Official Photos and Info
Let’s be nice up top. The Honda CR-Z is the only hybrid on sale with a manual transmission, and it’s a satisfying stick in the best Honda tradition. That’s something BMW doesn’t offer on the i8. And aside from million-dollar hypercars like the LaFerrari and the McLaren P1, the CR-Z is the only hybrid two-seater out there.
But since its 2011 debut, the CR-Z—Honda’s self-proclaimed successor to the CRX—has missed the bull’s-eye of both its targets, namely being sporty and efficient. Even with that crisp six-speed, the CR-Z is not terribly fun to drive, and Honda’s larger, plusher (and on-hiatus) Accord hybrid crushed this car’s fuel economy. As for the projected 15,000 annual sales worldwide, well, recent volumes have been a fraction of that number.
The CR-Z’s real achievement is longevity. Since it has survived to the 2016 model year, Honda whipped up a minor refresh and introduced a more expensive EX-L trim level. Outside, the 2016 CR-Z gets new front and rear bumpers. The formerly body-color paint at the bottom of the glass-topped hatch is now gloss black. And the license-plate mount has adopted a more polygonal shape.
Inside, the most obvious change is the center console, which now features a closed storage bin and an armrest where the handbrake lever once lived. That’s right, Mugen boys: No more crazy e-brake turns, as the 2016 CR-Z now has an electronic parking brake. Additional plastic brightwork adorns the dash, door handles, and shifter, and all CR-Z models get keyless entry and push-button start. A seven-inch touch-screen audio system is newly standard, too. EX-L models, befitting Honda practice, bring heated leather seats with contrast stitching, while LaneWatch—Honda’s side-mirror camera that displays an image from the passenger-side blind spot on the central screen—now is standard on the EX and higher.
Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist, a mild-hybrid setup in which the electric motor never directly powers the wheels, carries on unchanged. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder and 20-hp electric motor combine for 130 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. (Choosing the CVT, a $650 option on all trim levels, drops torque to 127 lb-ft.) As before, the CR-Z rides on skinny, 195-width 16-inch tires and a suspension consisting of front struts and a rear torsion beam. But engineers installed a 1-mm thicker front anti-roll bar, widened the rear track by 0.4 inch, and enlarged the front and rear brakes by 0.8 and 0.9 inch (for a diameter of 11.1 inches at all four corners).
With all these updates, the CR-Z costs $150 more than the 2015 model, starting at $21,130 for the LX manual, $22,975 for the EX manual, and topping out at $25,925 for the EX-L CVT. Fuel economy stands at an EPA-rated 31/38 mpg city/highway with the manual and 36/39 for the CVT. Those used to be impressive numbers, before highway ratings for nonhybrid mid-size sedans like the Kia Optima (39 mpg) and the Mazda 6 (38 mpg) began climbing into the upper 30s.
Honda appears to have seen the light. Its other slow-selling IMA-based hybrids, the Civic hybrid and the Insight, already have been discontinued. The company’s latest Earth Dreams powertrains, as was seen in the Accord hybrid, offer the impressive power and fuel savings we’ve wanted all along in the CR-Z. Although it’s not dead yet, the CR-Z in its current form may be on its way out, with the next generation becoming more of a true sports car. We think that would be a smart move.