The tail lights of the Tesla Roadster were a green flag to my inner Andretti, and before my brain had finished processing the scene in front of me, my fingers had already engaged the sport mode button to the left of the instrument cluster, while my right foot tipped the suddenly-awakened gas pedal floorward.

Not full throttle, of course. I had just picked up the bright red 2013 Honda CR-Z several minutes before from a lot near the San Francisco airport and it was my first introduction to this particular stretch of diving, twisting pavement that I had serendipitously chosen in an attempt to go coastward. The orange electric sports car stayed in my sights just long enough to impress me with its cornering, then acceleration abilities. Clearly, the Tesla was in a completely different class than this sporty Honda hybrid – a point that became even more clear minutes later as I realized it was almost out of gas. Still, I was impressed, my admittedly-low expectations being vigorously exceeded.

There had been a lot of excitement around the CR-Z when it was launched in the US in 2010, but as the first reviews came in, it seemed those who had expected the rebirth of the Honda CRX were disappointed and many saw it as a flawed compromise: not enough performance for the enthusiast, too gas-thirsty for the green-car crowd. Alas, what's an automaker to do? Well, how about a makeover.

Driving Notes
  • The 2013 model gets a minor bit of cosmetic surgery, but more importantly, it also gets a lithium battery – in place of the old nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) chemistry – and a more powerful electric motor. Its prime mover – a 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder – also gets a power bump. The resulting 130 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque (the CVT option only offers 127 lb-ft) may not seem especially impressive, but in the 2,663-lb vehicle, lack of power was never a problem.
  • I think the nine-second 0-to-62 mile-per-hour figured offered by Honda is a lie. At least, it certainly seemed quicker and, in the 6-speed manual version at least, torque is waiting for you right off the line. Also, tromping on the accelerator doesn't produce any noticeable torque-steer. Nice!
  • Upon first entering the feature-rich CR-Z, I was bedazzled by the number of buttons and gauges, but adjusted rather quickly to almost all of them. Navigation worked well and was pretty intuitive. Stereo sound quality seemed less than mediocre at first, but a little tweaking of the EQ helped immensely and the sub woofer in this package helped the tuba stand out clearly in the corridos I was listening to, without mushing the mids.
  • The one button I didn't get a handle on was the new-for-2013 Plus Sport (S+) boost on the lower right portion of the steering wheel. (Note to self: read the bleeping manual) This gives the car more thrust, regardless of whether it's in eco, regular or sport mode, for up to 10 seconds. It's probably more useful with the CVT than the manual, as using it forces you to return your right hand to the wheel immediately after shifting – as one should, but most drivers don't. It's an interesting touch, but I never really felt the need for more acceleration than what was already available with a quick upshift and a whack of the pedal in sport mode.
  • Handling seemed relatively neutral, making city-speed manoeuvring rather enjoyable. On the highway however, the half inch of marshmallow in the suspension that keeps the ride from being harsh allows for too much body roll and a slightly unsettled feel when making quick steering inputs.
  • The CR-Z has great side-view mirrors. This is important since it's really the only useful way to see what's going on behind you. Rearward visibility is woeful through the mid-mounted mirror and the massively massive c-pillars make over-the-shoulder glances pointless. The back up camera also proved quite handy for parking situations and made me wish there was a way to use it when moving forward.
  • The hybrid portion of the drivetrain really shone through when I filled the tank before turning it in. Despite only using eco-mode sparingly and a (very) spirited 120-mile dash back to the airport, I estimate it returned better than 35 miles per gallon. This figure may not impress Prius drivers but I thought it excellent, considering the superior performance. The stop-start function worked flawlessly as well and the silence at a standstill was much appreciated.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      PeterScott
      • 1 Year Ago
      9 seconds is just about right. Consumer reports tested it, and they got 9.3 seconds 0-60. This car is just a novelty act and sales fell off a cliff after the first few months. The horrible visibility is one reason I would never own this car even if they improved the performance. The original CRX has rear windows, not portholes.
      WheelMcCoy
      • 1 Year Ago
      @CoolWaters -- while true, the 2010 Honda CR-Z only scored 57 points, not enough to get Consumer Report's recommended rating. Highs: Fuel economy, shifter, turning circle, cargo flexibility, reliability. Lows: Only two seats, noise, ride, on-limit handlnig, visibility, A/C shuts off at stops. With the new 2014 SkyActiv Mazda3, the Honda CR-Z now makes less sense.
      paulwesterberg
      • 1 Year Ago
      But it does have great side-view mirrors!
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      So it is a 6-speed manual transmission hybrid? I didn't even know they made manual transmission hybrids.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Spec
        Honda has been off and on about manuals in hybrids. You could get one in the Insight (2001) and in the Civic Hybrid, and the CR-Z has had a manual since it was introduced in 2010.
