New Honda hybrid is zippy and efficient

LOS ANGELES The 2011 Honda CR-Z is a 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 Chris Martin, a spokesman for Honda.

The CR-Z comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, a feature unheard of in the hybrid market. It also has an option for manual with paddle shifters for manual control and special "sport" drive mode.

In normal mode the CR-Z is rated at anywhere from 31 to 39 miles per gallon.

The idea for a sporty fun to drive two-seater that also gets good gas mileage is nothing new for Honda -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.

But with the widespread popularity of hybrid technology today, many were expecting higher miles per gallon 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 with the car tip website,

But Honda said it's important to look beyond overall numbers.

"The mileage figures are actually pretty darn good when you look at the city mileage, which is where hybrids do well. Versus comparable coupes, it does extremely well," said Martin.

Brauer did applaud Honda's efforts to widen the appeal of Hybrid cars. "The fact that Honda is at least trying to make a sporty hybrid vehicle is pretty revolutionary. And they're the only ones who have done it so far."

Hybrid vehicles have been around for only about ten 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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