2011 Honda CR-Z Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Honda CR-Z was new.


Performance: 7.4

Honda created the 2011 CR-Z to appeal to young, environmentally conscious professionals who like sports cars. The CR-Z meshes these characteristics, but according to reviewers, the combination doesn’t produce class-superior fuel efficiency or exceptional canyon carving abilities.

That said, the automotive press thinks the CR-Z is a decent car. With EPA fuel economy ratings that top 35/39 mpg city/highway, the CR-Z beats many affordable small cars when it comes to fuel economy. Power is acceptable and handling is smooth. 

  • "With less weight and simplicity come fun and momentum-style hoonage, and with a hybrid powertrain comes, well, soul-crushing dullness. Somewhat shockingly, however, this hybrid is entertaining, even as it tries to marry the disparate concepts of sport and efficiency." -- Car and Driver
  • "A bit disappointing overall. The gas engine is rather loud when accelerating, but it fades away while cruising. You can occasionally hear the battery pack's cooling fan while it's active, which is bothersome at times. Road and wind noise are also noticeable, but they're not annoying." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The CR-Z is fun to drive. My manual transmission model felt quick and solid on the road. It's fun around town and fine on the highway, though it does feel a little anemic when cruising along." -- The Detroit News
  • "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 an inline four-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque for the six-speed manual transmission and 123 pound-feet of torque for the continuously variable transmission (CVT). Reviewers predict that most consumers will choose the CVT, but say this option sacrifices performance. The manual is best for drivers looking for more fun.

One of the Honda CR-Z’s downfalls is its fuel economy ratings, which aren’t much better than some gasoline-only cars. The EPA says the CRZ should net 35/39 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 31/37 mpg with the manual. 

To save fuel, opt for the Eco and Normal modes, but you will sacrifice performance. Performance-wise, Eco mode isn’t very impressive, but some reviewers note that it’s just fine for drivers traveling from point A to B. Normal mode doesn’t draw many complaints, but reviewers don’t praise the CR-Z’s performance in this setting. For drivers who want sportier performance, the Sport mode is the best option. Reviewers prefer it because it makes the throttle more responsive. 

  • "Acceleration isn't scorching by any means, but the CR-Z doesn't feel poky like the Fit or Insight. Helping foster that sense is the sport mode, activated via a button to the left of the steering wheel." -- Car and Driver
  • "Regardless of transmission, CR-Z has better than expected acceleration at mid-range and high engine speeds. Passing and merging power are surprisingly good. The main difference between the manual and CVT is in acceleration from a stop." -- Consumer Guide
  • "This is easily the most transparent hybrid produced to date. There's no acceleration surge under heavy load, no dead drone from the engine bay, no soul-sapping bleh when you stab the right pedal.” -- Jalopnik
  • "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." -- Cars.com
  • "Although space is limited to two people and it's not as powerful as other competitors, the CR-Z's main draw is its ability to achieve hybrid-car fuel efficiency while delivering sporty driving dynamics." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

While the CR-Z receives mixed reviews in almost every category, most reviewers say it handles and brakes pretty well, especially compared with other hybrids like the Toyota Prius.

Reviewers describe handling as tidy, and say the Sport and Eco modes offer different experiences. In Sport mode, the steering wheel feels tighter and acceleration is quicker, while in Eco mode, steering is more relaxed.

Braking is also good, and it’s hard to distinguish the transition from regenerative to conventional braking.  Regenerative braking can make a car lurch backwards when the brake is pressed or a foot is lifted off the accelerator.

  • "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
  • "In a hybrid like the CR-Z, handling often seems to be an afterthought. But the CR-Z has a sweet feel to it that's not part of many other hybrids. The electric power steering is direct and responsive, and the suspension is both supple over road zits and dignified in corners." -- Edmunds
  • "Handling is about as you'd expect. Mild understeer gives way to moderate understeer when pushed; turn stability control off and lift in the middle of a corner, and the car gradually oversteers. … 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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