21 May 2012

Honda CR-Z Drive Impression

Honda CR-Z. Name that is reminiscent of the legendary Honda CRX, with similarly wedge-like silhouette with low nose snout before rising to an abrupt chopped-off hatchback. Is it any good? To make it even more interesting, Honda CR-Z is true blue new millennium Honda, where  double wishbone suspension now has been sent-off for retirement and in comes the torsion beam. Similar story with the NA engine that rev to the moon, it too has been, well dispatched to the moon and replaced with the hybrid drivetrain. Well, to cut the discussion short, Honda CR-Z still, one hell of a car! Priced only at RM115,000, many thanks to Malaysian government generosity as far hybrid car tax is concern. Honda also threw in 5 years/140,000km warranty for the battery, just so you can have good peace of mind on the top of 3 years/100,000km warranty for the car.

Artistically styled to succeed the last hero of CRX, the shape of CR-Z is actually how the aerodynamically-shaped car body design will converged. The low snout is good for reducing air resistance, while the gradual slimming towards the back is gentle to the departing flow. Just as the air will start to detach and induce drag, the body is cut-off. However what matters to the customer is how the car looks, and in his aspect, the CR-Z does look imposing and signalled the right sporting intent. It is as cool as the youthful-reasonable price balanced can be. Think of people "graduating" from their Proton Satria Neo (sporty look, superb handling, mild pace and most important of all, cheap) and you'll get the point.

In the era where hot hatchback is banging the 90's supercar with their near 300bhp power stake, hugging the  apex thanks to their torque vectoring system hooked to the AWD drivetrain and can banished the V8 sport sedan from late 80's in their century sprint, Honda CR-Z is a refreshing take. Powered by a puny 1.5L engine hooked to Honda's IMA hybrid system, the powertrain kicked out a fresh 124PS@6,000rpm and 174Nm from lowly 1,000rpm. Mated to the 6 speed manual transmission, the car can achieved the 100 km/h milestone is breezy 9.1s. Still want to race with that Perodua Myvi Extreme?

The lithe outlook revealed a petite measurement. Mere 4,080mm is what you'll get when stretching the measuring tape from the front chin to the rear deck. The width is 1,740mm and height is 1,395mm. But within the 2,435mm of the chopped-off Honda Insight platfrom lies the most focused car cabin I've ever encountered at this price. The cabin sports a 2+2 layout, which means two seats up front and,well, two seats at the back with reduced scale. Boot space is 214L, the tally will be 401L when the rear seat folded.

Anyhow, the cabin is perfectly packaged for an enthusiastic driver. You'll sit low, with your legs stretch ahead reaching the perfectly-spaced pedals. The ergonomics of the interaction between the seat, steering and gear knob are just pure, plainly awesomely perfect. Achieved this, and everything else in the cabin is secondary. Among those secondary items are the disco-like instrumentation with multi dials, showing everything that the hybrid system does. There are also Modes button : Sport, Normal and Econ. I'll drive in Sport all day, where the steering assistance is tighten, throttle action loosen and IMA kicks in to assist you.

This is the key. Key on how the IMA hybrid is used not to save the penguin in the Antarctica, but to lend you the extra kick that normally won't be there for the naturally-aspirated 1.5L gasoline engine. It really goes. Perhaps also assisted by the feathery 1,160kg of kerb weight. The clutch action is light, but set a bit higher up so a small depress is enough to slot in the gear. On the move, the steering feels, full of modern feel. People in the magazine keep mourning the loss of VW first generation GTI steering feel, but to be honest, this is 2012 where people and legislation are galaxy apart from those of 70's.

On the move, the progression from gear to gear is pleasant. You can really feel the movement of the front end biting in the corner. It just flows. While yours truly has no chance to neither sped off to 150 km/h nor blast the Batang Kali back road, but the short driving impression is suffice to tell that the CR-Z is one of the drivers car. 

In a way, this is how a modern hatchback is. Small, low capacity engine and fun handling. To lend the extra kick to keep on pace with the turbocharged mutant these days, the electric motor can lend the torque. When you are relax a bit, the gasoline will do the job. When coupled with the perfectly placed driver control item (steering and gear) and the interaction of the chassis with all these, it delivers a driving sensation unparalleled with the pure power alone. This is what Honda CR-Z is all about.

What bugged me the most is, just personal. Why this car only exist  now when I have 3 kids to tow around? Why isn't it here when I was fresh graduate, but somehow has the non-fresh grad salary like now? I wish I can turn around time. This is the only problem with Honda CR-Z!

Some showroom photos after the jump.

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