I have been following the Honda CR-Z since it was introduced as a futuristic concept highlight during the 2007 Tokyo Auto Show, and I must admit to thoroughly enjoying the ride. After all, I was a big fan of the original Honda pocket rocket, the CR-X, and spent many happy miles in the passenger seat of my friend's 1991 red-on-black coupe...which was the simply amazing and prophetic "HF" model, by the way.
Like most good things, an end must come, and the Motoring Gods led my friend into a relationship and then fatherhood. While we celebrated these milestones together, we both knew that his CRX's time was near. But this was because of practicalitynot due to reliability or economy, as the saucy redhead had just crossed 240K miles and was still going strong...and delivered better than 36 MPG on a regular basis.
So it was with all of this history and respect in mind that I gratefully took the wheel of a 2012 CR-Z earlier this year and hurtled down Pacific Coast Highway into a crash course with expectations. As you all know, there has been PLENTY of rabid speculation on what the CR-Z will be like to drive thanks to its less than competitor-crushing specifications = 122 hp, 123 lb-ft of torque and expected fuel economy of 39 MPG highway with the automatic CVT transmission. Not that any of these figures have reason for shame on their own, but rather that many (including yours truly) expected more of both...or much more of either...to put some swagger into its dynamic design. However, as you may have read in my previous post, a lightweight car delivers countless benefits for efficient use of available power as well as nimble handling. And it is these two points that have floated my memories of this car since I returned to Honda HQ to sadly hand back the keys.
My verdict? The CR-Z will fully reward those drivers willing to give it a chance. And if you are reading this blog, you will have no excuses. First off, there have been some early reviews that commented on the lack of rear visibility. Well, I can tell you that any vehicle that displays such dominating purpose from the rear 3/4 would give up similar points. But this being a Honda, the impact is mitigated with the carmaker's typically refined attention to detail. I do wish we had the option of equipping U.S.-spec cars with the Japanese and European market rear seats, as Porsche 911s are sold all day long with seats no bigger. But the tradeoff is a nicely dedicated storage area that graces an otherwise small personal car with extra utility. And from a styling perspective, I can promise that you will remember where you were the first time you see a CR-Z on the road, just like your first run-in with a Viper or F40 or a Phantom. Rarely does a concept car travel from "your dreams" to "your driveway" with so few concessions to safety, engineering or other legislative mandates. This car is a stunner and will only be enhanced once it completes its requisite SEMA/aftermarket tour of duty.
So what is it like to drive? Imagine sitting in an Imperial TIE Fighter...especially if you opt for a CR-Z in black. And then it becomes Darth Vader's own...exhaust note and all. The CR-Z's light weight allows an aggressive driver to quickly forget the vehicle's more pedestrian Insight and Fit roots; it is obvious the chassis and handling tuners had a wonderful time dialing in a bombastic yet comforting ride. The easy and obvious head-to-head will be with the current-generation MINI and Europe-only-until-2012-if-not-sooner Fiat 500 for green as well as go-kart cred...high praise, indeed.
James Bell is a sponsored contributor to this Honda blog
 35 city/39 hwy/37 combined for CVT models. 31 city/37 hwy/34 combined for 6MT models. Based on 2012 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.