Honda's forgotten CR-Z hybrid gets new look, tech

Honda's gas-electric CR-Z runabout has never really found favor with consumers or enthusiasts. Will a more aggressive new look and improved interior tech finally improve its fortunes?

Honda
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The CR-Z's sportier look starts with a new grille.

Honda

You could be forgiven for having entirely overlooked the fact that Honda's CR-Z is still on sale. Indeed, the Japanese automaker itself could be forgiven for that oversight: Through the end of September, American Honda has sold just 2,205 units of its hybrid runabout this year. By comparison, Honda moved 33,641 Accord sedans.

Last month.

It could be argued that Honda is trying to jump-start US sales with this just-announced 2016 facelift and tech update, but the reality is more likely that the front-wheel-drive funster continues to sell well enough in its home market to justify some attention, and America is benefiting by default.

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The 2016 CR-Z looks familiar, but more angular and aggressive.

Honda

The CR-Z has been on sale here since model year 2011, and it has largely been viewed as a failure, both in terms of sales and critical reception. When the model was first announced, brand loyalists and the automotive press openly hoped for a revival of Honda's much-loved CRX hatchback from the Eighties and Nineties, but the CR-Z never really managed to recapture its predecessor's spunk (let alone its fuel economy despite being a hybrid).

Either way, what we have for 2016 is a more stylish and better-equipped urban runabout, replete with new tech features like a standard seven-inch touchscreen audio system with swipe and pinch gestures for features like Pandora, along with Honda's LaneWatch system that uses a camera mounted on the passenger side to display what's in the vehicle's blind spot. Other new standard features include pushbutton start/stop with intelligent key and an electronic parking brake. Heated leather seats are available for the first time on a new EX-L Navi trim, and all models receive a redesigned center console and brushed-metallic trim.

The CR-Z's hybrid guts remain essentially untouched, meaning buyers will still get a 1.5-liter four-cylinder paired with 15-kW electric motor juiced by a 144-volt lithium ion battery. All-in, the powertrain is good for 130 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque (CVT-equipped models make do with 3 fewer pound-feet). Fuel economy continues to disappoint, with base manual cars netting 31 miles per gallon city and 34 on the highway, and CVT-equipped models faring better at 36 mpg on the urban cycle and 37 on the super slab.

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Note the redesigned center stack and brushed-metallic trim.

Honda

The CR-Z's most obvious year-over-year changes include a reworked front end with a mesh-type grille, LED running lights and available HID headlamps. There are reworked side skirts to unify the theme, and out back, a new lower fascia mimics the CR-Z's freshened swoopy front-end treatment.

Interestingly, Honda says the CR-Z's handling game has been upped, with a slightly larger front anti-roll bar, a broader rear track, and significantly upsized brake rotors (11.1 inches front and rear, up from 10.3 and 10.2, respectively), so perhaps the 2016 model will drive more like its CRX forebearer.

The 2016 CR-Z hits US dealers starting Tuesday wearing a base price of $20,295 plus $895 for delivery. As of press time, availability for UK and AU customers remains unclear.

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New LaneWatch blind-spot technology should help rear visibility.

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