Hybrid Honda is clean and mean

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Can hybrids be sporty? June Neary takes a look at Honda’s CR-Z coupe to find out.

Will It Suit Me?

I love sports cars as much as the next person, maybe more, but I had resigned myself to the fact that owning one would mean putting up with some fairly hefty running costs.

Sports cars, you see, are designed for going fast and going fast is invariably a more expensive business than pottering along at a subdued pace.

But here’s a compact coupe that puts efficiency on an equal footing with fun in its list of priorities.

The question is whether or not it’s any substitute for a full-fat sports car.

Practicalities

Hybrid cars are nothing new but we’re used to seeing petrol/electric technology installed in relatively mundane family motors. The CR-Z is a far more intriguing proposition for the keen driver, with a level of desirability we hadn’t previously associated with hybrids.

The low, road-hugging looks dont lead you to expect a voluminous cabin but the car should be roomy enough for two. It’s being touted as a 2+2 but as ever when that old chestnut is wheeled out by a manufacturer, the rear seats aren’t much use to adults.

They work better with their backs folded down to increase the 225 litre boot to 410 litres.

The CR-Z sits you low down like a good coupe should and presents you with an array of instruments that could have been lifted out of a spaceship as imagined on a 1980s sci-fi show. Chunky controls are mounted within easy reach and displays with bold white fonts shine out from glossy black backgrounds.

Behind the wheel

In simple terms, it has a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 112bhp that’s assisted, when necessary, by a 14bhp electric motor. Together they produce maximum power of 122bhp. That isn’t a lot for a modern coupe and the 0-60 sprint takes a lengthy 10 seconds but the electric assistance helps give a strong pull from low revs.

Drivers can select Sport, Normal and Economy modes which change the parameters of the hybrid system. The CR-Z is also unusual in that it matches its hybrid powertrain to a six-speed manual gearbox, one with a really slick sporty action that gets you in the mood.

There’s definitely fun to be had, but it comes more from the handling than the pace that the engine can deliver.

Despite its complex hybrid mechanicals, the car weighs just under 1,200kg. This relative lightness is a big aid to fuel economy and the official combined cycle economy is an impressive 56.5mpg with emissions of CO2 measured at 117g/km.

Value For Money

The CR-Z appears to be priced affordably for a hybrid sports car but then, there aren’t too many models that meet that description at the moment. It’s available in three trim levels starting with S and extending upwards through Sport to GT.

In line with the high-tech feel of the car, even the basic car gets features like heated mirrors, daytime running lights, climate control, Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist technology and six airbags.

At the very top of the range, there’s a hands-free phone kit, a panoramic glass roof, xenon headlights, heated seats and full leather trim.

Could I Live With One?

The approach of the CR-Z is refreshing. It’s nice to see that as the clamour for more and more efficient vehicles grows, manufacturers are still going to give us cars that put a smile on our faces.

It’s not the fastest or most exhilarating coupe in the world but is a hoot to drive and it comes with lower running costs and a smaller environmental impact that most other sports cars I could mention.