Used Vehicle Review: Honda CR-Z, 2011-2016

Vehicle Type

A sleek design, sporty handling and upscale feature content positioned the CR-Z as a uniquely athletic offering in the hybrid segment,

Hybrid sports coupe

History/Description

Unique, efficient and distinctive, the 2011 Honda CR-Z launched in mid-2010 as a driver-focussed, hybrid-powered three-door coupe with an emphasis on green performance. A sleek design, sporty handling and upscale feature content positioned the CR-Z as a uniquely athletic offering in the hybrid segment, and all models featured a three-mode drive system that fine-tuned throttle response, steering and electric motor assistance to the situation at hand.

All models were two-door units with a rear liftgate, and feature content included fog lamps, USB audio input, premium stereo provisions, Bluetooth, navigation, voice recognition, remote access, cruise control, full power accessories, and a perforated-leather steering wheel.

From 2013, an update saw the CR-Z offer more standard equipment, revised styling, new wheels, an updated cabin, an improved central command interface, a standard back-up camera, and a slight boost in power and mileage, thanks to a new battery pack. With more power from the on-board battery, the 2013 CR-Z also offered up a new Plus Sport System, which allowed drivers to summon additional electric boost for faster acceleration, in certain conditions, at the touch of a button.

Engines/Trim

Running clean and lean, all CR-Z models came powered by a 1.5-litre SOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. Total system output was rated around 122 hp and 128 lb-ft of toque. All models were front-wheel drive, and transmission choices included a six-speed manual or a continually variable transmission (CVT). By combining a small and highly efficient four-cylinder with an electric drive motor and drive battery, engineers created a powertrain that can fully optimize fuel consumption in a wide range of situations.

What Owners Like

Owner-stated pluses include the CR-Z’s unique looks, good fuel economy, relatively-fun-to-drive dynamics, and the confidence of Honda’s proven IMA powertrain under the hood. The CR-Z’s compact size also helps make it easier to park, and a quick steering and taut suspension dial up the performance reflexes.

What Owners Dislike

Complaints include poor rearward visibility, limited on-board space, generous full-throttle engine noise, basically useless rear seats, and a rough and delicate feel to the suspension when driving on rougher roads. Some owners also wished for a front armrest on the standard equipment list.

Here’s a look at some Honda CR-Z owner reviews.

The Test Drive

Start with important used hybrid checks when approaching any used CR-Z for potential purchase. Shoppers are advised to seek a model with full service records available, and one that’s had all available software updates and recalls performed, for maximum peace of mind. Note that in some hybrid models updated computer software is applied to optimize and improve the operation of the hybrid system, or to pre-emptively fix a potential issue. Running a hybrid car with the latest software updates, and all servicing and maintenance up to date, should be considered best practice. Talk to a dealer service advisor for more information.

In this discussion forum, some existing CR-Z owners advise a potential shopper to check for things like a non-functional Bluetooth phone system, excessive whistling from the windshield at speed (more information here), and cracked fog lamp lenses. A rattley glove-box latch should be obvious on a test drive, and some owners have fixed it with adjustment to the latch, or the use of some peel-and-stick rubber pads.

When driving a used CR-Z with the manual transmission, turn off the stereo and climate control fan (once you’ve confirmed that they work), and shift through the gears at a variety of engine speeds. Note that a clicking or popping sound in the process could be a sign of a bad bearing within the transmission assembly, which will need a potentially pricey replacement. Here’s some more reading. If the CR-Z you’re considering makes any unwanted noises, be sure to have a hybrid-trained Honda technician investigate.

Here’s some reading on largely inconsequential issues reported with the hybrid batteries on a small number of CR-Z units. The gist? On some models with the CVT transmission, owners report rapid loss of battery charge, especially on cold mornings, and other strange behaviour from the battery charge and discharge process. There’s a lot to read in this thread, though it seems that the CR-Z may, from time to time, perform an automatic self-recalibration of the battery, which may be responsible for some of the strangeness.

Two notes, here.

First, remember that the CR-Z has an IMA warning light that illuminates in case of a detected problem with the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. This is an invitation to have a technician scan the system for potential problems. Having the used CR-Z scanned for potential trouble signs, even if the IMA light is not illuminated, is a good idea. Due to the complicated nature of the CR-Z’s electronics systems, shoppers are advised to only have a dealer service technician perform the scan, and to avoid plugging in their own code reader, just to be safe.

Second, though hybrid battery failure is not impossible, in years of researching used hybrid cars, your writer has only encountered a small handful of reported instances of hybrid battery failure across all brands, with many being addressed under warranty.

Remember, too, that the CR-Z has a standard 12-volt battery that’s used to start the engine and run many accessories. If the vehicle has been parked a long while, this battery may drain, causing issues that range from patchy operation of various accessories to a total no-start situation. If you won’t be driving your CR-Z for more than a few days, consider a battery trickle charger to prevent battery drain. Further, if any on-board electronics systems fail to operate consistently, a weak 12-volt battery is a great place to start investigating. Weak batteries can cause a bevy of frustrating and far-reaching issues.

Here’s some reading about potential blown fuses and how they can cause issues, including engine stalling. In this thread, the blown fuse is a repeated problem, likely caused by a non-factory modification to the owner’s vehicle. Stick to a stock CR-Z where possible, and avoid a model running any non-factory parts, components, and especially, electronics. Modifications can be especially problematic for hybrid vehicles, even more so of the quality of the parts and installation are sub-par.

Finally, check the air conditioner system fully on a test drive for signs of issues. If the system fails to operate, or operates poorly, a trip to your local Honda dealer for an inspection is likely your least-frustrating course of action. Here’s some more reading. Note that in this discussion, some owners talk about diagnosing a bad A/C system themselves, but dealer staff have the proper tools, electronics and training to address CR-Z air conditioner problems, if detected, quickly and easily.

A final note: though CR-Z is a hybrid, remember that it’s also a regular car, too. This means it has tires, brakes, a clutch, fluids, belts, filters, sparkplugs, suspension components, and more, which can all wear out, and which will all need periodic attention, repair, or replacement. Once you’ve confirmed that the CR-Z’s hybrid driveline is in tip-top shape with the help of a Honda technician, be sure to confirm that all of the “standard” parts and components of the model you’re considering are in good shape too – and that nothing is in need of replacement, and that all fluid changes and maintenance tasks are up to date.

The Verdict

Many of CR-Z’s most commonly reported issues should be easy to detect on a test drive, and easy for a technician to diagnose as part of a highly advised pre-purchase inspection (PPI). Find a good deal on a used unit with a clean bill of health, and you’re on your way to owning one of the most unique hybrid cars on the road today. A 2013 or newer unit is ideal where budgets allow, thanks to increased power, efficiency and standard feature content.

Just 2 recalls.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: results
NHTSA: 4/5 Stars

CR-Z loved for mileage and style. 7/20/2017 6:28:00 AM