Honda's hybrid coupe

What has been achieved by motor manufacturers in the last ten years is nothing short of remarkable. Emissions of new cars in the UK have fallen by a fifth, since 2000, according to a recent report from the SMMT. Whereas in 2000, only 1% of cars produced less than 130 g/km of carbon dioxide, now almost 40% of cars sold in the UK fit into this bracket.

But the pressure is still on the manufacturers to produce ever more economical and more green motor cars. Hence, the interest in hybrids.

Honda CR-Z

Those who read my road test of the Honda Insight will know that I was more than a little disappointed with my first drive in a Honda hybrid car. So, with the Honda CR-Z the marque had the chance to save face and I had the chance to sample the world’s first hybrid sports car.

The Honda CR-Z is a sporty 2+2 Coupe, but, under the skin, it shares much of the technology (including the battery pack and electric motor) from the Insight. For the CR-Z the petrol engine is bigger at 1.5-litre, rather than the 1.3-litre version in the Insight.

When you clamber aboard there is an immediate annoying but minor niggle. You turn on the ignition with a conventional key on the right of the steering column, but you then have to press the start button with your other hand on to the left. So, no chance to multitask and use one hand to fasten belts!

Honda CR-Z interior

The interior is much as you would expect for a small sports coupe. There is quite a bit of hard plastic around, but it looks much more attractive than the Insight dashboard. The instrument panel itself is heavily sculpted (not too attractively to my eye) to thrust the main dials towards the driver.

Like the Insight, the CR-Z scores over Toyota’s hybrids by offering you conventional gears. But the clutch has a very late uptake and I found myself revving the engine on take-off, not knowing the clutch was still partially disengaged.

Again like other hybrids visibility suffers. Like the others, the rear window comes in two parts. The top part on the CR-Z follows the line of the roof and gently slopes down. Where the top glass is almost horizontal, the lower glass is near vertical. Like the Toyota Prius and the Insight there is then a horizontal bar at the join. That, of course, splits your rear view, either in the mirror or over shoulder when reversing.

To make matters worse, the rear side windows are tiny and in the interests of styling, the waistline rises. This makes over the shoulders three-quarter vision a bit poor.

As I said this is a 2+2 and the tiny rear seats are really only feasible for children. Round the back, the boot has a fairly high sill for loading – as do many coupes. But, the CR-Z also has a high boot floor, thanks to the battery pack that sits underneath.

What is it like to drive? Well, as with the other hybrids you get the choice of modes in which to drive. You can choose from ‘econ’ mode, normal or sport. Certainly, the difference is notable in terms of the CR-Z’s responsiveness and performance.

In sports mode, the Honda CR-Z does merit the “sports” in its description sports coupe. Acceleration 0-62 mph is 10 seconds. That just about lets you hold your head high when people start quoting the sprint times to 60 or 62 as though they were much more important than they really are.

Honda CR-Z

Show it a twisty bit of tarmac and the CR-V will tackle it with gusto. It handles well and grips the road. I felt the ride was a little lumpy, the body seeming to be constantly on the move.

In terms of its green performance, the Honda CR-Z has a combined fuel consumption figure of 56.5 mpg and its CO2 emissions are 117 g/km, putting it in band C for UK car tax. My real-life mileage per gallon, according to the trip computer was just a shade under 40 mpg in a mixture of town and country driving.

Prices for the Honda CR-Z V-Tech start at £17,695, with the Sport model costing £18,735 and the GT at £20,820.

So it performs both its roles – sports coupe and green hybrid – reasonably well. Yet, after driving the Honda CR-Z I still remain to be convinced about hybrids, at least in their current form.

I ended this road test having enjoyed my time with the Honda CR-Z, but feeling that it had not delivered anything that could not be delivered by a more conventional with less complex and resource-hungry technology.

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