Honda is a brand synonymous with performance and innovative technology. So one can just imagine my elation when some officers at Honda Cars Philippines Inc delivered the Honda CRZ hybrid a day before my birthday recently.” Sir, have fun with the CRZ this weekend. Sorry, we did not have the time to wrap it,” Mitch Malto, marketing officer at Honda, said in jest.
What immediately caught my eye is the clench-fist styling of the front end, and the huge “Mugen” sticker emblazoned on its side. A closer inspection of the test unit and a quick call to HCPI confirmed that this specific test unit has been prepped by the go-fast guys of Mugen Japan. “It’s the only Mugen CRZ here in the country,” says Malto. It’s got tons of Mugen accessories starting with the suspension system, lightweight wheels, full exhausts, interior bits like the shift knob, carpets, wrap around body kit and rear deck spoiler.
My enthusiasm waned a bit when I discovered that the car’s combined gasoline and electric motor only had 122 bhp. For a car that looks excitingly fast with a good chassis and Mugen bits thrown into the mix deserves more power. Maybe I am missing the point here. What Honda wanted lead footed motoring hacks to realize and experience is one can go considerably fast, yet be environment friendly at the same time.
While familiarizing myself with the CRZ, I noticed three buttons on the upper left side of the dashboard panel; Normal, Eco and Sport. Since I was up in the hills of Tanay, Rizal, I flicked the “Sport” button, and the CRZ transformed into a totally different mechanical beast. Mugen cleverly utilized the power train as a starting block, keeping the fundamental characteristics of the car and tuned the car by strengthening the internals, tweaked the ECU and exhaust system to ensure it works harmoniously with the 14hp electric engine and voila, more horsepower were given to the car on tap. Although the electric motor provides a small percentage of the total torque, the kick comes in at 1500 rpms when in “Sport” mode. It was a blast when the CRZ’s sport mode is engaged. Fun can be had at every corner and straight line drive.
It may not be as powerful as the Civic SiR or Type R, but the CRZ commands respect and approval in terms of handling and drivability. Apart from looking the part, the exhaust notes emanating from the triangular shaped Mugen muffler had a subtle rumble to it. Fellow motorists and onlookers were snapping away with their camera phones as I drove by.
Due to government restrictions, Honda is not certain if they will introduce the CRZ into the domestic market. But if ever the Hybrid Law is enacted, the pricing of all hybrid vehicles will be drastically reduced by as much as P500,000. For now, driving the CRZ and other hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius will be a little bit prohibitive although insiders reveal that Honda might just launch the standard CRZ in the market. It should be an auspicious start.