First Drive 2011 Honda CR-Z: the first ever hybrid with a quirky & fun personality


Zap! Bang! Pow! Here comes the first purpose built “fun” hybrid!

Waiting for the backhanded compliment? Sorry… I have no intent on creative hyperbole or brooding understatement when I call the CR-Z “fun.” That’s because it is. The 2011 Honda CR-Z is fun.

Ah, now I hear you pounding your chest as you quote numerous magazines that have brow beaten the little hybrid. As it stands, they make good points when it comes to comparing the little coupe to other cars. It’s not very fast (about 8.3 seconds going from 0 to 60 mph – with the faster 6-speed), it’s not very cheap (about 20-grand), it’s not even jaw-droopingly fuel efficient (26 mpg combined when driving like an ass – – I’m an ass). It’s not even utility smart with the overseas back seats removed for some silly reason.

But, despite it all – it IS fun.

Let me explain: Geritol devouring critics may have forgotten how quirky the original Honda CRX was. No – I’m not talking about the sporty (Si) variant, I’m talking about the regular models that made up a fat chunk of sales. These cars were funky – in a good way.

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Driven daily, the CR-Z is a much more exciting vehicle than the four-door hybrids. It hunkers down and slices through corners quickly but not blindingly-quick. It has an unusual tendency to pull at its moorings when the driver pushes idiotically mid corner. The six-speed manual mitigates some of this pull from center, but it is noticeable when pushed hard.

The interior is comfy despite the small-ish seats. I loved the pod-within-a-pod display and the slick shifting 6-speed manual. Legroom is damn good and I can clearly see where the rear seats would have gone behind me. In fact: I moved the passenger seat around and discovered just enough room in the missing back seat to allow a small child a comfortable perch while allowing the front passenger enough space for an equally imaginary lap dance.

It is a quirky car.

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Still, it made me smile as I zoomed around the desolation called Fontana, California. I can’t fully explain the rewarding nature of the CR-Z, but it does respond to inputs better than any other Honda or Toyota hybrid. It give me hope that a 122 horsepower (112-hp gas and 13-hp electric) hybrid like this can open the doors to more entertaining gas saving.

With all that said, I think this is a rare example of Honda showing a hint of soul. It may not be perfect, still the Honda CR-Z does have a sliver of personality. Any car with a personality is DEFINITELY worth a look.

Editor’s Note: Nathan Adlen is having way too much fun in Fontana, California at the annual automotive journalist MPG shindig…so…of course…we made him file a few first look new car reviews just to keep him up even later at night.

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