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Honda CR-Z Hybrid Refreshed for Japan

Minor updates don’t make the CR-Z any more enticing.

The Honda CR-Z has been a resounding disappointment following the excitement it garnered at the 2008 Detroit auto show. The car's familiar wedge-shaped look had most of us thinking we'd get a modernized Honda CRX, but the CR-Z failed to impress as either a performance hot hatch or a fuel-efficient hybrid, and U.S. sales have thus remained low. On sale since 2010, the Honda CR-Z will get a light refresh for the Japanese market, which could affect U.S. models as well.

A Honda spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment on which of the changes would come to the U.S.-market CR-Z.

Updates to the front and rear bumpers, front grille, and side sills give the Honda CR-Z a more muscular look, while LED headlights and turn signals provide a modern flair. Both 16- and 17-inch wheels aluminum wheels remain, but with sportier two-tone designs reminiscent of those on the Civic Si and refreshed Accord. New paint colors, including two-tone combinations with a black roof and trunk, help the CR-Z pop. Honda will also equip the CR-Z with an electronic parking brake, push-button start, and active sound control that can pump in engine noise through the speakers. Active automatic braking for rear-end collision prevention is also available.

Mechanical changes are limited to revised dampers and spring rates, and bigger brakes, but that's hardly enough to transform the hybrid's image. The Honda CR-Z seems doomed to remain an underpowered hatchback that's tries to be fun, practical, and economical, without succeeding much at any of these. The car's biggest upside is still its unbeatable six-speed manual transmission, but when cars like the Ford Fiesta ST exist for just about the same price, that's not enough to make it a real contender.

The last Honda CR-Z started at $20,935, with a 1.5-liter inline-four and electric motor good for 130 hp. