Honda's CR-Z was named the Car of the Year in Japan, with 406 votes against the 397 votes for Volkswagen's Polo, which took second place. However, it was a very tight fight, which some say was won by the narrowest margin in the annual award’s history. Waseda University Hall in Tokyo was the venue for the final voting.
VW’s Polo had been leading but then the final five members of the 60-member jury showed an overwhelming support for the CR-Z. When the announcement was made, all Honda staffers cheered, including the usually serious CR-Z chief engineer Norio Tomobe.
Third place went to Suzuki's Swift while the Peugeot RCZ came in fourth. While the VW model failed to take the top prize, it was recognized for its very strong display in the contest, which had long been dominated by local models.
The Polo won Import Car of the Year. The new 2011 Honda CR-Z has already started selling and has a starting retail price of $19,200, plus a destination and handling charge of $750.
This vehicle is powered by a 1.5-liter i VTEC 4-cylinder engine that delivers 102 hp and an electric motor that delivers 20 hp.
This indicates that the car boasts a total output of 122 hp and 128 lb-ft. of torque at 1,000 to 1,500 rpm (123 lb-ft on CVT-equipped models). The new CR-Z is offered in two equipment grades: the CR-Z (base) and the CR-Z EX.
The Honda CR-Z was an outcome of a project to build a sporty coupe suitable for the second decade of this century. Wholesome ingredients of lightweight construction, compact dimensions and aerodynamic design allowed the CR-Z to improve its performance while lowering its fuel consumption and emissions.
Interestingly, the new CR-Z offers a taste of the brand’s past, as seen through split level window and shallow sloping roof. These details are complemented by complex curves and deeply scalloped panels that were once impossible to mass produce a few years ago.
No thanks to increasing number of regulations and policies, modern car design – especially the shape of new models – has been constrained. At Honda, its designers and engineers were primarily challenged to maintain the sleek low bonnet design of the initial concepts, adopt the 1.5-liter engine with IMA system and comply with pedestrian impact requirements.
Thus, Honda's engineers and designers worked together to shorten the height of the engine and improve suspension and body hard points. These efforts allowed enough clearance for bonnet deformation.
Honda was able to enhance the car’s wide and low stance by employing an unusual one-piece grille that extends above and below the front bumper line. A key feature of the CR-Z’s "face", this one-piece grille is complemented by a pronounced raised area of the hood that flows up from the top line to the base of the windscreen. The front end of the new CR-Z is also marked by wide tapering headlights as well as daytime running lights extending to edges of the flared wheels arches.
Meanwhile, curvature at the edge of the windscreen features the greatest angle in any current Honda model. This curvature blends nearly seamlessly into the A-pillars and side windows, creating a wraparound effect made possible by the rain gutters integrated into the front pillars.
These integrated rain gutters dramatically reduced – by 50 percent -- the usual step between the edge of the windscreen and the A-pillar, resulting to aerodynamic advantages (reduced turbulence) as well as visual benefits. The integrated appearance is emphasized by the gloss black surface finish of the A-pillars, resulting to the impression of a single piece of glass.
Since this wraparound screen has the A-pillars positioned further back in the side profile, the bonnet seems longer and lower in appearance. Curving the glass around the sides of the CR-Z allowed for greater forward visibility, thereby increasing the levels of safety and enthusiastic driving.