Honda Puts FUN in a Hybrid.
Ever heard people chatting at a party that they would consider a hybrid except they look boring. Or, maybe the one about hybrids having an image of just not being a cool car. Well, everyone, step away from the chips and dip because the 2014 Honda CR-Z is a car whose mission is to change those perceptions.
The two-door hatchback 2014 Honda CR-Z is a whole lot of fun to drive, certainly not boring and doesn’t look like any other hybrid (or anything else) on the road. Our test vehicle came in Honda’s striking Milano Red, which kept me looking in the rear view mirror for a CHP officer who assumes that red cars are being driven fast. I wonder where they ever got that idea?
The front wheel drive 2014 Honda CR-Z is certainly capable of attracting the police for more than its exterior color. It’s powered by Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system, or IMA. The integration is achieved by combining a 1.5L, 16-valve single overhead cam (SOHC) gasoline-powered, in-line 4-cylinder engine and a 15 kW motor running off a lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery. The two power sources produce a combined peak output of 130 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque for the six-speed manual and the same horsepower but 127 lb-ft of torque on the CVT-equipped model, which is what Clean Fleet Report was driving.
Fuel economy for the CR-Z is rated at 39 highway/36 city with a combined of 37 mpg. Running on regular unleaded, I drained the 10.6 gallon tank which delivered 380 miles in my mostly freeway driving. I am guessing I could have achieved more except the frequent use of the paddle shifters most likely cost me a few miles per gallon.
Also helping to improve fuel economy is Honda’s idle-stop feature that temporarily turns off the engine to save fuel when you come to a halt. You know when you are in idle-stop as a flashing green light appears on the instrument panel. Taking your foot off the brake pedal automatically and seamlessly restarts the engine.
The CR-Z Li-Ion battery is charged by the engine and through the regenerative braking system, which converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting.
Driving Experience: On The Road
The CR-Z EX with the CVT weighs in at 2,716 lbs, with the weight well distributed due to the under-seat battery placement, resulting in a low center of gravity. For comparison, the 2014 Honda CR-Z EX with the six-speed manual weighs 2,694 lbs.
The CR-Z with the CVT has a 3-mode drive system: Normal, Econ and my favorite, Sport. Normal is where you start out and pressing the ECON button optimizes the CR-Z’s power for best fuel economy, especially when cruising at freeway speeds.
Sport mode allows you to enjoy the performance capabilities of the CR-Z. In Sport mode, the CR-Z will use the electric motor more aggressively, providing quicker acceleration and throttle response. Sport mode also
provides a sharper steering feel – perfect for the twisties. The paddle shifters can be used in all three modes but are the most effective, and fun, in the Sport mode.
The electrically power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering with front MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar, and rear Torsion beam suspension delivers a confident and decently quiet, highway ride on the 16-inch alloy wheels (17-inch optional) and all-season tires. Where the CR-Z shines is on cornering where with no body roll you pretty much can point it where you want to go and that is where you end-up. When downshifting using the paddle shifters on the CVT, the engine braking combined with the power-assisted 10.3-inch ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes is what separates the CR-Z from other hybrid cars. The four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability assist with traction control and electronic brake distribution all play a part in how fun the 2014 Honda CR-Z is to drive.
The CR-Z is no dragster by any means, but I was able to consistently pull about 9.7 seconds from 0 – 60. Honda has a version of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) used on F1 cars that they call Plus Sport. Activated by the Sport+ button on the steering wheel, Plus Sport gives you 10 seconds of boost when the Li-Ion battery has at least 50 percent charge and you are going at least 19 mph. It is a nice system for extra boost whether needed for passing on a hill or getting ahead of slow traffic on the freeway. The Plus Sport system is another example of racing technology being transferred to street cars to make them more efficient and safe.
Driving Experience: Interior
The 2014 Honda CR-Z EX interior has a sports car feel – low to the ground and seats that hold you nicely when cornering. The attractive bucket seats (the only seats in the car) had mesh cloth centers with high-quality vinyl-type
material on the boosters and baseball-style contrasting stitching. The dash design is probably one of the more modern you will find with the major controls on the steering wheel and two pods found either side of the steering wheel. Only the audio and navigation are found in the center of the dash. Expected features are there, too – power windows with driver side one-touch up-and-down, door locks and mirrors, carpeted floor mats, map and visor lights and 12-volt power outlet. In other words, everything needed to take a long journey in comfort and convenience.
As mentioned, the CR-Z is a two-seat car and to that point, Honda not only does not offer a rear seat but has a definitive and prominent sticker telling you that “injury or death” may be the result of sitting in the rear. Where the rear seat bottoms would be are two storage areas that when the seat back is folded flat, are hidden and there is a large area for storing luggage.
The CR-Z EX we were driving has Honda’s 360-watt premium audio system with subwoofer, 7-speaker AM/FM/CD with USB, Pandora and MP3 interface and playback capability. XM satellite radio is available as a dealer installed option. The navigation has voice recognition with a rear view camera, through a 5-inch touch-screen with hands-free phone and SMS text messaging and music streaming via Bluetooth.
The 2014 Honda CR-Z is well equipped with active and passive safety including remote keyless entry, power door locks, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), high-intensity discharge headlights, fog lights, LED brake lights, rear wiper with washer, 6 airbags, adaptive cruise control and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability assist with traction control and electronic brake distribution.
Driving Experience: Exterior
I like the way the 2014 Honda CR-Z coupe looks with its wedge-like and raked windshield design and sculpted doors. The car has a sporty stance that draws attention with a honeycomb-type grill and fog lamps. The rear view is split horizontally, providing a see-through area that is nicely aligned with the rear view mirror. Even the shark fin antenna above the rear hatch adds to the coolness of the CR-Z.
The 2014 CR-Z comes in six models. Add the $790 Destination Charge to these MSRP for:
CR-Z 6-Speed Manual $19,995
CR-Z CVT $20,645
CR-Z EX 6-Speed Manual $21,840
CR-Z EX CVT $22,490
CR-Z EX w/ Navigation 6-Speed Manual $23,340
CR-Z EX w/ Navigation CVT $23,990
The CR-Z comes with these warranties:
- 3-year/36,000-mile Vehicle
- 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain
- 5-year/unlimited miles Corrosion
- 15 year/150,000-mile PZEV (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle) warranty on many of the IMA components, including the IMA battery: CA, CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI and VT. All other states: 8-year/100,000-mile.
Observations: 2013/2014 Honda CR-Z EX
If you look at the fuel economy and performance numbers for the CR-Z you will see you can top them with other hybrids or even some gasoline-powered cars. But that isn’t the point with what Honda is doing with this car.
Honda has built the only true sporty, two-seat hybrid for those who want high fuel economy in a very clean-burning vehicle that is fun to drive. It is not expected to compete with full-on sports coupes, but will appeal to commuters who want something different or singles/couples venturing out on the open road. If you do not need a larger hybrid, why buy it? You now have an option that brings many miles of driving smiles.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Story and Photos by John Faulkner
Posted April 28, 2014
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