The 2011 Honda CR-Z is, in my opinion, the best looking coupe design in years and all of this is down to its inherent simplicity. There are no ornate and over the top “flame surfacing” motifs or other some such Art & Design School flourishes. In this way it is like the original CR-X but Honda wisely avoided any blatantly retro design cues with the CR-Z as they always seem to age quickly.
CR-Z stands for “Coupe Revolution-Zero” in Honda speak and while I usually find clever little marketing acronyms to be rather annoying, this one somehow made sense to me. First off, quite obviously this two door hatchback is a coupe so we will just thank Honda for reminding us of that and move on.
In my last article I talked about how revolutionary it was of Honda to bring back the affordable, efficient sports coupe. And really, the 2011 CR-Z is kind of like “patient zero” given the fact that even Toyota is getting back in the affordable sports coupe game with the upcoming Celica. So with that you get “Coupe Revolution-Zero.” Okay, I thought about that way too much.
But what is more revolutionary and more freeing than owning a sexy, fun to drive sports coupe that you can actually afford? During the press introduction, Norio Tomobe (head engineer for the 2011 CR-Z project) had this to say, “I thought (with this car) that we could invigorate Honda. It would be car that would bring people to Honda.”
Although I may only be one person, I think the styling of the 2011 Honda CR-Z is going to bring this automaker a whole lot of new buyers who might never have bought one of their cars. Honestly, pictures don’t do the modernist exterior design or the high quality interior true justice. So, I will tell you what I thought worked well and will also reveal the one thing Honda forgot when designing the 2011 Honda CR-Z.
The theme when Honda was designing the 2011 CR-Z was the concept of “Advanced Sensual Design.” Again, it sounds like marketing speak but that phrase is translated from Japanese where these words have slightly different meanings. For instance, the word for sensual in Japan is related to your actual sensory perception and doesn’t mean anything sexy. However, it could probably work either way.
While many complained that Honda toned down the front end of the CR-Z show car, I honestly thought that the show car’s elongated nose was too much and ruined the lines of the car. Now thanks to the shorter front end, the low hood and pert rear of the 2011 CR-Z, all of the design pieces just fit into a more stylish whole.
While it is cute, the 2011 CR-Z also reminds me a bit of a crouching jungle animal waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting prey. Or maybe it looks like a puppy dog waiting to pounce on a chew bone. Honestly, exterior styling is utterly subjective so even though I love the CR-Z’s styling you are a grown up and can decide what you think it looks like. Do I really have to tell you if you like it?
The 2011 Honda CR-Z is available with HID (High Intensity Discharge Headlamps) and has standard LED rear brake lights so you will never need worry about other drivers seeing your pretty new coupe at night. The CR-Z was also designed to be incredibly aerodynamic with the front spoiler, rear hatch angle and a plastic cover under the engine compartment all aiding in getting this car through the air more expediently.
Available exterior colors at launch will be Milano Red, North Shore Blue Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl, Premium White Pearl and Storm Silver Metallic. If you are wondering what the CR-Z looks like in these colors check out the photos attached to this story. All CR-Z models come with stylish, grippy and durable feeling silver mesh sport seats.
There was one design cue, however, that seemed to be lost in translation during the press introduction for the 2011 CR-Z. According to one of the engineers who worked on the project, the side mirrors for the CR-Z were inspired by the Concorde airplane. Funny, they just look like regular old side mirrors to me. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Given the low price of entry into CR-Z ownership, it is quite astounding that Honda was able to create an interior that feels so decidedly premium and upscale. Not only are all the buttons, knobs and switches delightfully tactile to the touch but they are also cleverly mounted in various locations around the driver.
For instance, the controls for the automatic climate control are located in a pod directly to the right of the steering wheel. So a passenger could reach them but the location was chosen so the driver could change the temperature without his or her eyes ever leaving the road. Honda is just so clever sometimes.
Call me finicky, but I highly recommend the EX version of the CR-Z if you opt for the six-speed manual equipped variant not only because you get a more powerful stereo but also because the shift knob is so much better looking. Yes, I am totally serious. I told you I was picky.
The self-shifter used in the base model looks like a bit of an afterthought compared to the upgraded, EX-only leather wrapped and aluminum topped shift knob. It affords the driver a very unique hot/cold sensation as you shift and it just looks cooler.
The dashboard gauges in front of the driver are also very unique given the fact that they are made from micro-fabricated acrylic sheets with LCD. I have no idea what any of that means but the end result are gauges and dials that look like nothing you will find in any other production car currently on sale. You can always see them even in direct sunlight and, well, they also look cool.
As I said in the last piece, the CR-Z has a 25.1 cubic foot cargo area with a cargo cover that offers you a special “Secret Mode.” In “Secret Mode” you fold the cargo cover into uniquely positioned fasteners and are left with a much smaller cargo hold at the back of the cargo bay for small items that you don’t want flying around the cabin.
All CVT automatic equipped CR-Z models have steering wheel mounted paddle shifters that are easy to manipulate and the steering wheel feels hefty and expensive in your hands. There is ample head, leg and thigh room for even two extra-large auto journalists. And that brings me to my final comment about the 2011 Honda CR-Z interior.
As journalists tend to drive rather quickly on the test loops at press launches, I wished that there was an interior grab handle (otherwise known as the “oh sh*t handle”) on the passenger side of the CR-Z. It was a shame there wasn’t one there because both of us kept grabbing for it as the other one was driving. Funny, does that mean I was driving too fast?
Well, I had best not talk about my time behind the wheel of the CR-Z as you are just going to have to wait until part 3 to read about my driving impressions. You also get to find out how well a hybrid sports coupe goes around a race track. I bet you never thought that would ever happen, now did you?