New Car Review

2016 Honda CR-Z: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader December 2015

Most hybrid cars are all about fuel economy and practicality -- but not the 2016 Honda CR-Z. Instead, Honda's little hatchback focuses more on style and sportiness, giving up a larger interior and an all-out focus on gas mileage in order to be the fun hybrid. After all, Honda has other models -- the Civic Hybrid and Accord Hybrid -- for the practical, fuel-efficient side of the hybrid world.

So does the CR-Z accomplish its goal of adding exciting qualities to a hybrid? Yes and no, as we explain below. In short, it's a valiant effort -- and it's a lot more enjoyable than many hybrid rivals. But don't buy this car if you're expecting the performance of a Corvette or a Ferrari, because you won't get it. Instead, consider the CR-Z a stylish, exciting alternative to many of today's mainstream hybrids -- and enjoy the fact that you can look good and have fun while returning nearly 40 miles per gallon.

What's New for 2016?

The CR-Z sees minor changes for 2016, including revised front- and rear-end styling, updated wheels, a slightly improved interior with a revised center control stack design, a standard push-button starter and a 7-inch center touchscreen. Honda's excellent LaneWatch blind spot camera is also newly available.

What We Like

Distinctive design; unique driving experience

What We Don't

Tiny interior; neither sporty nor exceptionally fuel efficient; aging styling

How Much?

$21,200-$25,300

Fuel Economy

All CR-Z models use a 1.5-liter hybrid 4-cylinder engine that makes 130 horsepower. When equipped with a manual transmission, the engine is good for 140 lb-ft of torque; with the available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), it's 127 lb-ft. Fuel economy is 31 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway with the manual or 36 mpg city/39 mpg hwy with the CVT.

Standard Features & Options

The CR-Z offers two trim levels. There's a standard-level model called simply the CR-Z, and there's an upscale CR-Z EX.

The CR-Z ($21,200) includes alloy wheels, keyless entry, a push-button starter, a backup camera, a 7-in center touchscreen with HondaLink and Pandora compatibility, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, steering-wheel audio controls, automatic climate control, full power accessories (think mirrors, locks and windows) and an iPod/USB interface.

Step up to the CR-Z EX ($23,100), and you get LED running lights, Honda's LaneWatch blind spot camera, automatic headlights, an upgraded audio system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, xenon headlights, a 7-speaker sound system, improved interior trim and heated mirrors.

Like most Honda models, the CR-Z doesn't offer many options. The only one is a touchscreen navigation system with voice control, and it's only available on the EX. Of course, drivers can also choose between a 6-speed manual and a CVT automatic transmission.

Safety

Standard safety equipment in the CR-Z includes front airbags, side airbags, side-curtain airbags, active head restraints, anti-lock brakes and a backup camera. Honda's LaneWatch blind spot camera is optional, though the CR-Z doesn't offer the latest safety features, such as forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning or a blind spot monitoring system.

In government testing, the CR-Z earned four overall stars out of a possible five. That includes five stars in the rollover test, four stars in the frontal-impact assessment and three stars in the side-impact test. The CR-Z has not yet been fully tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Behind the Wheel

Honda has touted the CR-Z as a sport hybrid. But in spite of its sport-inspired features, the CR-Z isn't actually very sporty. However, it is quite agile, gripping the corners confidently, and the engine sounds energetic at higher rpm. The most fun part, when drivers really notice the power boost from the hybrid system, is right off the line, especially in the Sport model, which offers peppy acceleration. But above 20 miles per hour, there's not much of a high-performance feel to the CR-Z.

Drivers looking to achieve both a sporty driving experience and excellent fuel efficiency will be disappointed with the CR-Z. Making the most of the CR-Z's limited sporting attributes in the city, drivers will see fuel economy numbers closer to the mid-20 mpg range, rather than the mid-30 mpg range that Honda claims. If customers come at it from another mentality, however, they will find the CR-Z much more enjoyable. We figure the word to best describe the CR-Z is quirky.

The CR-Z is small, light and nimble, and it really can't be directly compared to any other vehicle on the market. Yes, there are other subcompacts out there, but the CR-Z provides a completely different motoring experience than anything else on the road. Drivers should settle in and enjoy the CR-Z for what it actually is: one part go-kart, one part spaceship and one part hybrid.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Toyota Prius c -- With only 99 hp from its gasoline-electric powertrain, the 5-door Prius c hatchback is far from sporty. But at 53 mpg city/46 mpg hwy, the littlest Prius model is super thrifty on fuel. The Prius c is also reasonably priced -- and unlike the CR-Z, it has a back seat.

2016 smart fortwo -- If you're interested in an unusual city car with bold styling, the smart fortwo is a good competitor to the CR-Z. And while it isn't a hybrid, the fortwo still gets 34 mpg city/39 mpg hwy, largely due to its small size.

Used Mazda MX-5 Miata -- The recently redesigned MX-5 Miata doesn't offer a hybrid drivetrain, but it's a 2-seat sports car that provides exactly the fun we suspect many CR-Z shoppers are interested in. More importantly, it still manages 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

Used Toyota Prius -- If you're after fuel economy more than excitement, consider the Prius. It offers better gas mileage than the CR-Z, along with a larger interior and more room for cargo, but the driving experience hardly matches the CR-Z's.

Autotrader's Advice

For customers enamored with the 2016 Honda CR-Z's distinctive looks and driving feel, we recommend they step up to the EX with navigation. Featuring a 6-speed manual transmission and Honda's satellite navigation system with voice recognition, the CR-Z features most of the sporting and technological features an eco-conscious urban driver could want.

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Used 2016 Honda CR-Z EX
Used 2016 Honda CR-Z
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Honda CR-Z: New Car Review - Autotrader