2016 Honda CR-Z Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2016 Honda CR-Z doesn't drive as sporty as it looks, and its two-seat interior limits practicality. It's a fun city car, but there are better choices for a sport compact.




What's new for 2016

For 2016, the Honda CR-Z gets an updated look front and rear, and more standard features and options, including a 7-inch touchscreen entertainment display and a blind-spot warning system.

Vehicle overview

Let's face it: You don't shop for a hybrid looking for high performance. Great fuel economy and exhilarating performance just don't go together unless you're dropping close to a million dollars on a Porsche 918 Spyder. But Honda at least makes an attempt with its 2016 CR-Z. This small, sporty hybrid coupe is lightweight, steers quickly and parks easily. A sleek exterior and adventurous dashboard design make it one of the more attractive designs among its more futuristic or merely pragmatic competitors.

Despite its compact, athletic footprint, though, the CR-Z is still something of a letdown. Its EPA rating of up to 37 mpg combined is impressive relative to gas-only models, but falls short of other hybrids that routinely achieve 40 mpg and more. The CR-Z's lack of a backseat also limits its usefulness. And while it handles well enough, this compact hybrid doesn't offer the engaging driving experience of a true sport coupe or hatchback, a shortcoming that becomes clear when you drive it back to back with its gas-only rivals.

In short, this hybrid Honda doesn't quite deliver on its core mission of being a frugal hybrid with a side measure of mid-speed thrills. If you're not committed to the CR-Z's style or the Honda badge, there are better alternatives in this price range. The hybrid Toyota Prius C, for example, is painfully slow, but offers a stellar 50 mpg combined fuel economy and four-door hatchback utility. The gas-powered Ford Fiesta ST is quick, handles superbly and delivers a respectable 29 mpg combined. And if your budget can travel farther upmarket, there's the Mini Cooper, which sublimely blends performance, strong fuel economy and personality.




Trim levels & features

The two-seat 2016 Honda CR-Z hatchback comes in three trim levels: LX, EX and EX-L Navi.

Standard LX equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry, full power accessories, a rearview camera, cruise control, automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a retractable cargo cover.

Personal technology includes Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Pandora-enabled radio, a 7-inch touchscreen display, text messaging capability (with compatible smartphones) and a six-speaker CD sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and a USB audio interface.

Stepping up to the EX adds automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED foglights, heated mirrors, metallic interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an upgraded seven-speaker audio system and Honda's Lane Watch blind-spot monitoring system.

The EX-L Navi includes all of the above and adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, HD radio and, predictably, a satellite-linked navigation system.



Performance & mpg

The front-wheel-drive 2016 Honda CR-Z is powered by a gasoline-electric hybrid system that mates a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for a total output of 130 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque with the standard six-speed manual transmission.

The torque number drops to 127 lb-ft with the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), which also comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

A three-mode selector allows the driver to choose from Normal, Econ or Sport driving modes. Each adjusts parameters for gas pedal sensitivity, steering effort, transmission programming (CVT), additional electric motor assist (manual transmission) and air-conditioning usage.

The Plus Sport System is a nifty integrated feature that can dispense maximum power from the battery pack for 5 seconds, delivering a temporary jolt of acceleration at the press of a button on the steering wheel. This feature can be used in any of the drive modes, provided the battery is more than 50 percent charged and the CR-Z is traveling more than 19 mph.

In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped CR-Z went from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, while a CVT-equipped model made the sprint in 9.2 seconds. Both times are quick relative to other hybrids in this price range but slow compared to competing sport compacts.

Fuel economy is a different story. With EPA fuel economy estimates of 34 mpg combined (31 city/38 highway) with the manual transmission and 37 mpg combined (36 city/39 highway) with the CVT, the CR-Z excels by sport-compact standards but comes up short relative to similarly priced hybrids.

Safety

The 2016 Honda CR-Z comes with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints. A rearview camera is standard. Honda's Lane Watch blind-spot warning system comes standard on EX and EX-L Navi models.

In Edmunds brake testing, the CR-Z came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet, which is good for a hybrid but subpar for a sport compact.

In government crash tests, the Honda CR-Z earned an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five), including four stars for frontal-impact protection but just three stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CR-Z its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Driving

Tidy dimensions and quick steering make the 2016 Honda CR-Z fairly nimble on city streets. But push harder around tight turns and the little Honda offers less balance and grip than you'd expect given its sporty style and two-seat cockpit. If you really care about small car handling, a more athletic rival like the Fiesta ST is a better fit. Furthermore, the CR-Z suffers from elevated road noise, making it a less than ideal companion for long interstate slogs.

With 130 hp on tap, the Honda CR-Z has enough pep to warrant the occasional detour from your planned commute, but not much more. Powertrain performance depends largely on which of the three drive modes you select. Punch the Sport button and the car gets up and goes, while the mpg-maximizing Econ mode yields noticeably slower acceleration. Most drivers will find the Normal mode just about right. Both transmissions work well; the six-speed manual offers easy action and a nice mechanical feel, while the CVT feels moderately sporty by virtue of its steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Interior

Although Honda CR-Zs sold in other countries have a small backseat, the American version has a flip-down rear parcel shelf instead. The idea is to associate the car with the beloved two-seat CRX, but the lack of rear seating limits the CR-Z's practicality. Up front, seat comfort is adequate, but longer-legged drivers may wish for additional seat-track travel.

The CR-Z's rear cargo divider can be lowered easily to create a flat load floor and hide any items in the parcel shelf's bins. A multiposition cargo shade is also part of the deal. Maximum cargo capacity is 25.1 cubic feet, and two golf bags should fit with the divider lowered.

Other than the two-seat layout, the interior's most notable feature is its distinctive dash design, which is built around a large digital speedometer surrounded by an equally prominent analog tachometer. Adding a wow factor are background lights that change color to indicate driving style efficiency. A configurable display allows you to call up other useful information, including instant and average fuel economy readings.

Bear in mind that the 2016 Honda CR-Z is basically a sporty economy car, not a premium coupe, so the interior materials are fairly plain. In addition, rear visibility is problematic through the dual-panel rear glass and the bodywork that surrounds it.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.