Sunday, July 14, 2013

The 2013 facelifted Honda CR-Z 6 speed manual: The layman impression

 'The Red Steed'

FINALLY! Got my hands on this sweet ride from Honda Kuching 3 weeks ago. This is my first car and I gotta say that it is perfect for me. I just love it! Here is my driving impression of this magnificent beast =D

I'm not a car expert but I do love driving. Its excites me every time I got the chance to drive, especially cars that I've never driven before. Clearly I am over excited with my new ride & decided to write a detailed layman review of it. Enjoy!

Unlike the European & US markets, finding a good manual transmission cars here is like trying to find a needle in a haystack nowadays as more people opt for auto gearboxes. The car companies responds to the customer's preference and limit their production/sales of manual cars. Most of  them equip lowest spec cars with manual transmission.  As a result, people are restricted to drive auto cars if they want a car with good specs & have an impression that manual cars are for those who cannot spend extra for a car (Potong & Perutdua... cough3). Its a vicious cycle. Honda Malaysia for an example, ditched  manual cars in their line-up, except for the CR-Z & previous FD Civic Type-R. Manual transmission is an option for performance cars only, they said. Thank god their stick shifter is a good one!

The Honda CR-Z is the world's 1st sporty hybrid car and was initially on sale in Malaysia since 2011. It moved away from its hybrid pack with sleeker 2 door coupe body style (vs bulky, more practical 4 door sedan) & the first hybrid car to offer 6 speed manual gearbox tailored for performance (vs CVT auto gearboxes that emphasize on fuel economy). This face lifted model over here was introduce here in Malaysia in March 2013 with mild (but significant) performance & design upgrades.

Thanks to the hybrid tax exemption, the car was priced RM120k OTR in Sarawak with RM2k rebate... A very good deal considering the technology it came with & the radical styling. Without the tax exemption, I could predict that this car would be priced between RM170k - RM 200k pricetag, rivaling the Volkswagen Scirocco pricing.


At first glance, one can't disagree that this ride is a looker. Drool...

Front profile

Back profile
Dat ASS!!!

Side profile

Hmmm... But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some might disagree with me & think that this car is a bit feminist looking. Well I just don't give a damn because I love that sleek, sharp lines and bootilicious curves, that prominent wheel arches. Together with its semi-athletic stance & dressed in solid Milano Red paint job, this car is a real head turner. A good looking car = a good looking lady. And since this is the 6 speed manual version, I doubt any city chicks or gay hairdresser are keen to self shift their own gears! =D

Frankly speaking, theres not much of visual difference between the pre-face lift version & this one. The changes are subtle. This face lifted version now have more prominent fog lamps, HID lamps, honey-comb front grille & a painted accent the rear diffuser.

Too bad the new 17 inch alloy wheels are not available here in Malaysia. What I have now are the standard 16 inch alloy wheels as per the pre-face lift models, wrapped with Bridgestone Potenza tyres. Its for my own good I think. Tyre change would be cheaper & more rubber means that the car can absorb the bumpy & uneven roads of Kuching...


The 1st thing I noticed upon entering the cabin is that it is very driver focused. It looks cool & very sci-fi & space-craft cabin inspired. It may look a bit busy but I had no problem getting used to it after a few days. In fact, the buttons are laid out nicely so that the driver can easily access them without hassle. 
The 3-spoke steering wheel is leather wrapped & got a nice weight to it. Equipped with cruise control & audio control buttons. Theres also the S+ button there for extra juice of performance if needed. 

The meter cluster is absolutely gorgeous & interactive. Theres the digital tachometer in the middle of the analog rev counter, the hybrid battery charge meter, along with some cool interactive display that coaches the driver to drive more efficiently (more on that later) and other hybrid car thingy that feed you information about your driving efficiency.

Interior upgrade of this face lifted CR-Z is the semi-leather bucket seats & red wine coloured accents over the seats & doors. Complimenting the set is the matching sporty red stitching over the steering wheel, seats and gear lever.

Seating position is low & sporty, spot on & the bolstered semi-bucket seat is comfy & adequately held me in place when bending around corners. The aluminium sports pedals are nice too. 

Being a fully imported CBU car from Japan, the safety equipment is generous. There are 6 airbags total (2 front SRS, 2 side, & curtain). Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist, Brake Assist (BA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) & reverse sensors are standard.

There are also some negative points that I have to highlight though. The car lack of refinement in terms of noise insulation. Wind and road noise is kinda prominent at higher speed. I had to turn up the radio to drown the noise. I've drove a 1.8L Proton Inspira before & I dare say that sound insulation of that car is way better.

This is a 2 doors coupe so it sacrifices practicality over style. For instance, there are backseats but they're cramped,  only fit for children aged below 5 I would say.

