By: Aman Sundher
Up until a few years ago, there were two schools of thought when it came to the word “Hybrid”: the average person thought practical, fuel efficient and sensible, while most enthusiastsfelt Hybrid meant boring, slow and soulless. That being said, the introduction of hybrid supercars has changed the meaning of the word altogether. Now, the word Hybrid is attached to brands like Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren, all of which have cars with ridiculous amounts of horsepower at a ludicrous cost. Honda is reaching out to the younger crowd with their version of a sporty, hybrid, affordable two-door coupe. I know some of you are reading this are thinking, “How could Honda’s version of a car that’s hybrid, like a Prius, be that much different?” Believe me, I said the same thing and I was quite pleasantly surprised.
Dropping into the driver seat – yes, dropping, was the first surprise. I swear the seat is 4 inches off the ground, but the low position actually works for this car. The driving position is actually quite nicely laid out. The dash seems to wrap around you, with everything within arm’s reach. The gauge cluster feels like the cockpit of a fighter jet. There’s a large tach right in the middle, lit up with blue LED’s and a holographic style digital speed readout in the center. The steering wheel is quite small and has an abundance of buttons on it; but it can’t be much bigger because the interior isn’t very wide. I could easily reach over and pull something out of the passenger’s door pocket. The sport leather seats are really comfortable, but don’t offer a lot of adjustment. I’m not a huge guy, but if you put another 6’ adult in the car next to me, elbows rub. Also, putting the car in reverse can end in some awkward leg touching. There are no rear seats in the car, but rather two handy sunken storage spaces that keep books and bags from sliding about. And once the rear wall is folded down, the trunk space is unreal. I managed to easily fit 3 fully loaded golf bags in the rear and still had enough space to pull the privacy shield closed.
Driving the CR-Z is where I was most surprised. The car is light, and I mean really light. At only 2700lbs, it whips around corners like a go-cart. The 130hp electric-assisted 1.5L engine has more than enough oomph to spin the front tires and throw the car around. Don’t get me wrong, the CR-Z is no rocket ship, but it will have you grinning ear to ear on every bit of winding road you can find. The suspension is soft and meant for comfort, but it makes you feel like you’re going faster than you actually are. You feel like Schumacher racing around Suzuka on the ragged edge, before realizing you just went through a roundabout at 60km/h. I absolutely adored driving this car. I went out of my way to take the long way home every day. Even commuting in downtown Vancouver was a breeze. The CR-Z is so small, it fits in nearly every parking spot you can find. And bonus, the backup camera and blind spot camera in the right hand mirror makes parallel parking an absolute breeze. The CR-Z has three driving modes – Economy, Standard and Sport. There’s even an S+ button that give you an extra speed boost for passing. In my opinion, the standard transmission makes this car. It creates a whole new driving experience, something I feel like the CVT option would absolutely ruin.
The CR-Z is not a bad looking car and starting at $26,290, it’s one heck of a value. At first glance, most people don’t realize it’s a Hybrid. It is quite bold and a lot sportier than your typical affordable compact. There’s an aggressive stance to it, almost like you know there’s more to it than meets the eye. Sleek body lines, LED lights and 17” alloy wheels have really updated its look. The CR-Z is somewhat of a successor to the old CR-X from the late 80’s and early 90’s. The body lines are very similar and they both have the classic two-piece rear glass: one standard piece of glass on top of the hatch and another piece molded in between the taillights to give you a clear view of the police officer pulling you over. The CR-X of my youth was the hooligan’s car and the new incarnation seems to be right on track. Cheap, light and relatively fast, you can see where the CR-Z gets its sporting pedigree.
The 2016 Honda CR-Z is a great example of how affordable commuters can still be fun. The practicality of a hybrid doesn’t have to ruin the enthusiast’s driving experience. With the CR-Z, Honda has completely changed what a Hybrid can be.