2010 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) – 2011 Honda CR-Z:

[singlepic id=138 w=320 h=240 float=right]2010 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) – 2011 Honda CR-Z: Honda unveils a production version of the hybrid powered two-seater Honda CR-Z Concept introduced in 2007. The 2011 Honda CR-Z adds a hybrid with its own identity, not one borrowed from Toyota, to the Honda lineup once again.

When Honda introduced the CR-Z (Compact Renaissance – Zero) concept at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, the buzz was the possibility of a next generation CRX. Hey, wasn’t 1983 the Renaissance period of our age? Yeah, not so much, check the leg warmers and fingerless gloves at the door. And while some were excited about the second coming of Mom-and-Dads-hand-me-down-hatchback-turned-street-racer, others dreaded a whole new generation of Hondas plastered with go-fast stickers and fitted with fart-can exhausts driven by spiky-haired, anime-character, wannabes. Was that a Pokémon driving that thing?

Well, we have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is the CR-Z was finally introduced as a production model that will go on sale this summer. The two-seater hatchback will be powered by a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine mated to the Honda Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid-electric system. Honda is introducing a three-mode drive system in the CR-Z which includes sport, economy and normal driving modes.

To get the power to the rear wheels, buyers will have the choice of a standard 6-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The combined power plant is said to produce 122 hp at 6,000 rpm and 128 lb-ft. of torque at 1,000 to 1,500 rpm (123 lb-ft on CVT-equipped models) while delivering an estimated 36 city/38 hwy mpg in CVT equipped models and 31 city/37hwy on manually equipped models. Those mileage estimates sound good until you consider that there are larger hybrids that get better numbers like the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Those who want the economy of the CVT, but don’t want to give up the control of being able to choose when to shift, will be glad to know the CVT equipped CR-Z comes equipped with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Hopefully those paddle shifters aren’t just for looks and will add enough responsiveness to the CR-Zs acceleration to make up for the good, but not great fuel economy estimates.

The Honda CR-Z comes equipped with 16×6-inch aluminum wheels with 195/55 R16 86V tires. Optional 17×7 alloy wheels with 205/45R17 84V tires are available. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution are standard.

Hondas new hybrid hatchback is available in two trim levels, the CR-Z and the CR-Z EX. Standard features on the CR-Z include Vehicle Stability Assist, an AM/FM/CD/USB audio system with six speakers, automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, and remote entry. The CR-Z EX adds, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights with Auto-On/Off, fog lights, a 360-Watt seven speaker AM/FM/CD, Bluetooth connectivity, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The CR-Z EX is also available with the optional Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition which is not available on CR-Z models.

That’s the good news, now for the bad: That fart-can exhaust isn’t going to do you a bit of good when the CR-Z is in electric mode, so cross it off your modification list right now, Picachu.

What’s Breaking: Honda unveils a two-seater hybrid that doesn’t look like a Toyota.

Worth Braking For: Maybe, if you are looking for a cool looking two-seater hybrid and are willing to settle for less mpgs than a much larger Toyota Prius or Ford Fusion Hybrid. Not so much if you are looking to relive your ‘80s hot import fantasies. The styling is terrific; it will give Honda an unmistakable presence in the hybrid game like the 2000 Honda Insight once did. Honda needs a hybrid with an identity if its own, not one it borrowed from Toyota. This is the hybrid Honda should have built before reintroducing the new Insight.

–by Vernon Heywood

Photos Courtesy of Honda

2011 Honda CR-Z Image Gallery

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