Gran Turismo is used loosely to refer to just about anything designed to cover distances rapidly. Modern GTs are lighter, more fuel-efficient, and more innovative, but nowhere near as stylish as their predecessors. Still, with smaller engines providing double the efficiency, it’s not all bad.
Our Big Test contenders are modern interpretations of the GT, using different formulas to achieve the desired result. First up, the Honda CR-Z, meant to be a reset button for the affordable daily-driver-cum-weekend-warrior. Originally, the plan was to power it with Honda’s high-revving naturally aspirated K20 engine instead of the hybridized L15 mill from the Jazz/City, but there wasn’t enough crumple zone in the front end as per current crash regulations. The K20 does fit, however, as many modifiers in Japan and the USA have proven.
That said, the reset part is due to the CR-Z’s ability to use a small engine (even in this segment) mated to an electric motor that provides the added oomph when needed. It makes a paltry 135hp and 170Nm, but thanks to the e-motor, almost instantaneous maximum torque is accessed very low down the rev range. It feels like there’s an extra 50Nm, plus another 20hp or so. The experience is akin to that provided by a lightly boosted engine with a small turbo hanging by the exhaust manifold.
And this is what Honda means to provide: a new way of balancing the ‘small engine, big power, high volumetric efficiency’ equation. Alas, today’s generation wants larger doses of instant power, not engineering geekery.
Inside, the CR-Z has the better overall interior: simpler and less gimmicky, with superior materials. The seats aren’t as supportive as the Veloster’s, but they’re just as comfortable. My two complaints? First, the roofline is really low to provide a more aerodynamic shape. Second, the pedals are oddly angled, which can make long drives very tiring.
On the highway, the CR-Z feels decently fast. The Active Noise Control and Active Sound Control either cancel out or magnify engine noise to enhance the aural experience. In Econ and Normal modes, engine noise is dialed down; in Sport, it’s enhanced by the system. Too gimmicky for you? More impressive is the car’s precision and accuracy on winding roads. The suspension is firm, but there’s no torque steer, and the tires and dampers have all the compliance you need to soak up small, high-frequency bumps.
Body control is excellent, too, when cornering hard. Instead of using more power to slingshot you out of corners (something the Veloster relies on heavily), the CR-Z allows far more cornering speed through the twisty bits, thus delivering quicker and faster travel or lap times.
SPECS: Honda CR-Z 1.5 CVT
Engine: 1.5-liter SOHC I4 + 20hp electric motor
Power: 133hp @ 6,600rpm
Torque: 171Nm (combined)
Transmission: continuously variable
UP NEXT: Hyundai Veloster