2011 Honda CR-Z Review and Prices

Last Updated: Sep 7, 2010

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2011 Honda CR-Z Buying Advice

The 2011 Honda CR-Z is the best car for you if an affordable hybrid sports car gets you revved up.

The 2011 Honda CR-Z is a two-seat fastback coupe that combines gas and electric power to deliver environmentally friendly driving fun. CR-Z stands for “Compact Renaissance Zero,” which, Honda awkwardly says, conveys an automotive rebirth based on design fundamentals. The name really is meant to recall the two-seat Honda CR-X fastbacks from 1984-1991. Those little overachievers were credible junior sports cars, and the CR-Z would do well to match their success. Note that the CR-Z would not be the first gas-electric hybrid with a performance bent, however. Honda’s own 2005-2007 Accord Hybrid sedan had 255 horsepower and was the most powerful model in the lineup. Today, the most powerful Lexus is the ultra-luxury 438-horsepower LS600h L sedan. What’s different about the 2011 Honda CR-Z is that it’s small, lightweight, and built to handle.      

Should you wait for the 2011 Honda CR-Z? Yes, because the CR-Z promises to be priced in the low- to mid-$20,000s, entertaining to drive, and futuristic in design and technology. Fuel economy of 40 mpg or more doesn’t hurt, either. Think of this nimble, compact, front-wheel-drive hybrid as a sort of anti-Camaro.

2011 Honda CR-Z Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Honda CR-Z taps today’s hottest trends -- big-mouth-grille, high-shoulder body – and blends them with a wedged profile to create a tough-looking little coupe direct from tomorrowland. A vertical glass panel in the tail gestures to one of the CR-X’s styling signatures, but the CR-Z modernizes the look by mingling it with a blackout panel, an echo of the gaping grille. The cabin is airy and organic. Glass ceiling panels offset some of the closed-in feeling created by the low roof and high beltline. Dashboard, doors, and console are contoured for a driver-centric focus. Precise dimensions of the production CR-Z haven’t yet been revealed, but the car is at root a slightly abbreviated and far swoopier version of the 2010 Honda Insight hybrid four-door hatchback. With a wheelbase around 100 inches and overall length of about 170, the 2011 Honda CR-Z’s footprint should be akin to that of a two-door Volkswagen GTI, but with a much lower roofline and, at some 2,800 pounds, about 360 pounds less curb weight.

Mechanical: The 2011 Honda CR-Z basically places a two-seat coupe body over the underskin structure developed for the 2010 Honda Insight. That means it has front-wheel drive, which places the engine over the tires that both propel and steer the car. Rear-wheel drive is the sports-car ideal because it provides better weight distribution and a division of labor between propulsion and steering. But as Honda proved with the original CR-X (and the Mini Cooper does today), a front-drive car with well-tuned independent suspension and a balanced design can produce handling that rival’s that of genuine sports cars. The CR-Z’s gas-electric powertrain mimics the Honda Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system used in the Insight. But the CR-Z gets a larger engine (a 1.8-liter versus Insight’s 1.3) for more horsepower (140 compared to 98). IMA can propel the car on gas or electric power, but it basically uses the electric motor to provide turbo-like boost rather than as an equal or primary power source. Cementing the CR-Z’s sporty intentions, it’ll be the only hybrid vehicle available with a manual transmission.          

Features: That the 2011 Honda CR-Z is a dedicated hybrid allows Honda some latitude in equipping it for a very specific purpose. You’ll likely see, for example, a sportier version of the Insight’s glowing gauge cluster. Its background changes color to symbolize when your throttle foot sends the car from fuel-sipping green to go-fast blue. Also look for a version of Insight’s Eco Guide bar graph, a visual cue to help you drive the IMA most efficiently. And despite its performance orientation, the CR-Z could duplicate Insight’s ECON button that scales back power and air-conditioner usage. A continuously variable automatic transmission will almost certainly be offered. And relatively large wheels, say 17- or 18-inch alloys with low-profile tires, are a good bet. Bluetooth connectivity, USB iPod linkage, and perhaps a power moonroof should be available, too.

2011 Honda CR-Z Prices back to top

Prices for the 2011 Honda CR-Z won’t be announced until shortly before the car goes on sale. But Honda is likely to pitch it as an affordable alternative to other sporty cars much the way it’s cast the Insight as America’s least-expensive hybrid. Insight’s starting price is $20,470. Honda will minimize some of the CR-Z’s development costs by borrowing engineering from the Insight, though money saved by not having to fit back seats or rear doors might be offset by expenses associated with the larger engine and sportier suspension and running gear. Nonetheless, a 2011 Honda CR-Z price of under $23,000 to start would not surprise.

2011 Honda CR-Z Fuel Economy back to top

No official numbers are available for 2011 cars, but an educated guess puts EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2011 Honda CR-Z at around 38 mpg city/41 mpg highway. Note that Honda has not chosen ultimate fuel economy as a goal with the Insight, and isn’t likely to do so for the CR-Z. Rather, its IMA hybrid system is designed to deliver a good balance of performance and economy at the lowest possible price. Incidentally, Honda pegs the 2010 Insight at 40 mpg city/43 highway.

2011 Honda CR-Z Release Date back to top

The 2011 Honda CR-Z will likely be in showrooms in spring 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Honda CR-Z back to top

The news here is what isn’t next for the Honda CR-Z. Even though it’s being cast as a sports car, and even though Honda has discontinued production of its wonderful rear-wheel0drive two-seat S2000 convertible, don’t anticipate a drop-top version of the CR-Z. The costs of re-engineering the body weigh against it. Don’t expect a conventional gas-engine variant, either. Honda is looking to advance on Toyota’s hybrid leadership, and the environmental and technical statement it’ll make with the CR-Z is part of the plan.

2011 Honda CR-Z Competition back to top

2011 Honda Civic: A few feet away in the Honda showroom will be a tempting CR-Z alternative in the form of a racy little two-door with a conventional gas four-cylinder engine. Honda is planning an all-new generation of Civics for the 2011 model year, and we’d be surprised if it didn’t again include a coupe version to go along with the sedan. If it does, a sporty Si edition should return as well. The current Civic Si coupe boasts 197 horsepower, starts under $23,000, and rates a palatable 21/20 mpg. It has four seats, too, though its appeal is narrowed a little because it comes only with a manual transmission.  

2011 Mini Cooper: The performance pacesetter among tiny two-doors. The Mini Cooper counters the CR-Z with retro styling, four seats, and an available convertible. There’s no hybrid version, and you’ll need to choose carefully to remain near CR-Z money. That likely rules out the convertible, and points toward a base-model hatchback or extended-length Clubman with the 118-horsepower four (rated 30/37 mpg). A sparsely optioned supercharged 172-horsepower S model (26/34) might fit the bill, as well. The Cooper could be in line for a minor appearance freshening for model-year 2010.

2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata: Why beat around the bush? You want a fuel-efficient two-seater that’s a genuine sports car and won’t break your budget? The answer is this classic rear-wheel-drive convertible with handling to die for and a lively 166-horsepower four rated at 21/28 with manual transmission, 20/27 with automatic. Again, cruise the lower rungs of the model line to stay around $23,000, which likely rules out Miatas with the cleaver retractable hardtop. But that’s little penalty. The Miata got a facelift for model-year 2009, and isn’t likely to change dramatically until well into the next decade.

2011 Honda CR-Z Next Steps