Honda global design director Nobuki Ebisawa - click above for high-res image gallery

For the first time in its history, Honda invited a select group of North American media to visit to its design studio this week following the Tokyo Motor Show. While we didn't see any secret new cars today, we did sit down for a chat with Nobuki Ebisawa, general manager of global design for Honda. Among other things, we discussed the styling of the new CR-Z hybrid sport coupe.

Honda unveiled an updated concept version of the CR-Z at the show that's merely a thinly-veiled version of the production model slated to debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January. The new concept remained on the show floor while the original 2007 concept was on display in the studio along with two quarter-scale clay models. One model was of the original proposal from early 2007, while the other model was the 2009 concept. Both are the work of Motoaki Minowa, while the actual concept that was built in 2007 was produced by Makoto Iwaki. Read on to learn more about the changes.


Related GalleryHonda CR-Z design studio
2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki

Related GalleryTokyo 2009: Honda CR-Z concept

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

In many respects, the production car is closer in detail to the 2007 Minowa model than to the 2007 full-size Iwaki concept, particularly in the character lines on the flanks that yield a bit of a cutout in the middle of the car. The Iwaki design has flatter sides.

There are other differences between both original designs and the production car. The sides of the greenhouse have been made more vertical than the concepts' inward-sloping tumblehome. This was done to provide a more spacious-feeling interior for the car's occupants. Further aiding interior space is a higher roof. The other big change was the shortening of the production-car's wheelbase, although we don't have exact dimensions.The result is a longer front overhang on the production car, while overall length remains constant.


2007 Honda CR-Z Concept - Click above for high-res image gallery

Ebisawa-san explained that this was done for several different reasons. The longer overhang provides more crush space to help with crash safety performance. It also allows for greater tapering of the front corners (when viewed from above) which aids both pedestrian safety performance and airflow for reduced aerodynamic drag. Another benefit that Ebisawa-san highlighted was the nimbler handling that results from the production CR-Z's shorter axle span.

2009 Honda CR-Z Concept - Click above for high-res image gallery

Ebisawa-san also answered our question about the grille shape of the CR-Z and the similar nose of the SkyDeck concept, which also debuted in Tokyo. We asked if this design would become the new Honda standard. Ebisawa-san explained that unlike Acura, Honda won't be using a single face for its entire lineup. Instead it will have different looks for different families, just as the light truck/SUVs already differ from cars in the States. That said, the CR-Z style scoop grille will be reserved for sporty models.


Related GalleryHonda CR-Z design studio
2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki2007 Honda CR-Z concept by Makoto Iwaki

Related GalleryTokyo 2009: Honda CR-Z concept

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.