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Honda CR-Z GT-T

Click to view picture gallery“Stylish. Sleek. Sporty. Sensible.
  Which is the odd one out?
  Most people would guess
sensible.
  But if you were talking about Honda
s
  sporty CR-Z hybrid, the correct
  answer is
none of the above...”


TAKING STYLISH AND SLEEK FIRST from the front and front three-quarters the slickly styled CR-Z is undeniably a futuristic little number. A racy coupe that looks like it's been wind-tunnel honed you could almost believe that pressing a button would extend a pair of fold-out wings and it would fly. At the tail, the metalwork flows into a sharply contoured split-screen tailgate that's equally dramatic. So, sleek and stylish it is.

Sporty and sensible like 'MP' and 'morals' are usually mutually exclusive. So how does the CR-Z fare here? Before you can decide on sporty, defined in terms of handling and poke, you need to drive it. And to do that you need to get behind the wheel.

“It’s a natural movement to drop into the snug, shapely and well-bolstered driver’s seat. You sit low, the driving position is agreeably sporting, and the dash is angled towards you...
No sooner said than done. Access via the long doors is unhindered and it's a natural movement to drop into the snug, shapely and well-bolstered driver's seat.

You sit low, the driving position is agreeably sporting, and the dash is angled towards you. To the left of the chunky leather-rimmed wheel is the AirCon control panel; to the right is the control hub for the powerfold mirrors, headlamp powerwash, ESP, and the three driving modes Sport, Normal, and Econ.

Upholstery is leather, and supporting trim materials come in a variety of textures to keep things interesting. Fast-acting two-stage heated seats are welcome on chilly days and nights; so too is the AirCon, equally fast-acting whether it's hot or cold you've ordered. Directly ahead of you is a stand-alone hooded dial whose outer ring is a traditional rev-counter but whose inner circle is a digital speed display.

The main dial's background glows either green (indicating that you're driving economically), blue (indicates you could, mpg-wise, do better) or, when in Sport mode, red. The mph numerals are large, white on black figures and easily read in all light conditions, so you'll always be aware of your road speed down to the exact mile per hour.

Controls, including the nice-action stubby column stalks for lights and wipes, are barely a finger-stretch away from the multifunction wheel's grippy rim; you'll find the Start button on the right of the fascia. The default driving mode on start-up is Normal, which strikes a happy balance between fuel economy and driving dynamics. Sport essentially does what you'd expect gives you better acceleration and enhances the handling performance.

Econ, by dint of optimising the engine management and climate control systems for maximum economy as well as engaging the stop-start function for longer, gives you lean, green running. Officially that's 46.3mpg around town, 54.3 combined and 60.1mpg touring.

“A hard week’s driving,
saw an average of
46.1mpg recorded,
proving that you really
can have your motoring
cake and eat it...
Don't fret: you can save the planet and still have fun our time behind the wheel was split about 50:50 between Sport and Normal and still, after a hard week's driving, saw an average of 46.1mpg recorded, proving that you really can have your motoring cake and eat it.

In the cruise, the CR-Z is a relaxing place to be as it's quiet at speed and the cabin ambience refined. Plus there's an ample sufficiency of bins, cupholders and cubbies to keep the cabin decluttered and an air-conditioned glovebox if you prefer your snacks chilled (just don't nibble while you're driving!).

Back in the cabin the one thing you do need to acclimatise to is the rear visibility; the tailgate is formed by an upright rear screen that meets at a horizontal bar with the downward sloping upper rear glass.

Unfortunately, like the big 'wings' that used to come on old-style Impreza WRX's, the bar blocks out a horizontal slice of the following vehicle. Nor only that but the rear three-quarter panels obscure over-the-shoulder views and that takes a little longer to get used to, especially in busy traffic and on roundabouts. Fortunately there are good views to the front and sides, and rear sensors and a parking graphic in the driver's info window when reversing.

Behind the front seats is a pair of individual 'scooped out' rear seats but they're strictly for small children if you're not planning on carrying youngsters the best thing you can do is fold them down to extend the load carrying capacity from 207 litres (with the luggage blind in place and the seats up) to a very useful 1,146 litres (loaded to the window line).

