Honda CR-Z puts fuel economy in driver’s hands

Honda Odyssey.


Honda Odyssey.

Honda CR-V.


Honda CR-V.

Honda CR-Z.


Honda CR-Z.



Hot news for 2011: Good news. The new Odyssey minivan doesn’t really look or act like a minivan. • Can a hybrid be sporty? The new CR-Z coupe certainly gives it a whirl, and for not a lot of loot. • Restyled Accord to head off hot new competitors.

Carryover: Crosstour; Civic; CR-V; Element; Fit; Insight; Pilot; Ridgeline

Starting line

•  It doesn’t matter if your name is Honda. If you sit on your hands too long, you’ll be shuffled to the bottom of the deck. Even with an onslaught hard-charging competition in the small sport utility vehicle and sedan categories, Honda is leaving the four-door Civic small car alone for 2011 (although a brand-new model is in the works for the 2012 model year). There’s also no change for the CR-V and the Honda Accord is in for a mild front- and rear restyle and some powertrain updates to help save a bit more fuel. So, what has Honda really been up to for the last year? Building a brand-new Odyssey people mover to complement the new-for-2010 Crosstour wagon/hatch model, and constructing a new CR-Z to show that there’s more to low-cost hybrid transportation than decidedly non-sporty new-for-2010 Insight four-door. The CR-Z is Honda’s attempt to target a younger eco-aware demographic looking for something fun and affordable (about $20,000) to bop around in. It actually bears some resemblance to the ancient CRX, Honda’s fondly remembered Civic-based runabout that was available from the mid-1980s to the early ‘90s. And like the CRX, the CR-Z seats only two passengers. Lifting the mostly glass rear hatch reveals an abundance of cargo room as well as a hidden console directly behind the passenger seat that’s ideal for storing valuables. Since the CR-Z borrows from the four-door Insight hybrid’s architecture, the wide cabin has plenty of elbow room. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine combines with a helper electric motor/generator for a total of 122 horsepower. Transmission picks consist of a six-speed manual (currently the only one available on any hybrid), or optional continuously variable (CVT) unit with paddle shifters. The six-speed isn’t as fuel-efficient as the CVT (31/37 mpg city/highway for the stick versus 35/39 for the CVT), but the manual makes the CR-Z more fun to drive. That’s not an attribute you would normally ascribe to minivans, but the new Odyssey will put you on the right path. It’s low to the ground and wide so that you can actually drive it with some enthusiasm . . . and without white knuckles. The Odyssey’s 3.5-liter V6 is mostly carryover, but given a number of small improvements it has gained four more horsepower (now 248) and a touch more torque. The engine’s standard variable cylinder management program seamlessly cuts out two or three of the cylinders under light loads and helps contribute to significant fuel-economy gains. LX, EX and EX-L Odysseys equipped with the five-speed automatic transmission are now rated at 18/27 mpg city/highway (previously 16 and 23). The Touring edition’s six-speed automatic helps increase those numbers to 19/28 mpg highway (compared to the previous 17 and 25 mpg rating). Fuel economy aside, the Odyssey drives noticeably flatter and truer than the outgoing version with much reduced body roll in the turns. Base models that ring in at $28,600 carry all of the essentials plus a power driver’s seat, keyless entry and cruise control. From that point the sky is the limit, culminating with the $44,000 Touring Elite with its self-leveling headlights, huge (at least in the automotive world) 16.2-inch rear-video screen and a 650-watt 12-speaker surround-sound system.

Base prices (incl. destination)

Accord: Coupe/full-size sedan; $21,900 (sedan)

Accord Crosstour: Mid-size four-door hatchback; $30,450

Civic: Compact sedan/coupe/hatchback; $16,550 (sedan); $16,350 (coupe); $24,700 (Hybrid)

CR-V: Compact SUV; $22,500

CR-Z: Two-door hatchback hybrid; $20,000

Element: Compact SUV; $21,300 (2010)

Fit: Four-door wagon, $15,650

Insight: Four-door sedan, $20,550

Odyssey: Minivan; $28,600

Pilot: Mid-size SUV; $28,800

Ridgeline: Four-door pickup; $29,700

Honda is introducing the CR-Z, America’s first two-seat hybrid sports car, in 2011. With a base price of just $19,960 and the unique approach to sporty environmentalism, Honda hopes the car will appeal to those who want good fuel economy but also want to have fun behind the wheel.

“The CR-Z is a completely brand new model,” promised Bill Niles, sales and leasing consultant with Fuoco Honda.

The CR-Z operates in three different modes, according to the whims of the driver. Sport mode makes the car more peppy and responsive, with quicker acceleration and throttle response; normal mode is the default position and Econ mode maximizes fuel efficiency.

“If the owner presses economy, the miles per gallon will go up eight miles per gallon,” said Niles, adding that buyers who purchase the sporty hybrid can qualify for a tax credit from the state of Colorado, which can be spread out over a five-year period.

“We don’t anticipate always having one in the showroom,” Niles said. The dealer received three models about a month ago. There’s only one left on the showroom floor.

The 2011 Honda Odyssey is also receiving lots of second looks.

“The best just got better,” Niles said. The updated van is quieter, smoother, offers more interior flexibility and gets better gas mileage. Some of the unique features of the new Odyssey include the navigation system that speaks in French, English or Spanish, a sound system capable of holding 3,500 songs, three rows of seats, with the capacity to fit thee large people or three child safety seats in the second row, the variable cylinder management system for better engine efficiency and a slightly bigger interior capable of carrying 4 X 8-foot building materials.

“We have one Honda Odyssey,” Niles said, “But we’re taking orders and deposits for vehicles.” Niles warned that it can take a couple of months for a vehicle on order, unless they find another dealer with an available vehicle or with an order that’s higher up the priority chain.

Base models start at $27,800 and progress up to $43,520 for the Touring Elite model, which includes features like the heated power side mirrors, the Honda satellite-linked naviation system, high intensity discharge headlight, blindspot information system, the Honda DVD ultrawide rear entertainment system and a premium audio system.

Right now, Honda is offering various forms of buyer assistance, with extra cash, low interest rates and low lease rates.

“There are also some year-end clearance deals,” Niles said.

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