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Detroit show: US gets two-seat Honda CR-Z

Motown launch: The hybrid Honda CR-Z will have two seats in US version launched at the Detroit motor show this week.

Australia likely to opt for a 2+2 version of Honda’s CR-Z hybrid sports coupe

Honda logo13 Jan 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

HONDA chose this week’s green-tinged Detroit motor show to spring the production version of its long-mooted CR-Z hybrid sports coupe – the two-seater US version, at least.

The company says a separate 2+2 coupe iteration for Europe and Japan has been held back for a March reveal at the Geneva motor show.

It is unclear which version of the CR-Z will come to Australia, although it is most likely to turn out to be the four-seater sourced from Honda’s Suzuka plant in Japan, arriving Down Under in 2011 and following in the wheel tracks of the flagship hybrid Insight which should arrive here in the second half of this year.

Honda Australia has long memories of the two-seat first-generation Insight which was roundly criticised for its lack of practicality, and is likely to be reluctant to make that mistake again.

However, the CR-Z’s platform – taken from the larger Insight – has been shortened to such an extent that the rear seats of the Japanese/Euro version are expected to be extremely limited, a factor that may have prompted American Honda to dispense with them altogether to optimise cargo space.

15 center imageDespite the departure in interior layout, the two versions of the CR-Z are unlikely to be significantly different externally, retaining the wedgy, sawn-off styling and two-part rear hatch glass reminiscent of Honda’s long-lost CRX sports coupe.

The US-bound CR-Z shown in Detroit reveals that Honda has smoothed off the edges of the concepts seen at the past two Tokyo motor shows, delivering a more conservative package.

However, the powertrain is faithful to the concepts, employing Honda’s parallel hybrid system – Integrated Motor Assist – with an electric motor sandwiched between the petrol engine and the transmission.

In this case, a “revvy” 1.5-litre VTEC petrol engine is combined with a 10kW electric motor for a combined 91kW of power and 174Nm of torque. The key, Honda says, is the torque, which peaks at a low 1500rpm, thanks to the electric motor, providing brisk performance.

Coupled with the six-speed manual transmission – a world first in a hybrid, says Honda – the CR-Z is said to achieve a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.0 litres per 100km. This is 1.9L/100km better than the current 1.8-litre Civic’s 6.9L/100km, but 1.2L/100km inferior to the Civic Hybrid’s combined performance.

According to UK data, the bigger Honda Insight achieves a combined fuel consumption figure of 4.4L/100km, while the Toyota Prius is rated in official Australian data at 3.9L/100km.

The C02 rating for the CR-Z is said to be 117 grams per kilometre – a cut of about 47g/km, or about 28 per cent, on the Civic VTi sedan sold in Australia, but well short of the Prius’s industry-best 89g/km.

The CR-Z buyer will also have the choice of a CVT automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

Honda also announced that the CR-Z will get a three-mode drive system – economy, normal and sport. Depending on the mode selected by the driver, the system alters the responses of the throttle, steering, idle-stop timing, climate control and the level of assistance provided by the hybrid drive system.

Says Honda: “Honda’s engineers wanted to give customers more choices in how the CR-Z would drive, depending on their needs and desires at the time.”

Compared with the Insight, the CR-Z is 295mm shorter – 115mm of which has been chopped from the wheelbase. The track is also narrower.

The CR-Z is 44kg lighter than its five-seat sibling, and also gets unique suspension settings, presumably to suit its sports intent. Forged aluminium MacPherson struts have been used in the CR-Z to reduce weight and increase strength over the pressed steel items used in the Insight.

The interior is said to be a development of the most recent Tokyo motor show concept, with a two-level dashboard – a dark upper and light lower.

Like the Insight, when it was launched early last year, sales will be rolled progressively around the world, starting in Japan in the first half of this year before going on sale in the United States in the third quarter.

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