Rear visibility is awful & theres this huge blind spots at the back. Quite tricky to reverse & maneuvre the car out of the parking space & had to be extra careful of bikes that approaches from behind when driving in town. It took me some time to familiarize with it.

The boot is not exactly large. Its kinda shallow because the hybrid battery is located under there. But its enough for me for everyday use. If i want a bigger boot volume, I can just fold down the tiny, useless-for-me backseats for a cavernous, flat loading area. I can put a tiny 'toto' & pillows back there & sleep comfortably. Tried, no kidding! I've also once transported 15 durians in that same boot & the car ended smelling like a durian stall for 3 days... @_@


Engine bay 
Yes, the fun part! The heart of the car is the 1.5L i-VTEC engine with IMA hybrid system. Both engine and electric motor produces max power of 136PS @ 6600rpm & max torque of 190Nm as low as 1000 -2000rpm. While horsepower figure is not really that great on paper, it is an improvement over the pre-facelift CR-Z. On paper, the car can propel itself from 0 - 100km/h in 9 seconds flat & have a topspeed of up to 200km/h - which is not particularly fast I would say but enough to outmaneuver most cars on the road.

The low end torque really does shines however, which is great for city driving. I don't have to downshift as often or had to rev the car hard to do an overtaking maneuver or a hill climb. The sweet torque just pushes the car whenever needed. Lovely. Some automotive reviewer described that the electric motor act as a small turbocharger that supplemented the engine extra horsepower & low end torque. I totally agree.

Theres 3 driving modes to choose from via simple push of these 3 buttons. The Econ & Normal modes are the less fun of the 3. In these modes the car's throttle response is slower & the steering feedback is bland. It encourages the driver to drive more economically. The Normal mode even coaches the driver to shift the gear up or down to maximize efficiency. If I drove the car efficiently, the ambient light around the rev counter turns green and changes to blue if I press the throttle too hard. Interactive indeed. These are my driving modes of choice if I feel lazy & just wanna cruise slowly around town or whenever I'm stuck in a traffic jam. The car would drive as per normal hybrid car would, BORING. And yes, this car is equipped with auto stop technology which temporarily shuts down the engine during traffic light stops or jams to save precious fuel.
Econ & Normal mode (green - blue)

However, in open roads the Sport mode is the way to go. In fact, 80% of my driving utilize this mode.With a push of a button, the car immediately became LIVELY. The steering wheel weightens up with sharp feedback and the throttle response is quicker. Feels like driving a totally different car & I didn't feel like I'm driving a hybrid at all! Together with the short, snappy 6 speed manual gearbox & perfectly weighted clutch, the car is a lot of fun to drive. A perfect combination with the torquey, light turbo-like hybrid system. Its clear to me that the electric motor have 2 pronged action, enhancing fuel economy & boosting performance whenever needed. It does not feel under powered although more powerful engine is good to have. 

The i-VTEC engine revs up to 6800rpm before hitting the red line. It revs free & smoothly as the previous VTEC legends. The buzzing sound of the engine is beautiful as it reaches it's redline. I personally prefer the pre face lift engine sound though because it have this growling tone that is just music to the ears!
Sports mode (red)

Another feature that I would like to highlight is the SPORT PLUS (S+) button, situated at the steering wheel. It is particularly useful when overtaking vehicles. Pressing the button will activate the system and the electric motor will deliver extra surge of power to aid acceleration. Much like KERS boost in F1 cars. I love it & just use it for fun most of the time!
The car feels agile in the open road as I can easily zig-zag my car through the vehicles in the motorway.  It is stable during hard cornering with minimum body roll. It was fun to just throw the car around during corners. As per most performance oriented cars, the ride is on the firm side to provide stability but in this case it is not too hard. But driving along Kuching's uneven roads with the occasional potholes, I do wish for a more comfortable suspension setup though. But hey, If you want performance, one must sacrifice a bit of comfort!

Since its a hybrid, it is a SIN if I don't mention about fuel economy here. On paper, it claimed to achieve 5.9L/100km. I manage to get 7.35L/100km (or 13.6km/L) so far with 900km mileage. Maybe I can get a better figure after 5000km mileage and more 'civilized' driving style (which is very unlikely! =P)


There you have it, a simple review of my new CR-Z. It is stylish, affordable, fun, sporty hybrid coupe that have adequate performance for it's price with the familiar, trusted Honda badge that it carries. Its not for everyone though. This car is for those single people who enjoys driving, a bit of a tree hugger, love to stand out in the crowd & likes to be different. For those with a family, the Honda Civic Hybrid is similarly priced but more practical &.... BORING. You can get a CR-Z as your weekend car though.

Gonna go drive my CR-Z now... bubye~


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