The long list of upgrades to the 2013 Honda CR-Z address one of our main criticisms of the two-doorhybrid: lack of performance. Honda has imbued the car with slightly more power for the 2013 model year, as well as slightly improved fuel economy and more standard equipment.
If these revisions sound familiar, it's because Honda previously announced the exact same upgrades for European and Japanese versions of the CR-Z. Honda executives openly admit that sales of the sporty hybrid have been disappointing, not just stateside but also in Japan and Europe as well. The CR-Z is the slowest-selling Honda in the U.S., with sales down 64.7 percent to just 3705 units during the first ten months of this year. For now there is no confirmed plan to introduce a second-generation CR-Z, so Honda must try to stir up sales and maintain enthusiasm for the car by giving it a mid-cycle refresh.
Under the hood, a 144-volt lithium-ion battery replaces a 100.8-volt nickel metal hydride battery, allowing the car's electric motor to produce 15 kW instead of 10 kW. While there are no changes to the 1.5-liter inline-four gasoline engine, the increased motor output bumps the CR-Z's total power ratings from 122 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque to 130 hp and 140 lb-ft (models with a continuously variable transmission are limited to 127 lb-ft).
Other changes include a shorter final-drive ratio, a bigger clutch for manual-transmission models, and more aerodynamic front and rear fascias. All the tweaks conspire to improve fuel economy: the 2013 Honda CR-Z is rated at 36/39 mpg (city/highway) with a continuously variable transmission, an increase of 1 mpg in the city, while models with a six-speed manual transmission see highway mileage rise 1 mpg to 31/38 mpg.
There's also a new Plus Sport System, activated by a steering-wheel button marked S+. When the CR-Z's battery is more than 50 percent charged and the car is traveling above 19 mph, pushing the button provides an extra boost of acceleration for up to five seconds.
On the outside, Honda also upgraded the 2013 CR-Z with changes like a new mesh grille, a new lower front spoiler, chrome accents and blue tints for the headlights, and blue-tinted taillights. Passion Berry Pearl and Polished Metal Metallic join the color palette, the former exclusive to the CR-Z. The standard 16-inch alloy wheels now have a darker finish, while the optional 17-inchers are unchanged.
Honda dressed up the cabin with new metallic trim pieces, redesigned door panels, and an available red-and-black seat treatment. Bluetooth and a backup camera become standard, while LED running lights and an infotaiment with voice text messaging and Pandora internet radio join the options list.
The 2013 Honda CR-Z goes on sale November 21 from $20,765 (including a $790 destination charge) with a manual transmission, an increase of just $280 compared to the 2012 model. The CR-Z EX costs $22,455 (up $400) and the CR-Z EX with Navigation is $23,945 (up just $100). Adding a continuously variable transmission to any trim level costs $650.