Honda's sporty hybrid CR-Z is one of the only hybrids ever to give drivers a choice of rowing their own gears with a manual transmission. The manual transmission plays to the CR-Z's goal of hybrid fuel economy that doesn't sacrifice driving entertainment, an objective the CR-Z never quite nailed. Now, the performance aspect of the CR-Z is prevailing with a newly optional dealership-installed supercharger boosting power from 130 horsepower to 197 hp.
The Honda Performance Development supercharger — available only on manual transmission cars — bumps power very close to the naturally aspirated 205-hp under the hood of the sporty 2014 Honda Civic Si. The CR-Z weighs about 400 pounds less than the Civic Si, tipping the scales around 2,600 pounds before the supercharger installation. That's enough of a weight savings over the similarly powered Civic Si to make us very interested in driving a supercharged CR-Z.
The CR-Z is Honda's attempt at blending sportiness and efficiency, but it does neither very well and sales of the hybrid are tanking. A 2013 update, however, adds more power, increased fuel efficiency and additional features; is it enough to hook buyers?
The CR-Z's 1.5-liter four-cylinder returns for 2013 with assist from a new higher-voltage lithium-ion battery pack. Horsepower jumps to 130. Fuel economy is up, too. The 2013 CR-Z is EPA rated at 36/39/37 mpg (CVT) and 31/38/34 (six-speed manual); an increase of 1 mpg over last year's figures.
Base and EX trim levels return for 2013, and both get additional features. Newly standard across the lineup are a backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free audio and a Plus Sport system; the latter gives drivers an on-demand electric power boost via a steering-wheel-mounted "S+" button. Optional on uplevel EX versions is a Honda's satellite-linked navigation system, which includes real-time traffic, voice recognition, Pandora internet radio interface and SMS text messaging functionality.
Starting with the 2013 model year, a backup camera will be standard on the redesigned Honda Accord along with the Crosstour, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline and CR-Z. That means Honda's 12-model lineup goes from having just two models with a standard backup camera — the FCX Clarity hydrogen vehicle and the CR-V crossover — to nine models. A backup camera was already standard on the 2012 Honda CR-V and remains that way for the 2013 model year. The 2013 Honda Fit EV also has a standard backup camera.
That's a drastic change for Honda; previously, backup cameras were an option that had to be coupled with an expensive navigation system. In fact, the update means Honda offers a backup camera on more of its lineup than any other mainstream automaker – other strong contenders include Kia and Hyundai.
When developing cars that are never intended to appeal to a mass audience, automakers must be careful not to introduce a car so eccentric that it has no audience whatsoever. Even when deemed successful, these niche automobiles remain low-volume, bit players. They form the supporting cast of an automaker's lineup. Think of them as Wallace Shawns (read to the end) of the automotive world and not the Tom Cruises.
One such vehicle that dangerously toed the line when introduced was the Nissan Juke. Thought by many to be too crazy looking on the outside and too cramped inside, Nissan cast the Juke as an alternative crossover that it hoped would pull in buyers bored with the traditional Rogue crossover and Sentra compact sedan.
In 2011, 35,886 Jukes were sold. That's a miserable-sounding total when you consider Nissan sold 124,543 Rogues last year, but it was an unexpectedly fine performance from a car that is so peculiar. The Juke outsold the Mini Countryman and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport combined in 2011.
Honda is voluntarily recalling two models. The automaker is recalling 80,111 2006 CR-Vs to replace the driver’s side power window-control switch. The switch’s design allows car-cleaner residue to accumulate, causing the electrical contacts to degrade. This could lead to a fire.
The other recall involves 5,626 2011 CR-Zs equipped with a manual transmission. On some models the electric motor will rotate in the opposite direction of what’s been selected with the shifter (if you are in Drive, the car may roll backward instead). This may increase the possibility of a car crash. Honda dealers will install a software update to fix the problem, according to Honda.
Recall notifications will be issues in late September. For more information, call Honda at 800-999-1009 or go to Honda’s recall website: www.recalls.honda.com.
Honda has the second-highest residual values in the industry (after Subaru) because the company doesn’t offer big discounts on its vehicles. In fact, Honda is currently offering no customer cash-back incentives during its holiday sales event. So how do they call it a sale?
There are dealer incentive programs, which we highlight below. It’s important to note that dealer incentives are for the dealers only, but often you can squeeze the manufacture subsidy out of your retailer. For more info, check out our advice page on the incentives.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday released its first set of crash-test results for pickup trucks under the agency’s revised five-star New Car Assessment Program, which we detailed last month.
The four trucks tested were the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, 2011 GMC Sierra 1500, 2011 Ram 1500 and 2011 Toyota Tacoma.
Of that group, the Silverado and Sierra scored the best, receiving four stars for the regular cab, extended cab and crew-cab configurations. The results also include a tested Silverado Hybrid model. The Silverado and Sierra received five stars in the new “pole test,” which simulates a 20-mph side-impact crash into a 10-inch-diameter pole or tree at a 75-degree angle just behind the A-pillar on the driver’s side.
Every year, the Environmental Protection Agency complies a list of the top 10 overall most fuel-efficient cars in the country. For 2011, the Toyota Prius remains on top, but the new 2011 Honda CR-Z enters the fray, displacing the popular 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
The CR-Z comes in at No. 4 with the automatic transmission, No. 10 with the manual. The 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda Insight are now tied for third place because the Civic Hybrid lost 2 mpg in highway mileage in this year’s EPA rating (40/43 mpg city/highway). The Nissan Altima Hybrid fell from sixth to eighth place as it also lost 2 mpg, on its city mileage rating (33/33 mpg).
The CR-Z booted the Camry Hybrid off the list. The 2011 Camry Hybrid gets 31/35 mpg, compared with 33/34 mpg in the 2010 model.
While the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf are 2011 model year vehicles, the EPA is still working on testing criteria for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Once it figures that out, expect the Leaf — and possibly the Volt, depending on methodology — to skyrocket to the top.
The deviations in the ratings year-over-year come from how the EPA collects its fuel economy results. Typically, the agency allows each automaker to conduct its own fuel economy testing and then sometimes verifies the results. The EPA still conducts its own testing on about 10% to 15% of the vehicle fleet each year, and the models with different ratings were probably just evaluated by the agency.
The 2000 Honda Insight, at 53 mpg on the combined cycle, remains the most fuel-efficient vehicle ever rated by the EPA. Continue reading below for the detailed top 10 list.
Cars.com’s editors recently drove the sporty Honda CR-Z hybrid on a mileage challenge using its standard drive setting with the objective of replicating how most people drive most of the time. The 2011 CR-Z lets you select Econ, Normal and Sport modes, and they kept it in Normal mode at all times on the mileage challenge, with the trip computer registering 37.7 mpg over 330 miles. However, when switched to the more responsive Sport mode and driven in a sporty manner, can the CR-Z still return good gas mileage? I flogged a manual-transmission CR-Z for a weekend and drove it like a sporty car, not a hybrid, to see if the self-proclaimed “Sport Hybrid Coupe” could be efficient in that sportiest of modes.
Gears were revved out, throttle blips were used to rev-match downshifts and I drove it hard over the weekend. As a result, the speedometer’s efficiency ring, which changes color to indicate fuel-conscious driving, was illuminated in an angry red color throughout the weekend.
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