Used Honda CR-Z buying guide
The Honda CR-Z is among the quirkier secondhand hybrids on the market. For starters, it's a small, sporty coupe, and also, it has a manual, not an automatic, transmission. That's unusual for hybrid, and makes it a promising choice for those looking to marry frugal economy with driving fun.
Although that seems an appealing combination on paper, the CR-Z wasn't exactly a roaring sales success: Honda only managed to shift 4,300 of them during the six years it was on sale in the UK. Its lack of practicality does limit its appeal somewhat, with the result that secondhand examples can be picked up for small money.
For the same reason, you may have to travel some distance to find your perfect CR-Z, but the upside is these cars tend be owned by enthusiasts, who look after them properly and maintain them on schedule. They tend not to cover very high mileages, either.
Entertaining to drive, smart to look at and rare enough to turn heads – there's a lot to like about the CR-Z. On the downside, it's really not practical, with a very small boot and two back seats that aren't quite big enough for adults to sit comfortably in. The ride is also quite firm on rough roads and rear visibility isn't great, plus, while this car handles sweetly, it's not exactly bursting with power, especially compared to turbocharged hot hatchbacks.
Perhaps it’s because the CR-Z sold in such small numbers that it didn’t really change much throughout its life. It launched in 2010 and was discontinued in 2016, and while there were a number of trim levels, there was only one generation, making choosing the ideal version for you fairly straightforward.
When the CR-Z first hit showrooms in June 2010, buyers could choose between S, Sport, Sport-T and GT trims. There was only one engine: a 112bhp 1.5-litre petrol, assisted by a 14bhp electric motor. Total power was 122bhp. It’s worth noting that the motor works alongside the engine, not instead of it, meaning the car can’t be driven using its electric motors alone.
A faster version appeared in November 2011. Given a working-over by Honda’s performance division Mugen, it offered up a slightly livelier 0-62mph of between 9.9 and 10.1 seconds, depending on the trim chosen. In January 2013, a mildly facelifted version went on sale, sporting a power boost to 119bhp, a more sophisticated lithium-ion battery replacing the old metal-hydride unit, plus new exterior paint options.
Which one should I buy?
If your budget can stretch to it, go for a post-2013 model, as its lithium-ion battery is more durable and efficient, so it can store more energy. There are two downsides, though – those batteries are more expensive to replace, and of the 4,292 CR-Zs sold in the UK, just 515 came so-equipped. Otherwise, it’s a case of choosing the trim level that suits your needs and budget. The most basic S spec is rare, and aside from 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control and an electronic stability programme (ESP), wasn't particularly well appointed.
The Sport is more appealing, with its power-folding door mirrors, rear parking sensors (a boon, because the rear visibility isn’t great), stereo controls on the steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, tinted glass and a subwoofer for the stereo. Sport-T added Bluetooth connectivity and sat nav. Top-spec GT cars boast leather trim, heated front seats, automatic windscreen wipers and a panoramic glass roof.
Used Honda CR-Z alternatives
The bottom line is there aren’t any. There were a few small coupes available at the time, such as the Audi TT, Volkswagen Scirocco, Peugeot RCZ and Hyundai Veloster, but none of these were available as a hybrid. However, it’s not all bad if you’re looking to eke out every drop of fuel in a sporty coupe. While the Hyundai and Mazda are petrol-only, there are diesel versions of the TT, Scirocco and RCZ – all three of which offer more space than the CR-Z, too.
What to look for
Economy: While the Honda CR-Z claims 56mpg officially, most owners get around 45mpg, which is closer to what you’d achieve in one of its diesel alternatives.
Bootlid rattles: Some CR-Z owners report the bootlid rattling where the upper edge taps against the bodywork. Sticking draught excluder along the edge is a cheap and easy way of quieting things down.
Rear seats: The Honda CR-Z has two rear seats, but they’re only suitable for small children. Some owners have taken to folding the rear seats down to grow boot space from 225 to a reasonable 401 litres, treating the car as a two-seater.
Rear visibility: Dirt sticks to the lower section of the screen, and while the rear boot spoiler might improve aerodynamics and fuel economy, it obscures rear and rear three-quarter visibility. This is less of a problem on Sport, Sport-T and GT models, which come with rear parking sensors, although they don’t solve the blind spots that make joining dual-carriageways tricky.
Interior: The low-slung seating position means headroom is good, and adds to the sporty feel.
Honda CR-Z owners enjoy cheap road tax and low fuel bills. Servicing may cost a little more, as some independent garages may be reluctant to work on a hybrid. Service intervals are every 12 months or 12,500 miles, and the services alternate between minor and major. Owners don’t have to worry about changing the timing belt, as the CR-Z has a maintenance-free timing chain. However brake fluid needs replacing every three years/37,500 miles, and the coolant replaced at 10 years/125,000 miles (and five years/62,500 miles after that). Neither jobs will break the bank, though.
Only one Honda CR-Z recall was issued, affecting around 3,000 cars built between December 2009 and June 2011. Software bugs in the engine computer (ECU) could cause the car to move forward or backwards if it were to stall, but a simple software update cured the problem.
Too few Honda CR-Zs are on the road to gather reliable data to plot owner satisfaction, but Honda frequently scores strongly in our sister title Auto Express' Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.