Honda's CR-Z offers hybrid tech, sporty feel

LOS ANGELES There are all kinds of hybrids available these days, from the popular Toyota Prius to GM's full-size SUVs.

Now there's a new kind a hybrid that's a bit like a sports car. The 2011 Honda CR-Z is a rakish two-seater that combines hybrid efficiency with driving fun.

"Now that hybrids are a little bit more settled in the market we can start expanding into different segments," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin.

How sporty is the CR-Z? Well, it comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission -- formerly unheard of in a hybrid. You also can choose an automatic with paddle shifters for manual control.

To be fair, this isn't a true sports car, it is more like a sporty car. But it is fun to drive, especially when you choose "Sport" from the three-mode drive system.

Selecting "Economy" gets you the best mileage, but even in normal mode the CR-Z is rated at anywhere from 31 to 39 mpg.

A small, sporty fun-to-drive two-seater that also gets good gas mileage? It's actually not a new idea, Honda had to borrow it. But they didn't borrow it from another car company. They borrowed it from themselves.

Many have fond memories of the Honda CR-X from the 1980s. It too was a fun-to-drive two-seater that got good mileage.

Today, hybrid technology is the name of the game, though many were expecting higher mpg out of the CR-Z.

"Getting in the mid-30s isn't really impressive by hybrid standards. Most of them can do better than that," said Karl Brauer of

Honda says it's important to look beyond overall numbers.

"The mileage figures are actually pretty darn good," said Martin. "When you look at the city mileage that is where hybrids do well."

It is somewhat tough to compare the CR-Z as there really isn't anything else like it.

"The fact that Honda is at least trying to make a fun hybrid vehicle is pretty revolutionary, and they're the only ones who have done it so far," said Brauer.

Hybrid vehicles have been around for only about 10 years, while sporty cars go back decades.

In a sign of the times, the words "sporty" and "hybrid" can now be used to describe the same car.

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