Honda Malaysia launched its first new model of the year in the form of the new Honda CR-Z. The sporty hybrid, which has enjoyed tremendous reception nationwide since the nameplate was first brought into Malaysia in 2011, now comes kitted not only with cosmetic changes but with notable upgrades to its hybrid drivetrain as well.
Visually, the new CR-Z wears a slightly updated nose. The front bumper has been changed and now sports a mesh grille. The rear bumper gets a newly-styled diffuser while wheels now boast a gunmetal-like finish. All of the exterior updates are applied such that the cars aerodynamics remain unchanged – an important aspect for a vehicle which banks a lot on fuel economy.
The interior has also been refreshed, with the fabric seats being replaced by semi-leather seats with red fabric inserts that also adorn the door panels. The sporty theme continues with red stitching on the seats, steering wheel and gear knob. A new item that can be found in the cabin is a ‘S+’ button placed on the steering wheel and this serves to indicate that changes to the new CR-Z are more than just skin deep.
For starters, the base 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine has been revised. While the engine in the previous CR-Z produced 112hp, the new i-VTEC lump produces 116hp for the CVT and 118hp for the manual. Note that there is a slight difference in performance between both transmission options as the CVT variant makes use of a silencer to curb engine growl and this draws two horses as compared to the standard engine.
As for the IMA hybrid system, the key difference, which is essentially the biggest update in the CR-Z, is the use of new batteries. Previously, the electric motor in the CR-Z drew power from nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries which have now been replaced by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that produce 44 per cent more voltage as well as 44 per cent more power but in a smaller and lighter package. As a result, the electric motor’s output is boosted from 14hp to 20hp. It is worth noting however, that owners of the older CR-Z cannot replace their NiMH batteries with the new Li-ion ones as it is far from a straightforward plug-and-play process.
Overall, the new powertrain produces a total of 134 horses (133hp for the CVT) which is delivered smoothly all the way to 6,600rpm. In contrast, the outgoing CR-Z only delivered 122hp up to 6,000rpm. As a result of the power hike, the century sprint is completed in nine seconds flat – 0.7 seconds quicker than the older model. Back to the S+ button mentioned earlier – pressing it engages Plus Sport mode which opens up the throttle completely with all of the car’s power at the driver’s disposal. According to Norio Tomobe, Large Project Leader of the new CR-Z, engaging the Plus Sport mode while doing 100kph will let you hit 180kph in just 7 seconds. This mode however will not engage if the battery reserve is too low.
Despite the increased performance figures, Tomobe insists that the vision for an energy efficient vehicle is not lost. As a result of the newer tech underneath the car’s skin, it can now return 0.2 kilometers per liter more than the model it replaces. Tomobe does however agree that factors such as Malaysia’s tropical weather may make it harder for potential owners to achieve the claimed figures.
The new Honda CR-Z is priced at RM119,000 for the six-speed manual and RM123,000 for the CVT – same transmission options as before. The car is offered in four colours: Premium White Pearl, Polished Metal Metallic, Milano Red and an all-new shade called Premium Northern Lights Violet Pearl. Honda Malaysia has bumped up the warranty as the car is now offered with a five-year warranty with unlimited mileage that even applies to the IMA battery.