By Nate Gnau
Have you ever wondered what would have come of the Honda CRX, had the Big H continued production of the car almost 20 years ago? According to Honda, The CR-Z is the spiritual successor to the famed hot hatchback of yore. But can it really measure up to the same giddy heights that the CRX enjoyed? Well, I’ve driven the car, and the answer is shockingly yes.
For those that are uninformed, the 2011 CR-Z is a Sports Hybrid. You did not think that was possible, did you? Neither did I. It’s not a rocket in terms of speed, but it’s not bad, with a top speed of 122 mph. The car I drove had a slick 6-Speed manual transmission, with a short throw on the lever. The only other hybrid that ever had a manual option was the original Honda Insight, and it was a 2-seat coupe too. The clutch wasn’t too soft, and it wasn’t so tight that it would drain the blood from your knee.
When I pulled off the lot at Bommarito Honda, I was immediately impressed with the throttle response that the “Sport” mode (one of three drive modes: sport, normal, econ) provided. The car handled some of the twistier roads of Hazelwood, MO with a surprising amount of road feel in the steering wheel, and not once did I think it was numb. Good work on the sport mode, Honda. With all the twisty, fun stuff behind me, I went after the “Normal” mode, which the car normally starts off in. Not strangely, the car drives like a normal car in “Normal” mode. The throttle loses some of its’ crispness, the steering isn’t quite as sharp, and the whole car just settles down. It really wasn’t much to write home about. Now, without saying too much, “Econ” mode is just a huge yawn fest. That being said, I should mention why. When the car is in “Econ” mode, the computers strip the throttle of anything resembling crispness, and the steering is nowhere near as sharp as it was in “Sport” or even in “Normal.” This mode is strictly for straight-line driving on the highway in sixth gear at a constant speed.
Now, on the subject of the interior and the dashboard, it should be noted that the car I drove was fully optioned, with leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, and a 360-watt 7-speaker subwoofer-equipped stereo with voice-activated everything. All of that aside, this car’s gauge cluster looks like something from Star Trek. It’s completely electronic, and displays everything from battery charge to how green you’re driving. And the halo around the speedometer actually changes color, from green, to blue, to red, depending on how efficient or inefficient you’re driving, and the whole thing is very easy to read, not hard on the eyes at all. The navigation system is very organized and functions pretty well, but looks kind of dated being nowhere near as space age as the gauge cluster. But the whole interior is built to a ridiculous level of quality. But, being a Honda, I’m not surprised.
Being a hybrid, the CR-Z’s MPG ratings really aren’t that incredible at 35 city & 37 highway, but you do have to think about how the car will most likely be driven: like a bat out of hell, and also that real world ratings are always higher than the constantly underrated EPA ratings.
Now, as I mentioned in my writer’s note, the cars I drive will be eco-friendly, or hybrids. I forgot to mention one other thing. Affordable. The car has to be affordable. Was the Volt affordable for the average college student? Absolutely not. But my editor did bring that point up to me, so, keeping the reader in mind, the cars must be affordable to college students.
The Honda CR-Z’s base price is $19,200, which really isn’t that bad, if you put some thought into the numbers, but a fully optioned & decorated EX model will set you back almost $30,000, not including tax, title, license, & destination fees.
I like this car. A lot. Unfortunately, I can’t give it a perfect score because of an extremely minor drawback (navigation), but almost perfect…
4.5 out of a possible 5 on the tried & true Big Nate Scale.
Special thanks to my good friend Kevin Hall at Bommarito Honda in Hazelwood, MO for letting me drive the car, and for buying my lunch!