We motoring types seem to come under a lot of pressure from eco-mentalists. By nature the process of driving a motorcar of any kind will cause damage to the environment. Also by nature, those who enjoy driving do more of it and hippies have deduced that this is not a good thing.
Manufacturers have come under the same sort of pressure from these right wing factions. Land Rover had a whole crowd of ecologists and badgers and other similar creatures chain themselves to the production line in a West Midlands factory in England, refusing to move unless Land Rover agreed to discontinue their premium models. That was until the police came and arrested 15 of them, the rest promptly went on their way.
In an attempt to calm the storm, the likes of Toyota, Lexus, Honda and even Subaru have looked into the use of hybrid technologies. By matter of the fact that the Prius went into production first, the Toyota/Lexus team are seen as market leaders in hybrid technology. However this is a subject open to much debate.
Personally I’m not a fan of the Prius. It’s an ugly for one thing and actually has more in common with a boat than a motorcar when it comes to driving dynamics. Lexus have gone the premium route with their hybrid SUV, which apparently “has the performance of a V8”. Missing the point there, but never-the-less is only eco-friendly if driven with extreme care, because if you prod the throttle just a little too hard the petrol engine springs to life and kills bunnies.
To my mind, Honda, with their CRZ, has hit the nail on the head. A sports car that’s kind to the environment is exactly what will calm the minds of those eco-mentalists running around with nothing better to do they tie themselves to heavy machinery, while at the same time appealing to motoring enthusiasts.
Spend just a few minutes at the wheel of this hybrid and you’ll quickly realise it’s been built to perform. The low, wide stance and exceptionally short wheel base make the CRZ more nimble than a house fly on speed. Turn in is sharp and direct and feedback through the steering wheel gives plenty of confidence to get on the power early through a corner, with little worry of under steer ruining the fun.
Unlike most hybrids, the Honda never runs on batteries alone. The little 1.5 litre petrol engine is always on the go, but is assisted by the batteries every time you venture onto the throttle. When coasting, the system is reversed in order to charge up the batteries so you don’t ever waste energy. In the same fashion, Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems charge the battery when braking.
The outcome of the petro-electrical combination is 91 kW and 174 Nm, which may seem a bit weedy, however because electricity produces maximum torque at zero rpm you get a nice little surge when pulling off, then in comes the petrol engine at the higher end of the rev band. It’s all very clever.
The selection of three electronically controlled driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – utilise the petrol/battery combination in different fashions in order to maximise fuel efficiency, or alternatively allow the power to be more readily accessible.
How eco minded is your driving style? Well it’s displayed near the trip computer in the form of trees; the more leaves on your trees the more badgers you’re saving, no leaves means you’re being a menace to Mother Nature. If nothing else it’s a neat little game to play.
There’s a host of other technologies aimed at reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, all of which may seem insignificant in isolation but in combination have a positive effect. Start/stop technology for example, along with Continental eco tyres do their bit to give the Honda combined cycle consumption figures of 5.0l/100km and emission figures of just 117g/km. To put that in perspective, a base spec 1.3 litre Honda Jazz pumps out 138g/km, while the Jazz with which the CRZ shares an engine (the petrol one of course) produces 151g/km.
The striking retro throw back to the original 90’s CRZ is very apparent, yet it no way looks dated, quite the opposite in fact. That blunt, flat back end swoops down in an unerring wedge to the nose, which sits low, almost scrapping along the ground. It’s wide and aggressive, just the way a sports car should be.
The interior doesn’t imitate the original at all however, as the dash is shaped and curved to point all pertinent instruments toward the driver, while ancillary functions are left to the passenger side. You sit with your backside feeling just centimetres from the road surface, another 90’s Honda trait, in comfortable bucket seats. Everything points to the driver-focussed nature of the CRZ.
One would be forgiven for assuming the Honda was nominated in the South African Car of the Year competition solely for its eco-credentials. However were it to win it would be fully justified as a true driver’s car that has all the other important modern day boxes ticked; wonderful to look at, wonderful to drive, wonderful for the environment and at R300,000, wonderfully priced too – the complete package.
Price: R 299,900
Engine: 1496cc SOHC i-VTEC 16-valve 4 cylinder with IMA (Integrated Motor Assist)
Power: 91 kW
Torque: 174 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 10
Top speed (km/h): 200
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 5.0 (claimed)
Photo Credit: Honda