Is the Honda CR-Z already DOA?

By Charles Krome

Although it must have seemed like a good idea at the time—to somebody—the Honda CR-Z is already shaping up to be the Pontiac Aztek of the hybrid world: Everything about the car seems to have been designed by committee to meet the needs of a different segment of the marketplace, with the result being that it’s making no one happy.

That includes the folks at Consumer Reports. They recently put the CR-Z into a mini comparo with three other newish/greenish vehicles, including the VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI, MAZDA2 and Ford Fiesta. And Rik Paul, automotive editor for CR, sang a familiar refrain: “The CR-Z tries to be the sporty hybrid and it’s not outstanding in either category. It’s not fun to drive and the fuel economy is not what you’d expect from a hybrid.”

The Honda did score an overall 35 mpg in the publication’s testing, but the diesel Sportwagen hit 36 mpg and the Fiesta, with its traditional gas-powered internal combustion engine, returned 33 mpg; the Mazda brought up the rear, at 30 mpg, but at least it provided some amount of zoom-zoom. With the Honda, on the other hand, “The ride is choppy, noise levels are high, and on-limit handling can be tricky,” and the magazine also noted that “visibility is lacking.”

All told, the CR-Z was ranked last among this quartet and scored so low it received the magazine’s dreaded “don’t buy” label.

It seems as if customers got that memo early, too. Honda sold a mere 1,024 CR-Zs in November—less than 100 customers ahead of the Element, which was just canceled for poor sales—and the car has attracted only 4,373 buyers since it went on sale part way through August.

Honda’s solution? According to the British buff book Autocar, the company will soon offer a fresh option on the CR-Z: A new turbocharged 1.6-liter I4 gas engine that makes do without any sort of hybrid assistance at all. The engine is already under development, as it was originally slated to land in future models of the Fit, Civic and Accord, and is likely to be available in both 160 hp and 200 hp flavors. Honda’s goal with this new mill is to provide the same performance as a 2.0-liter engine but in a smaller, more efficient package.

That should certainly get the CRX fanboys excited, and I’m sure Honda will say this doesn’t mean its admitting defeat with the hybrid CR-Z—but isn’t that exactly what the company’s doing?

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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2 Comments

  1. Consumer Reports did *not* assign a “don’t buy” label to the CR-Z, they just said they could not recommend it. There is a big difference!

    And as to sales numbers, Honda is right on track to reach the target sales for the first year.

  2. Honda seems to be on a roll for making strange new vehicles that nobody wants. The CR-Z the Insight and my least favorite car, the Crosstour. Honda is so good at engineering but product design seems to be a problem. I was so hoping for a Honda Accord version of the Volvo wagon, something very practical, kind of sporty and super reliable. Instead Honda made a Frankenstein jacked up Accord cross breed with a giant hatch that has no practicality, is ugly, and has compromised handling and fuel economy. Not a car, not a SUV, not a wagon. If Honda could wed their great engineering with better product design there would be no stopping them.

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