Honda’s new CR-Z is not Prius-like. All of its green tech takes a back seat to performance and style.
Honda CR-Z will probably become the coolest small car in the world in 2009. We love Honda’s CR-Z already, even though this motor show car is only a “concept” right now. You’ll see a real car very soon – it’ll be on sale in Europe late in 2009, before being rolled out worldwide the next year.
CR-Z stands for “Compact Renaissance Zero” – the start of the hybrid renaissance – and Honda says that this concept is a “design research model of a lightweight hybrid sports car”.
It’s a good idea and a very good “model”, because it is very close to how the finished car will look. Forget the space-age interior you see here and take away some of the exterior details, like the front and rear main lights and driving lights, some of the bumper and grille-details, wing mirrors and wheels – and here it is. The glass area and body panels are pretty much as the production car will be, a modern interpretation of the classic CR-X coupe shape. It’s a tiny, tight, beautiful, quick-looking car.
Honda boss Takeo Fukui says that he expects hybrid cars to make up 10% of Honda’s global sales by 2010. It means nearly 400 000 hybrids a year.
The real trick is making the cars desirable in themselves, capturing the potential buyer's imagination on more than just a green level, then having the hybrid tech almost as an added bonus. And here Honda is the leader. No doubt other manufacturers like Toyota will jump on that bandwagon once Honda has proved there's a market for it.
Look at earlier Honda hybrids - original Insight and Civic IMA - and the tech was wrapped up in one model at a time. Soon we'll have four to choose from: Jazz hybrid, Civic hybrid, new Insight hatch and CR-Z coupe.
This sporty CR-Z is surely the most interesting of the new hybrid breed. It'll be effective and clean in town, and fast and nimble out of it. If the Honda company understands it - and it almost certainly will - a clean, light, quick and good-looking hybrid is surely going to attract some buyers.
Don't expect the car to be fitted with a Civic Type R 2.0-litre iVTEC engine. It almost certainly won't need it. The instant torque given by the small electric motor between the petrol engine and the transmission should give it plenty of fizz, and let's hope Honda can ramp it up. Think instant, available electric torque and very precise throttle response rather than massive power - if you've ever driven a dodgem car, you'll remember that initial burst of acceleration. That, multiplied by 50, should be entertaining, shouldn't it? And with batteries under the boot, the centre of gravity should be low enough to keep the handling sharp too.
Honda's Integrated Motor Assist hybrid tech has the advantage of being low-cost and simple as well as light. And as the name suggests, the electric motor is there to help the petrol engine. It never runs on electric power alone, unlike the Prius. That set-up should lead to a more naturally sporting drive, especially if it's linked to a quick manual transmission.
This car will cost less than £15,000 when it goes on sale in the UK next year, which undercuts Prius by £4,000. That bodes well for the CR-Z.
In the pause between concept and production – look at these photos, think of old CR-Xs and how sharp and high-revving they were, and think of the future. Honda will prove that clean hybrid cars need not be dull. The CR-Z will rev freely and deliver entertaining fizz when you need it, while drinking very little fuel when you don't. Feeling guilty about your high-performance coupe? Not any more.
Bill Thomas, Top Gear
Fill in the table:
Earlier Honda hybrids
Characteristics / Qualities
Think a bit and try to answer the following questions:
What is hybrid?
Why is it called green tech? What is meant by “green level”?
Does Bill Thomas find Honda CR-Z positive or negative? Why? Give arguments.
What is his opinion about Toyota?
What does Honda boss Takeo Fukui expect?
What is the difference between the “concept” car and the production car?
Why will the new Honda be attractive for buyers?
Would you buy Honda CR-Z? Why?
Give the explanations for the following words and word-expressions in English:
production car –
to be on sale
to roll out
to stand for
to take away
to jump on bandwagon
to wrap up
Модель, концепт, идея
Быть в продаже
Развёртывать (о производстве, торговле)
Ирон. Примкнуть к победителям
to be fitted with
to ramp sth. up
to feel guilty
Быть оснащённым ч-л
Электрический автомобильчик (аттракцион)
Тех. Башмак (тормоз)
Зд. исключительно, лишь
Работать на повышенных оборотах; оборот двигателя
Чувствовать себя виноватым
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