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#15

in 2012 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $13,429 - $15,125
Original MSRP: $19,695 - $23,705
MPG: 31 City / 37 Hwy
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2012 Honda CR-Z Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Honda CR-Z is sporty and fuel-efficient, but as a whole, reviewers don’t think the combination produces class-leading fuel economy or exceptional canyon-carving abilities.

  • "The end result of all this is that Honda has indeed created a sporty hybrid. The CR-Z looks sharp and is fun to drive around town thanks to its small size and quick steering. There is certainly fun to be had on a curvy road, too.”  -- Edmunds
  • "You can have fun in the CR-Z. You can envision yourself tearing around a racetrack in ‘Sport’ mode. But it isn't too difficult to push this one too far or too hard before it starts hiccupping, downshifting, wiggling a bit and letting you know that it's just a dream, something like irrational exuberance over a stock offering." -- The Washington Post

Acceleration and Power

The Honda CR-Z has a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower. While reviewers prefer the six-speed manual, they predict that most consumers will choose the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), even though it sacrifices performance. The CVT can choose any gear ratio within its range, which optimizes fuel economy.

To save fuel, you can drive in Econ and Normal modes, but you will sacrifice performance. Econ mode isn’t very impressive, but it’s just fine for drivers traveling from point A to B, and prioritizes fuel economy. Normal mode doesn’t draw many complaints, but reviewers don’t praise the CR-Z’s performance in this setting. Sport mode offers the best performance, and reviewers say it’s thrilling for a hybrid, but average for a small car.

One of the Honda CR-Z’s greatest downfalls is its fuel economy ratings, which aren’t much better than some gasoline-only cars. The EPA says the CR-Z should net 35/39 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 31/37 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission. These numbers may decrease when the CR-Z is in Sport mode, and some gas-only cars in the class get better fuel economy ratings.

  • "Regardless of transmission, CR-Z has middling acceleration. The three driving modes are easily discernible. Sport has the sharpest throttle response. Econ dulls acceleration and also directs the driver to upshift below 2,000 rpm via on-screen prompts. Normal falls right between the other two." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Of the two transmissions, the standard six-speed manual is the more responsive and certainly the more fun, as manuals usually are. The six-speed stick has a decent feel, with reasonably short throws." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "It better, because the CR-Z two-seat, sporty, hybrid coupe doesn't win any fuel-sipping prizes. You could do nearly as well in a Mini Cooper, get more passenger space and fit in smaller spots than the CR-Z. Mini costs more, though." -- USA Today

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers agree that the CR-Z handles and brakes pretty well, especially compared with other hybrids. Reviewers describe handling as accurate, and say the Sport and Econ modes offer different experiences. In Sport mode, the steering feels tighter, while in Econ mode, the steering is more relaxed.

The brakes receive positive comments, though one reviewer says he expects stronger ones from a car as small as the CR-Z. If you test drive the CR-Z, keep in mind that it has regenerative braking. Regenerative brakes capture the friction and energy created during braking and use that energy to recharge the battery. Regenerative brakes tend to feel grabby, rather than smooth and linear.

  • "Steering feel, on the other hand, is very good, especially with the 3-mode drive system on its Sport setting. Braking is strong and stable with good pedal modulation, which is a pleasant surprise given the unnatural feel of many gas/electric hybrid cars." -- Consumer Guide
  • "To suit the driver's needs, the CR-Z has Sport, Normal and Econ modes. Econ maximizes fuel economy, while Sport makes the acceleration more responsive and decreases the power-steering assist for a sportier feel." -- Cars.com
  • "As in any Honda, the steering is precise and true, but unlike the grabby brakes on most hybrids, these brakes seem underwhelming, especially for such a small car. Perhaps they didn't account for stopping all that battery weight." -- AutoWeek
  • "Handling is about as you'd expect. … In other words, it's no Civic Si, but it's still moderately entertaining. Part of this is undoubtedly due to soft springing and damping - the CR-Z rides like a cloud-filled couch over even the crappiest of pavement." -- Jalopnik
  • "Those willing to forgive the tame performance will appreciate the car's exceptional handling and responsive brakes, characteristics not perhaps expected in a hybrid vehicle." -- Kelley Blue Book

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