Let’s hope that AutoGuide has this one wrong. In regards to the highly anticipated CR-Z Si (or Type R, if you prefer), the website quotes Honda R&D head Tomohiko Kawanabe as saying, “a high-compression petrol engine would work better in tandem with a hybrid assist system”. In other words, forget the the gasoline only, forced induction CR-Z we’d all been hoping for, and don’t even expect a turbocharged engine in conjunction with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid drive system. If Honda retains the IMA drive system, the upcoming CR-Z Si will likely be just as disappointing as the first; in fact, it’s likely to be more disappointing than the original, simply because the original was never positioned against the legendary CRX Si.
The 2011 Honda CR-Z isn’t a bad car, but it is a car that lacks an identity. As a sporty car, it’s no good in anything other than “Sport” mode, and even then it’s no match for other products on the market (including Honda’s own Civic Si). As a hybrid, the fuel economy it returns (37 combined MPG) is disappointing, and maximum fuel economy requires driving in the terrifyingly-slow ECON mode. If it’s not a fuel-sipping hybrid, and it’s not an entertaining canyon carver, what is it? That’s the question that Honda has failed to address with the current CR-Z, and any future IMA equipped version will likely suffer the same fate.
Hybrids are forced to carry a lot of additional weight (the electric motor, the controller, the batteries, etc.), and weight is the enemy of performance. If I were in charge of Honda’s R&D, I’d tell the engineers to build an HF version, using Honda’s IMA hybrid system, that exceeded the Insight’s 41 MPG combined. Next, I’d tell them to build a small displacement turbo-diesel for the CR-Z, which would combine fuel efficiency with true driving entertainment. To round out the product range, I’d have them work on a CR-Z Si, with a forced induction, high compression, direct injection gasoline motor. That would produce a CR-Z for every type of buyer, which seems to be the same strategy Honda used for the original CRX. If that’s clear to me, why isn’t it clear to Honda?