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Honda takes hybrids up a notch

Honda’s new hybrid bears more than a passing resemblance to the automaker’s fun CR-X. And it's one of the most affordable models in the green segment.

Can you have fun and drive a hybrid?

Honda thinks they have the answer to that in the 2011 CR-Z.

For those who go back a bit, the CR-X made from 1983-1991 was one of the most endearing cars Honda ever made. It was a small sporty coupe based on the Civic that had basically two seats with pert, chopped off tail. It didn’t have a lot of power but the CR-X more than made up for that with nimble handing, frugal operation, affordable pricing and a whole lot of character.

The CR-Z is also a two-seat sporty coupe with a pert, chopped off tail and styling that screams, “this car is a blast.” And while the old CR-X was great on the gas, the new car goes a big one better; it’s a hybrid.

The CR-Z starts with a 1.5-litre, SOHC four-cylinder gasoline engine based on the unit used in the Fit. By itself, the engine produces 113 hp and 107 lb/ft of torque.

Unlike Toyota where the engine augments the battery, Honda uses the lithium-ion rechargeable battery to give the engine an extra shot of acceleration and torque, kind of like an electric supercharger.

Out on the road, the handling was like a small sportscar, precise and with great feedback. At a closed course slalom, people were throwing the CR-Z around with great abandon with one journalist delighting in the low-end torque and the fact he could get the tail to hang out on hairpin turns.

There are several ways to have fun in this car and another is cost. If you were expecting to pay $30,000 or more, forget it.

Along with the Civic Hybrid and the Insight, Honda offers the three lowest priced hybrids on the market. How much fun it that?

 
 
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