For sprinting around your neighborhood, the front strut-type suspension from the Fit has been upgraded with aluminum control arms, and disc brakes replace drums at the ends of the torsion-beam rear axle. The fast steering rack's electric power assist motor is 30 percent more robust than the Fit's, in the event you need to make repeated and hasty use of the CR-Z's teensy turning circle. Since the CR-Z weighs a bit less than an Insight and a touch more than a Fit, the implication of these upgrades is clear: this Honda is meant to be driven hard.
To that end, Honda took the Fit's gasoline engine and added the electric motor and IMA system found in the Insight. With some slight revisions to the intake plumbing that were necessary to clear the low hood, the 1.5-liter SOHC four-cylinder makes four fewer ponies than it does in the Fit, a total of 113 hp at 6000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. The electric motor adds as much as 13 hp (at 1500 rpm) and 58 lb-ft (from 1000 to 1500 rpm) for a total combined power output of 122 hp and 128 lb-ft.
That ain't much. Then again, with less than 2700 pounds to haul around, the CR-Z is lively -- and especially so with the manual transmission. A $650 CVT is available for video-game dorks -- replete with shift paddles that imitate seven fixed ratios -- but sorry, we say cool kids will still want a stick. Compared with the CVT, the six-speed manual costs this Honda 3 mpg on the EPA combined cycle (34 mpg overall versus 37 mpg), but the CR-Z is the only hybrid available with a clutch pedal, and we wouldn't dream of leaving that offer on the table.