When hybrid vehicles first came into the world some 10 odd years ago, it was looked upon as a gimmicky way to save the environment, appealed to the more rich and famous who wanted to look like they're giving back to society. What's worse is that they were a huge turn off for petrol heads as the only performance you get from hybrids at the time were performance in fuel savings and that's pretty much the whole idea. Not until the CR-Z came breathing into life... Making its debut back in 2010 at the North American International Auto Show, the CR-Z has become the star for sports hybrid cars. And unlike most of the hybrids that roam the roads today, the CR-Z is truly a head turner, where for the first time ever, it is a hybrid that actually looked cool. Paying homage to the 1980s CR-X, the CR-Z has much more flair accentuated by its sleek looks of a sports coupe slash hatchback form. Another huge contribution to the craze is a 6-speed manual box that allowed drivers to fully manipulate the battery assisted 1.5L engine. It also pays homage to the 1980s super-popular CR-X that the CR-Z somewhat inherits, though it now has much more flair, accentuated by sleek looks of a sports coupe slash hatchback form. And it is not just in looks the CR-Z score points on; this FF machine packs quite a punch (moderately so), combining its 1.5L NA engine with an electric motor to generate 122bhp. Some might argue that it is not that quick a car to earn that sporty title. But then again, the CR-Z was never designed to match Honda's Type-R line up, or to set world beating lap records. However it is still a light, easy-to-live-with sporty hatch, offering dollops of driving excitement through its nimbleness in negotiating bends, made even more fun with the IMA Motor adding on 13bhp at wide open throttle. Without these individually contributing attributes, the CR-Z wouldn't have been this special. You see, It's not given a lot of power, but it allows you to access all of it. It doesn't corner on rails but provides a good base with positive handling with potential for lots of aftermarket upgrades should the owner choose to, which most will. Our First Impressions: Overall look and feel: Now, walking up to the CR-Z is special every time. Firstly, it looks like nothing else on the road today. It has bodacious curves, long swooping bonnet, perky rear end, cutting edge light clusters and above all, it screams sportiness. It's a novelty item everyone man wants to own. Once you get into the CR-Z, you'd notice it carries Honda's typical simplicity in looks and useability. Its seating position is well thought of, although a few inches lower with deeper, sportier seats would help greatly. The 6-speed shifter is direct and exudes a positive feel as with the foot pedals being well positioned just like all Hondas from the EG Civic days up till today's FD2R. As a driver, he'd have nothing to complain about practicality in usage of the CR-Z. What sets this Honda apart from its other sporty civic siblings are the additional Hybrid accents. You get 3 buttons on the right end of the dashboard that says, Sport, Normal and Econ. They all do what they say and it reflects on the Hybrid instrument cluster with differentiating glow of hue to signify driving modes. Which is a cool thing about the CR-Z. Yes It's gimmicky, but it's a gimmick the boy in every man secretly craves for. One of the coolest thing about the CR-Z's instrument cluster is the holographic speedometer display. The reading seem to float against the tacho dial in whichever angle you look at it from. It is achieved through a reflected image from the top of the bezel. Driving it We are now approaching what would be the deciding factor for the purchase of the CR-Z. Insert the key, watch the tacho dial dance and blue lights glow to welcome you with what they call an "opening ceremony", then clutch in and resume igniting the engine. But there is no sign of the starter jerking the flywheel. Only silence followed by the engine coming alive. This is special to hybrids where the electric motor doubles up as a starter that allows hybrids of today kill and start the engine at will to save precious fuel, during stop and go's. This feature wouldn't have been possible with a conventional starter. Slot the gear into first, clutch out while nudging the throttle, you'd immediately notice the ease of operating the CR-Z. It almost is an epiphany for the lousiest of drivers. It doesn't taunt you with the need to balance the clutch perfectly. The CR-Z would just get up and go without a fuss. So it was a joy getting out of the carpark, you'd think it's the perfect daily hot-hatch until you bury the throttle expecting it to catapult out of the junction. You'd be disappointed. There is only progressive increase in speed, not a hint of thrust. Now, hit the Sport button and notice the tacho's glow turn from blue to angry red and be greeted with a more pronounced growl and just a little over a teaspoon of extra boost. Just like an electronic throttle controller providing a sense of more power, though honestly, there's is sure to be more trickery involved in the CR-Z to make it go that little bit quicker. It's not exactly a huge disappointment if you think deeper. Honda never promised Type-R performance in the CR-Z. It was always meant to be a conventional hybrid in a sportier shell with 6-cogs to manipulate it with. However, it will achieve 180km/h and beyond with no fuss, do your daily chores very well, behave nicely in the city and still give you 4L to 100km if you're nice to it. Handling It Drive the CR-Z in the city and the highway and it oozes sportiness from the firm but compliant ride, good brakes and precise steering. It'll get from A to B then C with a serving of fun and hybrid efficiency. Just don't get overly committed thinking it'll corner on rails like its steroid-induced Civic-R brothers. It just can't. At least just not in it's factory form. Yes, you can still find joy when carving corners, enjoy tiniest feedback from the steering, positive brakes and the fact it's nothing like a boat-ish Honda City. Partly to blame for it's jiggly rear end at the limit is the rear torsion beam for it to accommodate production costs while juggling between comfort and sportiness. Buying It For what's worth, the CR-Z still is a great daily sporty hybrid and more. For its heavily subsidized price of RM115K in Malaysia, you're getting a great deal for a 2-door, fully imported, hot coupe / hatch. Plus it also automatically make you a better person in contributing to the environmental cause. But in the end, whether the CR-Z would eventually suit your purpose simply depends how you approach the car. From a petrolhead's standpoint, the CR-Z just isn't a purebred sports car but it does try to be one and the good news is it has potential for hop-ups, just like the car below which we will feature right after this. From a general car owner's perspective, looking to own a practical 2-door hybrid and if all-out performance isn't paramount however, it's a whole other story. You are in fact getting a lot for the money, in this part of the world at least. Where would you find a car this desirable that offers practicality, good looks, fuel efficiency and sportiness all in one tight package? None I can think of. Would we buy it? Yes and in a heartbeat. Facts Zerotohundred: 10 seconds Top Speed: 200km/h Engine: 1.5L 4-cylinder + 13bhp Electric Motor – IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) Power: 122bhp / 6000 rpm Redline: 6300rpm Torque 128nm (6-speed manual) 123nm (CVT) Weight: 1140kg Fuel: 4L / 100km (6-speed manual) 4.4L / 100km (CVT) Wheels: - Tyres - Price: RM115,000 Featured: Eric's CR-Z for TIMETOATTACK! - No longer hybrid pushover. The Hybrids will Attack Sepang next Sunday! (May 20th) - We've just added a new, all green and eco Sports Hybrid Class within the TIMETOATTACK 2012. Recognizing the recent increase in Hybrid ownership, especially with the inception of the new Honda CR-Z taking hybrid performance to the next level, we feel it's about time they get their own segment in motorsports. I'm literally serious when I say we're supporting Green cars in this year at the TIMETOATTACK. What we're offering the Sports Hybrid this coming round on the 20th May: RM50 discount for all Hybrids, bringing participation fees down from RM450 to RM400 Special Sports Hybrids Class Trophies If you're a Hybrid owner looking to participate in the coming TIMETOATTACK, please head on over to http://www.timetoattack.net for details and forms!