135bhp – The combined power output of a facelifted CR-Z from 2013
The mild-hybrid tech under its swooping coupé bodywork gives Honda’s CR-Z extra punch and impressive fuel economy. We say it’s a fun and reliable used car
“The most frustrating thing about it is the way raindrops remain on the side windows after you’ve wound them down and back up.”
There, in a nutshell, is all one owner can find to criticise his CR-Z.
Strange, then, that so many of the pre-facelift cars available from 2010 to December 2012, and under discussion here, appear to have had numerous previous keepers. One independent Honda mechanic thinks he knows why: “People get bored because the car just works!”
More likely they’re a teensy bit worried about the life expectancy of the little coupé’s nickel-metal hydride battery, whose five-year warranty has just expired. It can’t be anything to do with the way the car drives.
Our 2010 road test, for instance, called it “brisk enough to be fun, especially so in Sport mode”. We went on: “It’s not the miniature driver’s tool that the second-gen CR-X was but it’s different, stylish and engaging.”
Now, eight years on, it’s a lot cheaper, with mid-spec Sport models (the most popular trim) starting at around £4500 and top-spec GTs around a grand more. Compare that with 2010 prices, which ranged from £18,035 for the standard S (alloy wheels, power windows and mirrors, and climate control), through £19,095 for the Sport (cruise control and parking sensors) to £21,220 for the GT (heated leather seats,a sunroof and front foglights).
That wasn’t overly expensive for such a technically advanced car but pretty stiff all the same for one capable of mustering only 122bhp from its 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine and electric motor combined.
Fortunately, torque was a handy 128lb ft – delivered at just 1500rpm.
This healthy dollop of pulling power is why the CR-Z feels quite nippy. There are three driving modes to choose from via a rocker switch alongside the steering wheel. Most fun is Sport, which sharpens the steering and throttle response, while making the instruments glow red. Then there’s Normal, which makes the car feel slightly detuned and is the default setting. The third is Econ, which prioritises economy and should yield around 52mpg on a long run.
Check you can feel the differences between them on the test drive. Also ensure the centre of the speedometer changes colour according to your driving style: green for economy hero, turquoise for could do better and red for lead foot.
There was talk, in 2011, of a supercharged Mugen version but it never materialised. No worries: tuners such as Hond-R can fit a supercharger that raises power to 200bhp. They’ll also fit a set of coilovers. Do that or seek out a used CR-Z with the optional Eibach lowering springs, available from the end of 2010. Whichever CR-Z you buy, hopefully all you’ll have to complain about is rain water on the windows.
How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view: Simon Clarke, owner, Midland Honda services: “As a garage owner, I’m sorry to say that very little goes wrong with the CR-Z. I’ve even heard of front brake pads and discs lasting up to 100,000 miles. Of course, you have to remember it uses a combination of traditional mechanicals and an advanced electrical system. For mechanics, that means being qualified to work on both. You really need to know what you’re doing before you go anywhere near the IMA battery. The VTEC petrol engine uses a chain rather than a belt, so that’s one less thing to worry about.”
ENGINE: The CR-Z’s petrol engine is an i-VTEC 1.5 that likes an oil and filter change every 12,500 miles or 12 months.
POWER BATTERY: Ensure the battery warning light goes out after start-up and that the three drive modes (Sport, Normal and Econ) work. Check the battery gauge: when full, there’s enough power for three strong acceleration runs. Go for an extended test drive to be sure the battery is being recharged.
GEARBOX: The manual gearbox should be light, precise and mechanical. Check a high- miler for a slipping clutch by selecting a high gear at a crawl, releasing the clutch and listening for the engine revs remaining constant or rising.
BRAKES: Inspect for worn discs, although the CR-Z is generally light on its brakes.
SERVICE HISTORY: Check the book and supporting invoices. There are reports of some owners believing that being a hybrid means the car doesn’t require regular servicing.
SUSPENSION, WHEELS AND STEERING: Listen for knocking sounds caused by worn suspension bushes. Turn the front wheels to full lock and check the driveshaft boots for splits and leaks. Alloy wheels are vulnerable to kerbing.
BODY: Ensure the tailgate release operates.
INTERIOR: Check all dials, modes and switches work. Expect the air-con to blow warm when the car has been idling too long.
Also worth knowing:
When new, the CR-Z’s IMA battery warranty lasted five years or 90,000 miles. Honda dealers say the battery warning light will indicate if anything’s wrong. According to Honda UK, a new battery costs about £1000 plus fitting.
How much to spend:
£4500-£5450: Choice of 2010-2012 Sports, many of them private-sale cars, with around 75k-90k miles, multiple previous keepers and patchy service histories.
£5500-£5995: A few more 2011-2012 GTs with around 80k miles plus lower-mileage Sports.
£6000-£6495: Broad mix of 2010-2013 Sports and GTs with between 35k and 75k miles, a few with full Honda service histories.
£6500-£7495: Consistently higher-quality examples, including some Honda-approved used cars, such as a 2012 Sport with 44k miles for £7311.
One we found:
HONDA CR-Z SPORT, 2012/12, 69K MILES, £4900: New front tyres and brakes, a long MOT with no advisories and a mix of Honda and indie dealer service stamps in the book help this CR-Z to stand out. The seller claims it has averaged 47mpg in the past 10k miles. He says he’s only selling because the new baby won’t fit.
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