Subcompact Shootout – 2011 Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta and Honda CR-Z Review

Expert Reviews Ford Honda hybrid Mazda

Honda CR-Z

2011 Honda CR-Z


  • Attractive styling
  • Every techno-geek’s dream
  • Hybrid drivetrain (if you’re into that)


  • Doesn’t handle like the CRX & not as fuel-efficient as the Insight
  • No rear seats
  • Atrocious rear visibility

Ruling: If you sport a pocket protector and/or have a lifetime subscription to Popular Science, this is your whip.

2011 Honda CR-Z

Okay, let’s address the questions most people are asking about the CR-Z right away. No, it does not handle like the old CRX. No, its hybrid drivetrain isn’t as fuel efficient as the Insight. With that being said, it seems that Honda swung and missed completely on both counts, especially when you consider the less expensive Fit is just as fuel efficient and quicker, oh, and has double the cargo capacity.

But don’t write off the CR-Z just yet. Honda may have been mistaken trying to create a car that combines the most endearing handling features of the old CRX with the hybrid efficiency of the new Insight, but Honda has definitely nailed the interior and exterior design of the CR-Z. This machine is guaranteed to turn more heads than either the Mazda or the Ford, but be prepared to pay for it. The CR-Z starts at $19,950 and tops out at over $23K. Hey, technology ain’t cheap.

2011 Honda CR-Z

But what you get for that expense is a technological experience unlike any car in its class. The CR-Z’s interior is quite futuristic, its hybrid drivetrain features normal, econ and sport modes that challenge you to try and maximize fuel efficiency. An illuminated halo around the speedometer glows green for when you’re optimizing efficiency and turns blue when you’re wantonly wasting precious fuel. It turns even your most mundane daily commute into a fun little game. But don’t play this game on those sweltering 100+ degree days, because econ mode scales back the A/C function to optimize efficiency.

2011 Honda CR-Z instrument pod

The CR-Z is the only car in this comparo with no rear seats, which can be a deal breaker for many consumers. But just like the original CRX, the CR-Z can pack away quite a bit of cargo in its rear hatch area. But perhaps the biggest downer of the CR-Z’s interior is the ridiculously poor rear window visibility. A horizontal bar runs directly across your field of vision, making for frustrating and potentially dangerous driving scenarios.

2011 Honda CR-Z rear view

The CR-Z employs a 1.5L 115 hp gasoline engine with either a 6-speed manual (the only hybrid offering a manual) or a CVT. Sandwiched in between is a hybrid assist DC motor generating 13 hp from 84 little 1.2v nickel-metal hydride batteries for a combined output of 122 hp and 128 lb. ft. of torque. This drivetrain allows the CR-Z to do things other cars can’t – like drive 30 mph in sixth gear. Most cars would stall or lug horrifically, but the hybrid assist keeps the CR-Z rolling with no problems.

Because of the batteries, the CR-Z weighs in at a hefty 2650 pounds, resulting in a 9.6 second 0-60 time that’s one second slower than the old CRX. So you would assume then that the CR-Z more than makes up for it in fuel efficiency, right? Well, not really. Actually, the CR-Z is barely as fuel efficient as the original CRX, delivering 31 city/37 freeway with the manual and 35/39 with the CVT.

2011 Honda CR-Z interior

Despite the slower numbers, the CR-Z is still fun to drive. It’s not exhilarating like the old CRX or even the Mazda2 for that matter, but of the three cars, it strikes the best balance between sportiness and freeway refinement.

So the CR-Z is slower than a 20 year old CRX and less fuel efficient than its hybrid brother Insight, but it offers a completely unique driving experience. Make no mistake, the CR-Z will struggle to gain mass appeal, but for those techno-geeks who are looking for a fun-to-drive, two-seater hybrid with a six-speed manual, the CR-Z stands alone.


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  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    The CRZ is hideous compared to the original CRX and what is the only reference is the dark cabin.What made the CRX such a great car for the new wave youth was that it was not your parents car in any way.This dingy dark CRZ is only going attract color blind commuter drivers and there are better options.What is wrong with the Honda there missteps are killing them.From that awful Accord,to the useless Ridgeline,to the ancient Civic and thank god the recently expired Element.What has happened to the brave little company that gave us cars we needed rather then wanted.They offer nothing I would own and seem to appeal to only senior citizens .Gone is the high quality .Have you seen an Elements foldaway rear seats in pieces ?.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    I drove the Fiesta at the off the Ford Road Show truck in San Mateo.I have also driven one at Towne Ford and really are surprised you say the car is lethargic .To me it great right off line and got up to speed quickly.In wet conditions it functioned perfectly unlikely the CRX.Remember as much as I loved my CRX it had terrible traction control and one of the front wheels would lead.Time maybe fogged those memory’s but this is a much better car and the price difference between the Mazda2 and Festiva would still put me in the Ford camp because you get a lot.This a great car and I think you had bad gas or something our experiences could not be further apart.It makes me anticipate the Focus even more.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    I owned a 1988 CRX Si in silver with black interior and loved that car.It stayed modern for so long and eventually gave way to a Volvo V70 R wagon.I still miss that CRX and have always been a hot Hot hatchback fan .I have owned an Renault R5 in double black and a Rabbit GTI.It was cool in the 80′s as was my Mohawk and Doc Martins.Everything comes back around and now in my 50′s they are cool again.Could not come soon enough since I have refused to ever buy an SUV and my options were shrinking for something new vehicle.Today the options are growing what I will end up with if it comes out soon is a 2012 Focus RS if that happens but this Mazda 2 could be my back up plan.

  • francois says:

    Insightful comparison! I love the CRX si references since I was an owner. That car was killed and replaced by the Del Sol. Those were the dark days of Honda as they demonstrated complete lack of soul and vision.

    They’ve come back though with better driving cars and the introduction of the Fit and the Element.

    All these cars are worthy! It is a good day in the auto industry as they produce low cost cars with soul and vision.

    If only I wasn’t so old with a full household.

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