Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted September 26, 2013 17:39
The best of both worlds
It's finally here. We've been waiting three years for the CR-Z to make its Philippine debut, and now Honda's sport hybrid hatchback is officially in the country for everyone to enjoy.
We've driven the pre-launch version of the CR-Z Mugen before, but now we're driving the Honda CR-Z with the Modulo kit. In my opinion, it's the perfect variant, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Honda CR-Z that is now being officially sold by HCPI is already the updated version, meaning it gets a few design tweaks and other upgrades. In terms of looks, the new model is strikingly good looking, easily drawing glances from enthusiasts and passersby alike.
Design-wise, the CR-Z takes many enthusiasts back to the days of the famed Honda CR-X, one of the more direct predecessors of the hybrid. The front end looks properly modern for the car, and has quite a bit of visual impact with the LED strips on the headlamps. The side profile pays great homage to the CR-X, especially with the lift up tailgate that is almost level with the roofline. The Modulo bodykit with the subtle side skirts with the carbon fiber trim, the lip spoiler and other components give it that go-fast look without being too out-and-out sporty.
Inside, not much has changed over the previous model, as the CR-Z's cabin feels perfectly snug and very driver oriented; just the way we like it. The steering wheel has been changed over the previous model, and gets a new S+ button for extra power and response from the engine (more on that later). The dashboard is laid out with all the controls you need and more, along with the buttons for the three driving modes for Sport, Normal and Econ.
The seats are perfect for sporty driving and felt comfortable after a while. Of note is the shifter for the 6-speed manual, made of metal but partly wrapped in leather, much like a great aftermarket shift knob from Momo or Sparco. The rear seats are almost decorative given the low ceiling in the backseat, though if you have a baby, you can attach an ISOFIX carseat there so Junior can enjoy the ride too.
With a twist of the key, the CR-Z is alive. There's a nice little burble from the exhaust, quite unusual for a hybrid. Powering the CR-Z is a 1.5-liter SOHC 16-valve Inline-4 i-VTEC engine. The internal combustion engine makes 114 PS and 144 Newton-meters. The upgraded CR-Z also gets a more powerful integrated electric motor and a higher voltage lithium ion battery pack that, combined, help develop an extra 22 PS. The whole powertrain is completed with a 6-speed manual transmission and drives the front wheel.
Around town and in Normal driving mode, the CR-Z is a breeze to take about. The manual transmission is perfect; yes, perfect. The gearing is great, the feel of each shift is very positive, while the engagement of the clutch is excellent. The suspension is great too, delivering a fine balance between ride comfort and sporty handling, as this version doesn't have the Mugen suspension that the previous one we drove had.
As for fuel economy and driving in Econ mode, the CR-Z Modulo delivered an excellent 14.5 kilometers a liter on average with varying levels of traffic in the city. On the highway in ECON mode, the Modulo proved very economical at 21.5 km/l with minimal traffic and at a steady cruise of 100 km/h. Now that efficiency is out of the way, it's time to get down to business.
Again, I took the CR-Z to our favorite playground: the mountain pass of Tanay. I kick it down to 2nd and gun the accelerator in Sport mode and with S+ engaged. The CR-Z may not deliver the excitement of the B16 and B18 engines we've come to enjoy, but it's no slouch. The acceleration is very linear and yet quick, and the seamless nature of the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system is a perfect partner for the 1.5 liter i-VTEC motor.
Braking is excellent, not to mention that it charges the battery pack as well for extra boost later on in the straights. Again, you don't have much power at your disposal, so you really have to maximize the revs on the uphill. The manners of the car mid-corner are also excellent, as it's eager to show off it's superb handling even without the Mugen suspension we enjoyed before. On that note, it's also one of the easiest cars to heel and toe out of the showroom.
The best part? I went up to the mountains with half a tank of fuel, gunning the throttle for all it can, and came back with just a little less. By the trip computer, I was doing 8.3 kilometers to the liter at full throttle. It sounds too good to be true, but try it for yourself.
The CR-Z is one of those very rare cars that blends opposite sides of the spectrum -efficiency and performance- very, very well. Is the PhP 1,470,000 price tag worth it? Simply put: yeah.
if this is Honda's automotive definition of the term 'compromise', then I think they've found the happiest, most enjoyable one around.