Honda's CRX is something of a legend, one of those cars about which everyone seems to have memories. Fond memories at that, usually involving an ultracool college-age dude who drove the wheels off one. The first-generation Honda Insight, on the other hand, is a car that the in crowd probably doesn't even remember, but it was pure dork delight. With an aluminum unibody, it was the first hybrid to reach the U.S. and posted the highest EPA combined fuel economy number of all time: 53 mpg (49/61 mpg city/highway).
And now we have the 2011 Honda CR-Z, which could be a new CRX-except for the fact that it's a hybrid. So, is the Honda CR-Z a hot hatch for the hip crowd or a fuel economy dork's hypermiling wet dream?
Well, the CRX's influence is not only obvious in the CR-Z's name (which stands for Compact Renaissance Zero) but also in its truncated tail and horizontally split rear window. The triangular taillights bear a strong family resemblance to Honda's current (and pretty dorky) Insight, but the CR-Z is lower, wider, and certainly cooler. The upswept character lines and the C-pillar suggest motion even when the car is parked, but the long front overhang can't mask the Honda's economy-car roots.
The CR-Z shares its basic architecture with the Fit and the Insight, but it rides on a wheelbase that is shorter than either car's. The CR-Z is an inch shorter overall than the Fit but is almost two inches wider and more than five inches lower. Surprisingly, headroom is generous even for tall people, since the seats are mounted low.
Inside, the CR-Z is best described as "futuristic busy," with a multicontoured dashboard that has more angles and textures -- and storage cubbies -- than all four generations of CRXs and Insights put together. Secondary controls are located in symmetrical pods on either side of Honda's smallest-diameter steering wheel, which, on top-spec EX models, is wrapped in blue-stitched black leather and freckled with enough buttons to control a spaceship.