While it might not be a true sports car, Honda's fun-to-drive CR-Z hybrid will get you two green thumbs up from Mother Nature and your pocketbook. It also offers a manual transmission – a rarity among hybrids and a bonus for today's thrifty enthusiast.
You'll Like The 2013 Honda CR-Z If...
Although the term "sporty hybrid" seems a bit oxymoronic, the 2013 Honda CR-Z is arguably the most fun-to-drive hybrid this side of the luxury category. Additionally, the CR-Z is currently the only hybrid available with a manual transmission.
You May Not Like The 2013 Honda CR-Z If...
The Honda CR-Z is unable to accommodate more than two occupants, making it a less than ideal option for anyone who needs a small car with real people moving capability (think Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Elantra). And if fuel economy is the principal requisite for your next vehicle, the Toyota Prius C offers a 50-mpg combined rating for about $1,000 less than the 2013 CR-Z.
The Honda CR-Z sees a number of revisions for the 2013 model year. Chief among them are a new lithium-ion battery pack, freshened front-end styling, a modest horsepower increase from 122 to 130, and an expanded list of standard features.
Where all hybrid cars have additional gauges and playful readouts to make them appear more futuristic, the 2013 Honda CR-Z hybrid's cockpit looks like something from a pseudo-sci-fi film. Worry not, though, for in typical Honda style all of the CR-Z's controls are logically placed and easy to operate. We particularly like the placement of the climate controls, which reside just to the right of the steering wheel. As for comfort, the sport seats are nicely bolstered and very comfortable, but the shiny silver fabric covering them may not be to everyone's liking. Unfortunately, Honda does not offer a leather seat option, and black is the only interior color scheme available on most models.
Some may see the 2013 Honda CR-Z as a coupe version of the Insight or the rebirth of the CRX, but however you look at it, the CR-Z is like nothing Honda has built before. Designed using a "one motion wedge" concept, the CR-Z projects an unconventional image, and actually appears a bit sinister. From its trapezoidal wide-mouth grille to its half-glass rear hatch, the CR-Z's exterior seems to flow in one continuous line as though carved from a single steel billet.
If you owned a CRX and expect the same nimble, athletic performance out of the CR-Z, you'll be sadly disappointed. However, The CR-Z is still a great car for long drives as well as short inner-city commutes. Acceleration is fairly strong, thanks in part to the electric motor's assist, which comes in the form of pure torque. Plus, handling and braking are light-years beyond any mainstream hybrid we've driven. With Honda's 3-mode drive system, drivers can select between an efficiency-friendly "Econ" mode, a balanced "Normal" mode or a responsive "Sport" mode. Accelerator-pedal response is dampened and the steering feel is lighter in Econ mode, while Sport mode increases steering effort and throttle response for a very un-hybrid-like driving experience.
The 2013 Honda CR-Z has a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $21,000. This figure reflects a $300 premium over the outgoing 2012 model, but we view the increased level of standard equipment, additional power and better fuel economy as a defensible rationale for the modest price hike. The majority of 5-door compact cars begin in the $17,000 range, while a comparably equipped Mini Cooper shares a similar starting price with the CR-Z. To see what others in your area are paying for the 2013 Honda CR-Z, take a peek at KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price located at the bottom of this page. Down the road, we expect the resale value for the 2013 CR-Z to hold its own against competitors like the Hyundai Veloster, Mini Cooper and Toyota Prius C.
Unlike many of its compact car rivals, the 2013 Honda CR-Z offers most of today's must-have features as standard issue. Those include such niceties as a rear backup camera with guidelines, Bluetooth connectivity, aluminum-alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and a multi-information display. Notable audio hardware consists of six speakers, a USB port for portable music players and a 160-watt receiver. All CR-Z hybrids protect occupants with six airbags, the usual helping of electronic stability controls, and active head restraints that help reduce the severity of whiplash-related injuries.
As is the case with all Honda products, most optional features available on the 2013 CR-Z can be acquired by stepping up to a higher trim level. Trading up from the base model to the EX trim lands you xenon headlights, which are up to three times brighter than traditional halogen systems, LED daytime running lights, and a 7-speaker premium audio system with a subwoofer. While its capabilities are comparatively outdated, a touch-screen navigation system with a basic text messaging function is available on EX models.
PLUS SPORT SYSTEM
Similar to automotive video games of yore, the Sport Plus button found in the 2013 CR-Z primes the powertrain for a quick burst of power to assist with passing or merging moves.
6-SPEED MANUAL TRANSMISSION
Although it comes with a slight penalty in fuel economy, we liked the crisp shifts and close gear ratios of the standard 6-speed transmission.
Under the Hood
The gasoline/electric powertrain comprises a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine mated to a 15-kilowatt motor, combining to deliver 130 horsepower. This combination is the sixth iteration of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology since its debut in the original Honda Insight for the 2000 model year. While 130 horsepower might not sound like much, the broad torque curve makes freeway passing and darting through intersections a breeze. One feature we did not care for was the auto-stop feature, which is a fuel-saving measure that turns off the engine at a complete stop and often causes the vehicle to judder upon restarting. If you find a row-it-yourself gearbox unappealing, every CR-Z model can be fitted with a gearless continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
1.5-liter gasoline engine with Integrated Motor Assist (hybrid)
130 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
140 lb-ft of torque @ 1,000-2,000 rpm (manual); 127 lb-ft of torque @ 1,000-3,000 rpm (CVT automatic)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/38 mpg (manual), 36/39 mpg (CVT automatic)
The 2013 Honda CR-Z is among the few hybrids on the market that does not require a shot of 5-Hour Energy before sliding behind the wheel. It may lack genuine sports car credentials, but the CR-Z remains a fun, affordable alternative to conventional hybrids. A spiritual successor to the celebrated Honda CRX, the 2013 CR-Z is a front-wheel-drive, 2-door hatchback with just two seats. But whereas the CRX used a lightweight, minimalist approach to deliver efficiency and entertainment, the CR-Z utilizes a more substantial platform to accommodate the extra componentry of a mild hybrid drivetrain. Of course, there are more fuel-efficient hybrids on the market, such as the Toyota Prius C and Honda's 5-door offering, the Insight, but thrifty car shoppers looking for a sporty urban runabout will find the 2013 CR-Z is a car worth getting to know.