Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More thoughts on the Honda CR-Z for Malaysia/ASEAN

Its barely a day to the official launch of the CR-Z here in Malaysia. So, what can Honda enthusiasts expect from this car ?

To start off, the CR-Z have not and will never be called a 'sports-car' or even a 'sports coupe', certainly not by Honda enthusiasts. And I think it make no pretensions to be one either. After some initial wishy-washy-ness, Honda now calls it a 'sporty coupe'. Actually in terms of overall design, the CR-Z feels every inch a sports coupe. Feedback, even from fussy Honda enthusiasts have been universally positive regarding this aspect of the car. It feels and looks great and sporty, both exterior and interior.

The main area where negative comments are directed at is how it drives. Actually more accurately, it is how it accelerates. Here, focus have mostly centered around two main things : the suspension and the engine. 

The suspension configuration of the CR-Z is a strut / torsion beam layout for front and rear respectively. Honda performance enthusiasts generally prefers the double-wishbone/ independent-multilink layouts or at least strut/ independent-multilink layouts. So the torsion beam rear has came under some fire. But I think one thing to bear in mind is that the CR-Z is part of the Honda line-up segment which holds models like the Fit/Jazz, City, Insight, etc. These models are slotted below the Civic segment and are designed to use the strut/beam suspension layout. There are inherent disadvantages with the torsion beam  but in the end, this is what models in the CR-Z segment uses and thus this is what the CR-Z have to use. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to bear in mind that the Euro Civic, including the previous generation Euro Civic Type-R uses this suspension layout - strut/beam and it was really very fast and handles quite well indeed, based on personal experience.

Coming to the engine, it is a 16V SOHC-VTEC design and VTEC switches the valve train between 12V and 16V mode, much like the original L15A VTEC used on 1G Jazz 1.5. Power rating of the engine alone is similar, around 110-111 hp. But extra power comes from the IMA motor which delivers around 10-11 hp. So the max power rating for the IMA engine is a combined figure for both the petrol engine plus the IMA motor. Now, Honda however has never really supplied a figure for the CR-Z, at least not for Japan though it is generally held to be around 124ps. Honda U.S. (AHM) specs the max power for the USDM versions at 122hp. So the version to be launched will be spec'ed at around this range : 122 to 124hp (SAE).

While the max power rating for the engine is rather 'ordinary', it is not as much an issue as its lack of power delivery at high-rpms. The IMA motor is basically a high-torque low-rpm motor. It delivers ample torque from anywhere just above 0rpm upwards but falls off drastically once above slightly over 3,000rpm. Redline is around 6200 to 6300rpm which is a bit low when compared to the screaming DOHC and especially the crazy DOHC VTEC engines of the past. So the engine is powerful at low-rpm but will lack the high-rpm capability of past Honda sports engines like the legendary B-series.

But really, all these are just on paper only and surely the more important question is how the CR-Z actually drives on the road, which obviously is where it all counts. 

Based on experience from the Insight and Civic Hybrids and I believe the CR-Z will feel similar, the CR-Z should actually be quite preppy at low-speeds. Even the Insight, which has a smaller 1.3l engine but the same IMA motor, will respond quite nicely to prods at the throttle when one is lazying at low-speeds. The car lunges nicely forward when I blip the throttle in gear on the Insight, despite the buffering from the CVT gearbox. As it is expected that the CR-Z will be launched tomorrow with the 6MT gearbox, so the CR-Z will feel powerful (and is relatively 'powerful') at low-speeds. Normal city driving should be a great experience, especially when one wishes to overtake some crawling chicanes on the roads. It would be when we want sustained power delivery right to the rev-cut, e.g. to do an extended overtaking maneuver over several vehicles at one go, that would be when we feel the limitation of the IMA engine. The programming of the ECU in terms of IMA assist, plus the basic low-rpm nature of the IMA motor means we will get a very nice initial surge of acceleration but which will fade rather rapidly as one sustains the WOT into the rev-cut rpm zone. It do not mean the CR-Z is not capable of high-speed driving. Even the Insight managed to hold its head high when I indulged in some high-speed driving on the highway so I think the CR-Z won't be embarassed when called upon to do that. Its just that it won't deliver what the SiRs or Type-Rs are capable of. 

But hang on, to be fair, Honda never did say the CR-Z is an equal to those legendary models. In any case, it is also doubtful whether there will be many potential buyers of the CR-Z who are previous owners of those models.

Coming to the CR-Z's handling, comments from actual owners in the U.S. and Japan have actually been quite positive. It seems many CR-Z owners in Japan are even taking it to gymkhana competitions and some are turning in respectable times. In our TOV forums, owners of the CR-Z have also given generally positive feedback on the driving feel and handling of their cars.

So basically I think and hope the CR-Z should find some good reception after its launch here in Malaysia and we shall all find out tomorrow.

For more readings about the CR-Z, especially owners feedback, in the TOV forums, follow this link :


FiSH said...

I personally believe that many people will pick one up, given if the price is below what many expectated. To me that would have a sort of feel like the mid 80s again (before a certain unmentionable manufacturer came into existence) when everyone my father knows has a 2 door Prelude, CR-X, Celica, etc. almost everywhere. The City is like the 80s Civic in terms of both sales and design, I think the CR-Z doing the same.

Of course, the price has to be right, but I think this would work very well.

FiSH said...


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