The boot itself is loaded over a hip-height sill that sits about eight inches above the boot floor. Not a problem as you're very unlikely to even think of transporting the likes of a chest freezer or chest of drawers in a coupe! For everyday items and regular luggage, the CR-Z's loadbay makes a perfectly fine holdall.

“If you’re not planning
on carrying youngsters in
the small rear seats
the best thing you can do
is fold them down to
extend the load carrying
capacity from 207 to a
very useful 1,146 litres...
Consistent 45+mpg economy and, in spite of its compact two-door coupe styling, an accommodating loadbay with the ability to carry small children, earns the CR-Z a tick in the 'sensible' box.

Which leaves only the 'sporting' question awaiting an answer. These latest CR-Zs come with increased power from both their petrol engine and electric motor (using, for the first time, a lithium-ion battery pack) so there's now 135bhp and 140lb ft of torque.

Technophobes can skip to the next para if they like but, and for the record, while the smooth-revving 1.5-litre petrol engine produces 119bhp and 107lb ft and the Integrated Motor Assist Hybrid Technology motor 19bhp and 57lb ft, their combined power and torque figures are not the exact sum of their individual maximum outputs because the engine and motor generate their peak figures at different points in their rev ranges.

Mounted on the steering wheel is an 'S+' button this triggers a short (10-second) torque boost from the electric motor to increase straight line performance for some added overtaking go.

While it sounds a bit like the Turbo Boost enjoyed by KITT in the TV series Knight Rider, it's not quite that potent not that the hybrid CR-Z is slow: maxed out it runs to 124mph, and it gets off the line eagerly enough to hit the benchmark 62mph in 9.5 seconds.

Once on the move the CR-Z proves to be more fun than you may have been expecting from the blue hybrid badge on its tailgate. Drive is through the front wheels and it feels light and wieldy and tracks well too, helped by accurate steering that turns in sharply to commands from the helm.

Dynamically, the CR-Z feels at its keenest in Sport mode, which it should as throttle response, steering reaction and engine assistance provided by the electric motor are all then at their best. All in all it's entertainingly composed with a snappy gearshift action adding to the driving appeal.

“Mounted on the
steering wheel is an ‘S+’
button — this triggers
a short torque boost from
the electric motor
to increase straight line
performance
for some
added go...
There's ESP covering your back and powerful brakes when you need them. While body roll when attacking corners and through the twisties is minimal, it comes as a direct result of the CR-Z's firm suspension so there's more than one good reason to avoid potholes. And, as mentioned, you can often save a downchange just before overtaking by thumbing the S+ button on the steering wheel.

For longer trips, the cruise control buttons are also on the wheel. In traffic at standstill the standard-fit stop-start system does its bit to save fuel but, unlike most other hybrids, there's no dedicated electric-only mode for silent running in zero emissions zones. You don't, however, have to 'park 'n' charge' as you would on other diesel- or petrol-electric hybrids because the CR-Z's regenerative braking system charges the battery pack for you.

Neither do you go short of kit in the range-topping GT-T, which is equipped with SatNav (with clear and timely directions), Bluetooth hands-free, multifunction steering wheel (phone, audio, S+, driver info, audio, cruise), panoramic glass roof with sunblind, heated seats, leather upholstery, cruise control, climate control, auto lights and wipes, one-shot power windows, heated powerfold door mirrors, air-conditioned glovebox, rear parking sensors, privacy glass, 3-mode drive with Sport Plus boost system, push button engine start, LED daytime running lights, HID headlights, alloy pedal set, 17-inch alloy wheels, Hill Start Assist, stability control, and plenty of airbags.

Stylish, sleek, sporty and sensible? That would be our take. So if you appreciate smiles per miles as much as you like miles per gallon, green is your favourite colour but you like to see red, and you prefer driving deux, then Honda's CR-Z could be just the hybrid for you. MotorBar


Honda CR-Z GT-T | 24,045
Maximum speed: 124mph | 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds | Test Average: 46.1mpg
Power: 135bhp | Torque: 140lb ft | CO2 122g/km