Has the Future Arrived?

Russ Atkinson
Russ joined Factory having completed his degree in Graphic Design at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth. Handling the rare combination of a mastery of both words and images, Russ lends his writing skills to his overarching responsibility for design and production scheduling. Russ loves building BMWs of both the 2 and 4 wheel variety.
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Those of you who follow Gallery’s motoring section as if it were your favourite religious cult will know a little about Honda’s CR-Z by now, having seen it featured in the top five hybrid & electric concepts that actually managed to make it through to production and as a little teaser in last month’s review of Honda’s Insight.

For those of you who consider yourself normal, of sane mind and free of motor-based editorial vices however, the CR-Z has been dubbed a ‘sport hybrid coupé’ and the spiritual successor to Honda’s CR-X from way back when it was acceptable to sport a mullet to compliment your all-over denim ensemble as you roller-booted along to your walkman, blasting a bit of Duran Duran down your earholes. Remember those days? Thankfully I was still in short trousers. Or was that a shell suit?

Don’t get me wrong – if anybody is an advocate of noisy, thirsty, vehicles that provoke plentiful perspiration at anything but a snail’s pace that person would be me, but wasn’t 2010 supposed to be the future? I’ve a feeling HAL-9000 would be seriously unimpressed with our lack of progress. What with everyone saying that climate change is going to force our children’s children’s children to evolve into something more aquatic the, CR-Z couldn’t have arrived in showrooms at a much better time.

So how is it different from the hybrids and electrics already silently and efficiently roaming our streets? Firstly, it’s more like driving a car as opposed to a spaceship. There isn’t any great emphasis on the CR-Z actually being a hybrid once behind the wheel, and quite importantly it has a manual gearbox. A six speed manual gearbox at that – no CVT monotonic elastic bands here, no sir-ree. The ratios are quite short too which gets you more involved in the driving experience and gives the impression of making better progress than you might be, because let’s face it, a 124PS combination of 1.5 litre petrol engine and electric motors isn’t going to set the tarmac on fire, but it is a nippy little thing.

You don’t feel as compelled to drive with the utmost of fuel economy blinkered sense at all times which is a bonus. That backlit speedometer display from the Insight makes an appearance though in an almost awe-inspiringly beautiful form (see inset image), ever adjusting from green to blue depending on how many inches of sea-level rise you may or may not be causing. If you’re REALLY naughty though, and select the ‘sport’ mode it’ll turn red. Of course, the trees are still there too, but I didn’t care about the trees this time, the CR-Z is more about driving than saving the planet – it just happens to be pretty good at multitasking. Needless to say, the fuel economy is still excellent – that’s what this car is all about after all. Pushing the (recycled) envelope.

The auto-stop feature is barely noticeable and kicks in to reduce the number of polar bears forced into a vaguely icy but positively watery death whilst you’re sitting at the traffic lights, which is a nice, clever touch.

Just ignore the rear seats and consider the area behind you to be a healthily sized storage space. Unless of course your nearest and dearest are unfortunate enough to have misplaced their legs at some point, although if this is the case fitting the requisite mobility equipment into the remainder of the bootspace may prove troublesome with the seats up. Actually, forget I mentioned it and just consider the rear seats in this 2+2 a tiny bonus. Literally.

The model tested was a mid-range version and apparently the top-of-the-range GT is the one to look out for, with leather seats as standard and a few exterior enhancements. This one came with all of the usual refinements that you’d expect, the obligatory climate control, airbags, CD player with USB & AUX connectivity, electric windows and mirrors, on-board computer, wheel mounted controls and also cruise control, which complements the MPH to KPH readout button as discovered on the Insight last month as well as the nice, big foot rest to the left of the clutch just perfectly if travelling abroad is your bag.

Okay, so visibility out of the rear window is still poor but that’s just a hit you have to take for Honda managing to create such a wind-resistance evading slippery shape in their epic struggle for fuel efficiency.

This is a definite step closer to the way we should be buying and driving cars right here, right now, in the future. I wonder how long it will take for other manufacturers to follow suit? Hopefully their are some interesting studies being hidden up their mechanical and creative sleeves…

- A word from our sposor -

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