Honda CR-ZA sport hybrid concept car with 3 models Hard-core enthusiasts will likely be disappointed, but somebody just looking for a sporty two-door with good fuel economy will likely be pleased with the 2011 Honda CR-Z. Pros Nimble size and handling, quick steering, good fuel economy, sporty looks. Con Poor rearward visibility, most competitors have backseats, missing a few upscale features. A sporty hybrid, at first glance, the 2011 Honda CR-Z might seem a bit oxymoronic. After all, Americans expect their hybrid cars to be purely about fuel economy, with flowers, rainbows and unicorns coming out of the tailpipe. But Honda is hoping that people are ready for a car that not only gets very good fuel economy but also happens to be fun to drive — a hybrid without the drive-induced narcolepsy, if you will.
You might recall that Honda actually tried this approach a few years ago with the Accord Hybrid, a V6-powered Accord that promised strong performance and enhanced fuel economy. Sales were slow, however, and Honda cancelled the car after a short run. Of course, those of you with an even longer memory will also recall the original Honda CRX, the CR-Z’s spiritual predecessor that crystallized Honda’s reputation for building fun and efficient cars from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s.

Like the old CRX, the CR-Z is front-drive with two doors and just two seats. Mechanically, though, the CR-Z is related most to Honda’s current Insight hybrid, sharing its basic structure and suspension design. To bring some sport to that formula Honda made the CR-Z shorter by about a foot, widened the track slightly and reduced overall height by a couple inches. This trimming doesn’t reduce curb weight by as much as you might hope (the CR-Z only weighs about 80 pounds fewer than the Insight) but it does make the CR-Z one of the most nimble cars you can buy.

Under the hood is Honda’s familiar Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) mild-hybrid system. For more punch, the CR-Z starts with a slightly bigger gasoline engine than the Insight (1.5 liters versus 1.3) that produces 112 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor is the same and generates another 13 horse power and 58 lb.-ft. Notably, Honda is offering a six-speed manual transmission in addition to the more hybrid-typical continuously variable transmission (CVT). The resulting fuel economy isn’t exactly Prius-like, but it is still quite good, with the CVT variant returning an estimated 35 mpg city and 39 mpg highway.

The end result of all this is that Honda has indeed created a sporty hybrid. The CR-Z looks sharp and is fun to drive around town thanks to its small size and quick steering.