of the instrument cluster glows green, indicating that the CR-Z is putting on its Captain Planet uniform and trying to save the world. It dumbs down throttle sensitivity, relaxes the steering and engages the engine stop-start program more often. It’s all fine and dandy when you’re stuck in the hustle and bustle of rush hour, as the cockpit is a soothing and relaxing place to be in. Honda’s official figures for urban fuel consumption are just 6L/100km, while we averaged 6.7L/100km, both brilliant.

Get out of the city and get to some winding roads, and the CR-Z will reveal its other personality. Engage the Sport mode and the cluster switches from green to racy red, and that firms up the steering and the throttle becomes scalpel sharp. The electric motor engages more often, and it feels there is torque to be found anywhere through the rev range.

Although the engine and motor combined only develop 91kW, the torque of the IMA system makes the CR-Z feel very lively and distinctly un-hybrid. Quite often we’d hit the rev-limiter of 6500rpm and not realise, as the engine always felt it could hit the 8000rpm indicated on the cluster.

Hustling the six speed gearbox is a joy as it’s typically an area Honda excels in; it is precise, buttery smooth and has a short sporty throw. Honda has quoted a 0-100km/h time of 9.9 seconds. We managed to record a faster 9.3 seconds with the traction control off.

The chassis comes alive in the twisties; the short wheelbase and low weight means the CR-Z changes directions with ease. With the traction control off, lift-off oversteer is a viable cornering option. As you would expect, such agility comes at a price. In this case, overly stiff shocks. On Sydney roads it’s nearly intolerable, and it has a profound impact on the driver’s stamina.

We felt tired out after a short spirited drive, which is unusual for a new car. Our test car had 8000kms on it though, so the suspension may have taken a battering from general demonstrator/test-drive life. Even during spirited driving, the CR-Z is still relatively fuel efficient. We averaged around 8.8L/100km – Honda wasn’t joking about making a sporty, environmentally friendly package.

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – VERDICT

The CR-Z is an alluring car; it fulfills every bit of its technical brief, but it leaves you wanting for more. Its fuel economy is impressive and the CR-Z must be commended for releasing less toxic waste gasses than any other car that is just as fun to drive. And yet… you get the feeling that Honda has held back, and there is no doubt that the CR-Z would be heaps more fun with a bigger naturally-aspirated engine. Of course that would get the Greens and the fun police all up in arms.

With the demise of the S2000 and the Civic Type R (for now…), it is Honda’s only sporty entrant when competitors are releasing similar cars within the same price range. The lack of power and space is a major handicap when the CR-Z is placed next to cars like the Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo, the MINI Cooper Coupe and even the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ duo. Honda sorely needs a new hero car… and the CR-Z has the makings of one. All it needs is more power!

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – THE COMPETITORS

TOYOTA GT86/SUBARU BRZ – 2.0-litre naturally aspirated boxer four cylinder, 147kW/205Nm – 1250kg (Manual) – $29,990
More power, more fun, and just as equally pleasing on the eye. It is the currently the red-hot favourite for car enthusiasts in this segment.

MINI COOPER – 1.6-litre naturally aspirated inline four cylinder, 90kW/160Nm – 1085kg (Manual) – $31,650
The MINI’s cute retro looks and useability challenges the CR-Z, while being just as equally fun to drive. Beware the options list; your wallet will burst into flames after a few ticks

ALFA ROMEO MITO – 1.4-litre turbocharged inline four cylinder, 99kW/230Nm – 1167kg (manual) – $34,800
As fashionable as the catwalks in Milan, the MiTo not only delivers eye candy, it provides genuine thrills with its pokey yet frugal 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo engine and go-kart like handling.

CITREON DS3 – 1.6-litre turbocharged inline four cylinder, 115kW/240Nm – 1165kg (manual) – $29,990
The French is only good at three things; cooking, surrendering and making fast hatchbacks. The Citroen DS3 also manages to look like a modern art piece, while providing poke and handling to show they didn’t win the World Rally Championship for nothing.

HYUNDAI VELOSTER SR TURBO – 1.6-litre turbocharged inline four cylinder, 150kW/265Nm – 1265kg (manual) – $31,990
Cheap thrills with looks to kill, the Veloster Turbo SR is the bargain hot hatchback right now. Without losing too much in practicality, the Veloster Turbo SR packs a mean punch while still looking very aggressive and ready to roar.

2012 HONDA CR-Z SPORT – SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL
2012 Honda CR-Z Sport

ENGINE
1.5-litre naturally aspirated inline four with electric brush motor assistance

ENGINE SIZE (cc) / COMPRESSION RATIO
1497cc / 10:4

BORE X STROKE (mm)
73mm X 89.4mm

POWER
91kW@6000rpm, 174Nm@1000-1500rpm

POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
12.69 : 1 (kg:kW)

KERB WEIGHT
1155kg

HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1395mm / 1740mm / 4080mm

DRIVETRAIN
Six speed manual transmission (with hill start assist)

BRAKES
F: Ventilated discs
R: Solid discs

WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 16-inch alloy, 195/55 R16

FUEL TANK CAPACITY
40 litres

FUEL CONSUMPTION
Tested average (urban): 6.7L/km
Official average (urban): 6.0L/km

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 9.3 seconds (tested)

PRICED FROM
$34,990

WARRANTY
Three-year warranty/100,00km
Hybrid battery warranty eight years/unlimited km

Jerry Yam is a contributing writer and road test journalist at PerformanceDrive. He is not only a genuine motoring enthusiast, he's also a keen driver and enjoys the modified car scene. His stories have appeared in titles such as Hot4's and Street Commodores magazines.