Honda‘s CR-Z hybrid coupe remains on track as a 2011 model, on sale in late 2010. Honda wants sports-car enthusiasts to buy it not because it’s green, but because it’s fun. The carmaker considered doing a non-hybrid version of the CR-Z, but it desperately wants to be seen as a hybrid supplier on par with Toyota and believes it needs a range of dedicated hybrid-only models to achieve that.
So the CR-Z gets a lively 140-horse, 1.8-liter Civic-derived engine. The IMA system — motor, battery, electronics — will be like the Insight‘s, as will the platform, to save cost. A senior engineer says, “It must be fun to drive, must remind you of the original CRX.” And a manual gearbox will be offered. “CVT is fine for the market, mostly. But we are Honda! We must have a manual!”
As a two-seater, the CR-Z’s smaller body mass versus the Insight should make up for the weight of the bigger engine, brakes, and tires. So a 2800-pound total, with lots of electric-assist torque and a revvy gasoline engine, should make it the real deal as a pocket performance coupe.
Honda has trimmed back its sports cars. President Takeo Fukui said the company has canceled the Acura NSX replacement, though engineers say it may simply be deferred. And the rear-drive Acura range has been canceled. Honda is out of Formula 1. So the CR-Z must be to Honda in the 2010s what the CRX was to Honda in the 1980s.
The other leg of Honda’s small-car hybrid tripod, the Fit hybrid, also is going ahead for a ’10 release. To give the Insight a lower overall height than the Fit, for reduced aero drag at highway speeds, the fuel tank was moved from under the front seats in the Fit to under the rear seats in the Insight. Speeds in the EPA test aren’t high enough to make aerodynamics a factor, so the Fit hybrid may match the Insight’s fuel economy label, and offer more space and versatility, for less money. It will interesting to see how the marketing guys handle that one.