          EVnerdGene
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          2000-2006 Insights had 5-speed trans standard. 2001-2006 CVT was a slight price increase option.
      Allch Chcar
      • 1 Year Ago
      The 2014 was recently announced, so 2013 is old news. The MT is capable of 0-60 in the low 8's. Honda vastly under rates the MT. The real world MPG in Eco mode is fantastic, mid 40's depending on conditions. My recommendation is do not even look at the CVT version!
      njss
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have an 2003 Civic Hybrid manual and I wouldn't trade it for the world. If anyone has a first gen Civic Hybrid manual that you would like to sell, please contact me. BTW, the manual Civic Hybrid reached max torque at like 1600 rpm, the automatic with the same engine, reached max torque at much higher rpms.
      CoolWaters
      • 1 Year Ago
      Consumer Reports rates it Excellent in Reliability, Ownership cost, and fuel economy.
      HH
      • 1 Year Ago
      I appreciate the CR-Z as a spiritual successor to the CRX, and as a 'proof of concept' for a sporty hybrid. And as this review says, it's not a bad car in the ultimate. As a product that competes on the market, however, the CR-Z fails to distinguish itself. It really does need more power or better mileage (preferably both) to stand out as something special. Hopefully Honda will take another crack at this 'sports hybrid' concept with its new hybrid tech.
        HH
        • 1 Year Ago
        @HH
        And before somebody says it: The manual, although rare, is not that something special that sets this car apart. It's a more of a novelty for most buyers these days.
      • 1 Year Ago
      What many people don't see is that electric cars used to be much more common than oil-based cars. If you guys really want to know what's going on in the world of electric cars I suggest you check this out http://www.climal.com/vehicles-and-transportation.php
      Levine Levine
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hush! Don't tell anyone the CRZ has IMA as the power train. IMA is a just lightly above the worthless GM's "mild hybrid" technology. IMA is an obsolete inferior technology: it can't provide pure EV mode, improves MPG marginally, and the new Honda Accord has abandoned it for a hybrid power train similar to Toyota's Synergy Hybrid. Conclusion: CRZ is sleek sheet metal covering over a piece of garbage called IMA.
        M Peter Selman
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Actually, with a large enough battery, eg 4kW - IMA can be a decent plug-in hybrid system - as seen in this video from youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jyu9r81Q2ys - the guy who converted the car claims to have attained a maximum 103 MPG.
        EVnerdGene
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Levine Levine
        The IMA in my 2000 Insight and 2012 CRz work just fine. Feels like a little (instantaneous) turbo-charger off the line or immediately after shifting gears. I really wanted the 6-speed sportiness of the CRz (my first 6-speed - except for motorcycles). Now I wonder why ? Except for doing a full-on acceleration; just putzing down boulevards the IMA gives plenty of torque to skip 3rd gear and 5th gear. Sometimes I'll even take it to 6k rpm in 1st and shift to 6th --- still feel the IMA's torque. Happy camper here.
      paulwesterberg
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is it 2013 already? Man this car is way ahead of its time.
        danfred311
        • 1 Year Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Indeed. It was junk in 2010 and it's even more junk now.
        Domenick
        • 1 Year Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        The 2014 CR-Z has been announced, but it's basically unchanged from 2013. And yeah, we wish this post was available sooner.
          PeterScott
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Domenick
          Interesting Specs. But I am still not interested if I can't see out the back of it. The original CR-X had rear windows you could actually see out of, and do shoulder checks.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Domenick
          Rearward visibility has gotten worse in most all cars over the past decade...
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Domenick
          2015 is supposed to be the big change. "Worry no more; we are happy to report that a brand new CR-Z prototype is being developed at Honda's R&D division. The body will retain the current CR-Z size, but will be implementing a modified and shortened wheelbase from the new Type R. Also like the Euro Spec Type R, the CR-Z is expected to use a turbocharged engine specifically a 1.5-liter, direct injection 4-cylidner engine integrated with an updated hybrid system. Unfortunately, the manual gearbox will not be offered for the new CR-Z, instead a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Anticipate the CR-Z to be pushing approximately 220 horsepower, which means a more powerful car than the FR-S/BRZ and with its hybrid system a more fuel-efficient and cleaner emissions footprint too. Not only does it surpass the current CR-Z by 100 horsepower, it will also have more power than the current Civic SI. If production is held in the U.S. the car should have a price tag under $30,000,to compete with the FR-S/BRZ." http://www.hondatuningmagazine.com/news/1309_honda_cr_z/
          HH
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Domenick
          Sounds great. Now make it true Honda!
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