Honda's sporty hybrid CR-Z is one of the only hybrids ever to give drivers a choice of rowing their own gears with a manual transmission. The manual transmission plays to the CR-Z goal of hybrid fuel economy that doesn't sacrifice driving entertainment, an objective the CR-Z never quite nailed. Now, the performance aspect of the CR-Z is prevailing with a newly optional dealership-installed supercharger boosting power from 130 horsepower to 197 hp.
The Honda Performance Development supercharger -- available only on manual transmission cars -- bumps power very close to the naturally aspirated 205-hp under the hood of the sporty 2014 Honda Civic Si. The CR-Z weighs about 400 pounds less than the Civic Si, tipping the scales around 2,600 pounds before the supercharger installation. That's enough of a weight savings over the similarly powered Civic Si to make us very interested in driving a supercharged CR-Z.
Speaking of dealer-installation, it's not included in the $5,495 price of the kit and must be done at a Honda dealership to retain perhaps one of the best perks of this system: The CR-Z's five-year or 60,000-mile powertrain warranty is honored even after the kit is installed. Installation prices will vary by dealership, but Honda spokesman Chris Martin says Honda expects installation to take about nine hours. Included with the supercharger kit is an air-to-air intercooler, high-flow fuel injectors and an engine control unit tweaked to run 91-octane fuel and meet California Air Resources Board partial zero-emissions vehicle regulations. An optional limited-slip differential and upgraded sport clutch are also available to complement the newfound power.
The power is there, but the CR-Z is still a hybrid so what about fuel economy? Because the supercharger is a post-sale dealer-installed accessory, Martin says Honda is not providing EPA estimates for CR-Zs with the supercharger. Non-supercharged CR-Z fuel economy is EPA-rated for city-highway-combined at 31 / 38 / 34 mpg with the manual transmission. Honda's supercharger kit is available at dealerships this month.
As with all hybrids, the ultimate goal is fewer trips to the gas station. According to Honda, the CR-Z features an Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system that is said by Honda to offer an EPA rating for city-highway-combined of 31 / 38 / 34 mpg. Just remember to wave as you drive past your local fueling station.
The 2014 Honda CR-Z has an entertainment system with enough power and features to meet the needs of most music lovers. It's equipped with a 160-watt AM / FM / CD audio system with six speakers and speed-sensitive volume control, a CD / MP3 text readout and a USB3 auxiliary input jack for connection to a portable audio player.
Can a car offer a cool look with the functionality of extra storage? The Honda CR-Z makes that attempt. The sweeping upper dashboard creates a wraparound cockpit feel while the seats are designed to provide "firm lateral support" for when your completing those slaloms to and from the grocery store. Need to hide something? A console behind the front seats optimizes cargo space, with a hard-shell separator that can be closed to create additional hidden storage.
For those in need of extra space to cart things to and from the store, the CR-Z offers 25.1 cubic feet of space inside the back hatch. That's more than enough space for a week's worth of groceries, or if there's a need to take a friend home after a long night out on the town.