Honda invents hybrid chic with new CR-Z

Honda attempts to invent the sporty hybrid with its new CR-Z...and stumbles across a new kind of eco chic

HONDA claims that it has created the first hybrid vehicle to mix petrol and electric power to sporty effect.

After driving the new CR-Z hatchback this week, I believe Honda might just have missed the mark slightly, but succeeded in making hybrid's stylish for the very first time instead, starting a new trend for eco chic.

Style as standard

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Unlike any hybrid I've slumped into the driving seat of in the past, the CR-Z has a dose of drama wrought into its panels.

Making its debut is a new face that will feature on all cooking and hot Hondas of the future. A gaping front grille and angular headlights give a futuristic appearance that befits the technology lying under the CR-Z's skin.

The trademark wedge-shape that lends some aerodynamic assistance to seemingly all hybrids is still present but this is no Toyota Prius.

In terms of appearance, Honda's latest creation is closer to Volkswagens Scirocco and Volvo's C30.

Familiar fusion of petrol and electric

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Under the bonnet lies a fusion of 1.5-litre petrol engine (113bhp and 107lb.ft of torque) and an electric motor (14bhp and 57lb.ft of torque) powered by Lithium-Ion batteries which are located under the floor of a small (225 litres) boot.

The result is combined fuel consumption of 56.5mpg, CO2 emissions of 117g/km and fairly spirited long as the 3-mode drive system is set to its Sport setting.

The Normal setting balances performance and economy while Eco would become tiresome on all but the most mundane journeys, due to a numb throttle response and light steering but Sport goes some way to fulfilling Honda's sporty premise.

CR-Z's still no hot hatch

Thanks to the electric motor's instant hit of torque from low revs (peak torque arrives between 1,000 and 1,500rpm) the CR-Z feels quicker than its claimed 10.1 second sprint to 62mph but will never trouble the average hot hatch.

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With a chassis based on Honda's Insight and Jazz models, the CR-Z might not promise much in the way of dynamic flair but its low, compact stance alludes to a 115mm reduction in wheelbase and 25mm increase in track width.

The result is better poise and a noticeably more direct turn-in to corners.

It's not as agile as a Mini, or VW Scirocco for that matter, but during my short test drive the CR-Z proved both direct and reasonably engaging.

Space age interior...but limited space

What it did share with a Mini, however, was extremely stylish packaging and limited rear accommodation.

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The CR-Z is a 2+2 - the rear bench is basic, small and uninviting - but it has an excellent and truly original-looking interior.

In the top-spec CR-Z GT I drove, stunning leather sports seats complimented futuristic driver-friendly styling.

Speed and rev read-outs are delivered via a single, centrally-mounted dial ahead of the steering wheel while digital read-outs give information about the level of assistance being provided of the electric motor and the battery charge provided by regenerative braking.

Satnav, a panoramic sunroof, sporty driving position and ambient lighting all bring an air of quality that should ensure that the CR-Z is as desirable and fashionable as it is innovative.

Saving the world won't be cheap

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Buying into the latest in hybrid car chic comes at a price, though. Just like Apple's newly-launched iPad proved, the latest technology always comes at a price.

Prices for the CR-Z range start at 16,999 for the entry level S and theres a mid-range Sport at £17,999 before the 19,999 GT. Specced to the hilt, the test car driven here comes in at an eye-watering £22,179.


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