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The Honda CR-Z Hybrid: Sportily saving the planet?

The stylish new Honda CR-Z has been labelled ‘the world’s first sporty hybrid’. This is no small claim by Honda, which already has the Civic Hybrid and the Insight Hybrid as part of its greener, more environmentally friendly range of vehicles. Does the new car fully earn the right to be called the ‘CR-Z (sporty hybrid)’ in the current range of Honda hybrid vehicles?

At first glance, it is hard to visualise the Honda CR-Z hybrid as an environmentally friendly vehicle. In terms of looks and internal styling, the CR-Z looks more like a traditional hot hatch. Indeed, at first glance this car does not look like a trundling eco-warrior. Forget hugging a tree, the CR-Z looks as though it could tear one down and burn it, snarling while it does so.

Appearances can be deceptive, however. The CR-Z is a true hybrid car. The 1,497cc petrol engine comes fitted with Honda’s integrated motor assist system (IMA). In non-technical language, this simply means that an electric motor will assist in the powering of the car when viable. The batteries are housed under the boot and are charged when the car brakes. It's as simple as that.

Or is it?

The true genius behind Honda’s IMA system is that not only does it supplement the car's petrol engine to increase horse power (from 113bhp to 124bhp), but also that it is designed to deliver sporty performance when needed and to be as environmentally and economically friendly as possible when not.

The upshot is a car that reaches 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds and yet can still achieve an economy rate of 56.5mpg and emit just 117g/km of CO2, thus allowing it to avoid the congestion charge and qualify for the £0 rate of road tax.

Another aspect that Honda has done well to consider is that hybrid cars only work as greener and more efficient vehicles if they are actually driven that way. To assist the driver in this respect, Honda has installed a three-mode drive system on the CR-Z, which allows the driver to see at a glance which mode they are driving in. There is Sport mode, which offers greater performance and power, Normal mode for most forms of town driving and Economy mode, which obviously offers the best in terms of efficiency of driving, burning less fuel and reducing harmful emissions.

Furthermore, the mode you are currently operating in is displayed clearly on the dashboard and is even colour co-ordinated so that you cannot fail to see how you are driving. This is a nice touch for drivers who would like the flexibility of being able to drive more economically when viable, but who also still require the level of performance that a traditional hot hatch would give them.

In terms of the Honda hybrid car range, the CR-Z fills an obvious gap. The family Insight Hybrid is available for roughly the same price as the CR-Z Hybrid and offers similar levels of performance at 64.2mpg and just 101 g/km of CO2 emitted. However, the Honda Insight hybrid is aimed towards the family market and is designed as such, with features aplenty that will appeal to a family seeking a car that is safe, reliable and efficient and yet offers a touch of quality and level of technology that is a rarity in a traditional family vehicle.

The Honda Civic Hybrid is a little more expensive but it is easy to see where the additional money goes. This executive saloon has a look and feel of genuine quality, but with performance levels of 61.4mpg and just 109 g/km of CO2 emitted, it is in a league of its own when it comes to running costs and efficiency, looks and style when compared to cost and economy.

Indeed all three cars qualify for the £0 rate of road tax in the UK, meaning that not only do they make economic sense to consider purchasing, they make equally good financial sense when considering running costs too, especially when you factor in the savings you will make on fuel every month or so.

The Honda CR-Z hybrid is a welcome addition to the Honda family of hybrid cars and is worthy of serious consideration for anybody seeking a car that looks fantastic, is fun to drive, offers the perfect balance between performance and efficiency and yet will not cost the Earth, literally, to buy or run on a daily basis.


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