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Small Car, Big Deal

The 2011 Honda CR-Z

The 2011 Honda CR-Z

Many, many years ago I worked with a young kid who had just moved to town and bought his first car. It was a 1971 Honda N600 coupe, and it made my VW Scirocco look like the Queen Mary in size. Back then, Honda was still feeling its way around in the automobile business, having become quite proficient over the years in making and racing motorcycles. When they jumped into the car business, the N600 (called the N360 at first) was the first car Honda imported to the U.S. It was closely followed by the Honda Z600, a somewhat sportier coupe whose shape reminded me of my ski boots. Then, eventually, came the Civic, Accord, Prelude... and Honda was well on its way to becoming a premier manufacturer of automobiles.

Flash forward to 1983, and the introduction of the CR-X, a two-seat closed coupe which soon became the darling of tuners everywhere. Small, relatively cheap, and fast—it was everything any young kid could want in a car. It stayed in production until the 1991 model year, and was followed by a succession of cars which never quite lived up to the CR-X’s reputation.

1971 Honda Z600
1988 Honda CRX

And now, starting August 24 at your local Honda dealer, comes what may be the true successor to the CR-X—the 2011 CR-Z. (I suppose it’s understandable that Honda chose to skip the letter “Y” in naming the new car—CR-Y just gives off bad vibes!) Just like the X, the Z is a two-seat hatchback coupe. But, where the X was powered by 1.3- to 1.6-liter engines, depending on the year, the Z is a whole new ballgame. It is powered by Honda’s 1.5-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, with the Integrated Motor Assist system. In other words, it’s a hybrid. Its EPA estimate, with the CVT (continuously variable transmission), is 35/39 mpg city/highway. The six-speed manual transmission, which is stand on the CR-Z, is rated at 31/37 mpg. If you’re one of those who remember the CR-X, you may also recall that its estimated gas mileage 27 years ago was around 50 or so mpg. I’m not so sure that’s progress.

What may be progress, at least to some, is the Z’s looks. While the X, at least in its out-of-the-showroom guise, looked more like Clark Kent, the Z has torn off the suit and ditched the horned-rimmed glasses and lives 24/7 as Superman. Although you can clearly see it for yourself in the photo, I’ll let Honda describe the Z’s styling: “... a highly personal coupe that symbolizes a new era of style that is sporty yet environmental at the same time. The one-motion wedge form, compact dimensions, light-weight construction and aerodynamic

design help to improve performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The progressively raked roofline and sharply truncated tail of the CR-Z is a feature shared with many Hondas past and present, including the CRX...” It goes on a bit more, but you get the idea. The Z’s shape is green, maybe not a huge contributor to the reduction of greenhouse gases, but compared to an old, flat-nosed Winnebago, it’s green.

It’s a small car, but Honda isn’t skimping on safety features. The structure of the car is designed to protect occupants in the event of a frontal collision. Front, front-side, and side curtain airbags are included, as are active head restraints, ABS, tire-pressure monitoring system, vehicle stability assist, and a pedestrian injury mitigation design in the front of the car. Two trim levels bring you different equipment; the base model has AM/FM/CD/USB sound system w/six speakers, automatic climate control, power windows and locks, remote entry, cruise control, and more. Upgrade to the CR-Z EX and you get a better sound system, Bluetooth capability, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel among other things. Expect base model pricing to start at $19,200 plus the mandatory $750 destination charge. And, expect them to move out of the showroom fast. Very fast.

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