2011 Honda CR-Z Ex Navi car review: It is what it is

2011 Honda CR-Z Ex Navi

The 2011 Honda CR-Z EX Navi is what it is and isn’t whatever something else was.

The 2011 Honda CR-Z sport coupe is NOT your old Honda CR-X. Isn’t, wasn’t and never will be. Nor was it meant to be.

The new Honda CR-Z may occupy some of the same cosmic cerebral continuum as the old CR-X, but the Honda CR-Z is its own car with its own mission. According to Honda, the 2011 Honda CR-Z was “(d)eveloped as a stylish, driver-focused vehicle with an emphasis on efficient ‘green’ performance…a sleek, two-passenger coupe design with quick, sporty handling (in the) gasoline-electric hybrid segment.”

In other words, it’s a hybrid. Just not a boring one. It’s the glass half full.

More than half full  Actually, there’s more to it than that. The 2011 Honda CR-Z is distinctively styled, particularly the “notched” rear end with its dual rear windows, one vertical across the tailgate and the other almost horizontal with the standard-equipment rear wiper.

The side panels of the CR-Z have a pair of creases that emphasize the cars wedge-shaped profile while the front sports a large radiator grille with an opening actually only half the size it seems. The top half with the three horizontal bars is blocked off. Only the lower half is open to the radiator. Headlights are fashionably huge and 16-inch alloy wheels/tires live under haunch-like flared fender . A short overhang, wide track and the chopped rear end gives the Honda CR-Z a bob-tailed race car look.

The CR-Z is what a sporty coupe should be inside as well. In its home market the 2011 Honda CR-Z has tiny rear seats; two seaters are officially considered antisocial. Honda is more realistic for the North American market, replacing bucket seats with just plain buckets for whatever will fit.

The CR-Z has true sport seats up front, well-bolstered with a durable feeling cloth for an industrial chic. Someone spent a lot of time styling the inside door panels with more curves than a bucket of eels. Our test 2011 Honda CR-Z EX Navi had a crisp two-tone interior color scheme on the doors, dash and seats.

The 2011 Honda CR-Z yields practicality to fashion with a high cowl and a rising shoulder line. Combined with rear side windows that shrink to a tiny triangle plus wide C-pillars, rear three-quarter vision is almost blind. Vision out the back is split horizontally. It blocks the headlights of a following car but the driver of the CR-Z can see whether the following car has a lightbar on its roof. A CR-Z driver will have to learn to keep track of traffic behind the car.

The 2011 Honda CR-Z offers as an option a continuously-variable  transmission with paddle-shifters to imitate a manual transmission. The CR-Z, however, has something no other hybrid has: a manual transmission, a regular three-pedal row-your-own six-speed gearbox. A heavy-duty machined-from-the-metal shift lever resides on the center console.

IMA hybrid, how about you?  The Honda isn’t a full hybrid but a partial or parallel hybrid, like other Hondas, with Honda’s “Integrated Motor Assist.” Honda’s IMA uses an electric motor on the transmission that boosts performance when the driver’s right foot asks for it. It allows Honda to downsize the engine– smaller engines get better gas mileage–while maintaining bigger engine performance.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.