By Michael Bettencourt
With the demise of the Honda S2000, this summer will see that two-seater replaced with another two-seat fun machine, Honda Canada confirmed in Toronto at the CIAS, with the Canadian introduction of the CR-Z Hybrid hatchback.
The many folks who fondly remember Honda’s two-seat CRX will appreciate the new CR-Z, as it follows the same lighter is better formula, although this time largely based on the Honda Insight hatchback rather than the Civic. The CR-Z therefore offers a similar 1.5-litre Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) engine as the Insight hybrid, with 122 hp, but with less weight and more performance thanks to two seats, and the availability of an enthusiast-friendly six-speed manual transmission.
That two-seat, low weight emphasis was prevalent on the technically remarkable but remarkably impractical first generation Honda Insight gas-electric hybrid that debuted for the 2000 model year in North America, about six months before the launch here of the Toyota Prius. Going back, the Honda CRX was a shortened, stiffened and lightened version of the Civic in the 1980s and 90s. And just like the old CRX hatchback, the new CR-Z concept offers a black but see-through rear hatch to aid in rear visibility.
Honda previously confirmed that it will sell hybrid versions of the Fit and next generation Honda Civic in Europe and Japan as part of a new emphasis on small hybrid vehicles, but hasn’t confirmed when or if those vehicles are coming to North America. With the current gen Honda Civic entering its fifth year this fall, it’s a safe bet that a new gasoline version will appear soon, as it’s scheduled to be in dealerships by this time next year if not late 2010.
Manufacturing teams from the Alliston, Ontario Honda plant that build all Civics sold in Canada – except the Hybrid – are in Japan now working on it, factory officials confirmed last fall. Sales of the Civic Hybrid would have to be sold in much higher numbers to be able to justify bringing its production to North America as well, said Honda Canada Manufacturing’s Jon Minto.
The CR-Z will offer high intensity (HID) headlights, a 360 watt stereo with subwoofer and USB/MP3 inputs, and a CVT transmission for customers who don’t want to experience the first manual transmission in a gas-electric hybrid. Final fuel economy numbers are not available yet, but Honda’s U.S. arm has estimated overall averages of 33 and 37 mpg (check L/100km) for the automatic (CVT in reality) and stick shift versions, respectively.