Test Driven: Honda CR-Z EX Automatic

Honda CRZ

As most of our readers are aware, I bashed the new Honda CRZ in a previous article.  However, after reading the sales results for it since January 2011, I noticed that it’s been selling in similar numbers to the Volkswagen GTI, which is an established, award-winning hot hatchback.  So, I decided to test my own personal opinion: Would Al have to (and not for the first time) eat his words?

CR-Z (rear)

I arrived at the dealer and was given the go-ahead to test drive a brand-new 2011 CR-Z EX in a very catching electric blue color.  The car is attractive to look at, despite some of the strange styling elements present, such as the concave rear end, and somewhat pointy face.  It does combine well, and actually is similar to the Nissan Juke in that it’s not attractive in the classical sense, but it’s still eye-catching on the move.

The lines aren’t bad for what it is, so I can’t fault the looks.

The interior is typical Honda in that the quality is all there, and nothing feels poorly made.  The seats look cheap but don’t necessarily feel that way, and in a fast corner, seem to hold very well.  The brakes didn’t feel hybridesque either, a big step in the right direction.  In all, the chassis did the car plenty of favors, despite the strange dashboard design that confused me to no end (Honda, please stop deconstructing your radios).  So, on first appearances, the car does feel like a sports car, but when I stepped on the gas, I realized that I was right.  And I hated being right this time.

The CR-Z is very light, and it doesn’t have a lot of power, so I can’t necessarily call it slow, but for a vehicle marketed as both a hybrid and a sports car, it’s too intrusive with the gas engine to make it a passable “hybrid.”  Worse, despite the engine having a lot to talk about on the move, its ability to gather speed in a straight line doesn’t match its ability to make noise–it’s not refined for its size and sounds faster than it is.  Most other journalists haven’t had the kindest of words for Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system, and I am with them here–it’s hardly integrated in this car at all.

While I have no doubt that it’s a decent car for someone looking for a hybrid and something that could potentially put a smile on said someone’s face, it’s not for me.  Color me unchanged.  If Honda were to dump the idea, and perhaps put either the Civic Si’s engine or a turbocharger in this car, I would definitely consider it.  But for now, I’ll stick to a car that doesn’t compromise.


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