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 likethe 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 simple hybrid setup that dates back to the original Insight, 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).