The Honda CR-Z is one of those cars you can’t help but pre-judge based on its rather lowly performance stats. With a 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds and just 135bhp on tap, it certainly doesn’t seem to have the poke to match its left-field, sports car-ish styling. Which seems a shame as it’s a proper feast for the eyes with its spaceship-like styling, CR-X-style rear glasshouse and a plethora of quirky details like those rocket-shaped door handles.
When driving one for the first time - at the same event where I drove a disappointing automatic NSX - my expectations were low. But damn, were those expectations well and truly obliterated. Why? Because the CR-Z is a proper laugh to drive.
The 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated inline-four loves to be thrashed up to its 6500rpm redline, letting out a surprisingly raucous induction noise as it laps up your ever increasing throttle demands. The gearbox (a manual, which is rare for a hybrid) has a short and slick throw, and while it’s not quite as legendary as the manual shifts in Honda greats like the Integra Type R and S2000, it’s a joy to use. The pedals are perfectly spaced for rev matching, too.
Part of the CR-Z’s total output might come from an electric motor, but there aren’t any obvious instant torque boost heroics here - the effects of the hybrid powertrain are more subtle, resulting in an engine that feels just a little more flexible than a regular low-power N/A unit.
To drive, the CR-Z feels very much like an FN2 Civic Type R that’s a little slower and far less punishing in the ride department. The damping is brilliantly judged, actually - it’s just about composed enough, but there’s way more give in it than the FN2’s setup. On a lumpy, bumpy backroad, the fidgety Type R of the CR-Z’s era would have a hard time pulling away despite its power advantage.
Front-end grip is decent, and the steering is fast and feelsome. And when you calm down, you can enjoy the CR-Z’s unusual cabin with its colour-changing rev counter/speedometer and odd touches like a button that’s just for changing the units from KMH to MPH. How weirdly specific is that?
It’s a car that’s fast enough for most, great fun on the right road and refreshingly different. Even though it only went off a few years ago, it’s already a piece of Honda’s history many have forgotten. It probably doesn’t help that few were sold, making the CR-Z a rare sight on the roads - only 4000 are currently licensed in the UK.
It’s definitely worth seeking out a used one, however. A quick peruse of a classifieds reveals that you can pick one up for under £5000, which seems like an utter steal.
Is there a place in your heart for this strange but brilliant little Honda?