'BRAVE. Yes, that's it. It's a brave car to bring out." This was my response to the marketing executive's query when I was handing back the Honda CR-Z hybrid after a week's test.
It's always difficult being asked what you think of a car by the people charged with distributing and selling it. But as they are the ones who have made it available to you in the first place they deserve to know.
In a way I was being polite because at so many levels the CR-Z doesn't pass muster. It's rear visibility is absolutely appalling because of a crazily-split backscreen, the rear seats are suitable for little more than a dog and a coat, and the overall effect inside the car is of a muddle built around a very fetching fascia with starship backlit lighting on the instruments.
The front seats just don't give the promised support. More importantly was the fact that despite a very attractive outside appearance, the car cannot deliver performance to match the striking looks. Its overtaking ability -- or rather lack of it -- verges on the downright dangerous for a car with sporty pretensions.
I kept thinking of the Fats Waller song All that meat and no potatoes; It just ain't right.
I have been a great fan of Honda cars and think that the Jazz is one of the finest superminis around. The company's name for engineering prowess has given it a great head of steam but maybe it has now slightly lost its way as it tries constantly to move up market and compete head on with the premium sector.
Honda is in danger of being much squeezed.
The CR-Z -- which claims styling cues from the famed CR-X, Lotus Elise and VW Sirocco -- is incredibly light and runs on a mixture of electric motor and 1.5 litre petrol engine. It has won a rake of design and environmental awards it doesn't deserve as well as being voted the current Japanese car of the year. It isn't a full hybrid and cannot drive at all on the electric motor and batteries alone. Yet its lightness and power mixture puts it into the lowest group for emissions with consequent savings in VRT and road tax. However, it doesn't qualify for the €2,500 hybrid rebate. The i-VTEC engine does promise good economy but I found it surprisingly thirsty and there are lot more frugal cars out there that have not gone the hybrid route.
You can play around with three driving modes -- normal, sport and econ -- of which the middle gives the best driving response. There's a lot of nice touches around the CR-Z, which has prices starting at €26,630, including the option of a panoramic roof but they just succeed in making it more of a muddle. It is neither fish nor fowl. Brave, but nowhere near a cigar.