City Slicker: 2015 Honda CR-Z EX-L Manual Review

Rennet Stowe on Flickr

I had always wanted to drive a Honda CR-Z. Despite mediocre reviews from most purveyors of automotive opinions, I couldn’t help but think of the CR-Z as a small McLaren P1. Firmly optimistic, I headed to the local Honda dealership for a test drive.

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As soon as you sit in the car, you can feel that Honda wanted it to be sporty. In the fully loaded EX-L model I drove, red flecked bucket seats embrace you. Standing at attention was the shifter for its 6 speed. The instrument cluster feels like it’s set deep in the dash but at least it’s arranged nicely with a digital speedo inside an old school tach. Overall, the cabin has a nice feel to it. Though not leather and suede, it manages to feel premium enough considering the steep price (MSRP $24,440 for the EX-L manual and a bit more with a CVT) you’re paying for a tiny car. Speaking of tiny, the designers at Honda very sensibly neglected to include a rear seat. Had they, it would have been annoyingly vestigial and simply cut into the cargo space (which isn’t bad actually, considering the size of the whole package). My biggest gripe, though, would be the visibility. Look at a picture of a CR-Z. Visibility looks terrible, right? I promise you it’s at least 73% worse than it looks. Even the rear view mirror is impaired by the odd rear spoiler.

photo courtesy of Honda

Press the push button start and you’re greeted by so little that it may as well be silence. I learned a lot on my two laps around the test drive loop. After the first lap, the dealer rep got out of the car and let my friend Joe hop in for a ride. So we got to explore the upper ranges of the tach. A bit. My is it a growly little thing. I never would have guessed a 1.5L motor could sound so mean and so good. The 1.5L works with a 20 hp electric IMA motor sandwiched between the engine and the transmission. Cleverly, the motor works as the starter, provides energy regeneration under braking, and boosts acceleration as necessary. It IS a small McLaren! Well it makes a bit less power I guess. How much less? The Honda makes 130hp and 140lb-ft. Eh. Weighing 2750 lbs despite its tiny size also doesn’t help the performance. Well it’s a hybrid so I expect it has good mileage then? Well um 39 on the highway? And 31 mpg in the city? Not stellar. The old IMA hybrid technology drops the ball in that regard.

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So it’s not a very good hybrid and not a great sports car. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, 0-60 in 10.1 seconds isn’t great but there’s more to driving to that. The 6 speed snicks nicely into gear, the steering is communicative and weights up nicely when Sport Mode is engaged, press the gas and the little motor revs up quickly. The car tells you if you’re charging or using your batteries, it tells you you’re instantaneous mileage. It’s all exciting. And it is slow to 60. But in town, you’re usually going much slower than that. It feels quick accelerating to 45. The CR-Z is an experience and on the whole it’s a fun one. Rumor has it a revamped version might arrive in a couple years. I certainly hope so. I’d drive that.

Rating: 7/10 Would daily drive

I may have exaggerated the likelihood that I would soon buy a CR-Z just a little bit but after I drove it, I thought it would be really fun to write up a little review. I tried to mix a small part Top Gear humor with equal parts Car and Driver and Jalopnik. I’d love some feedback, thank’s for reading!

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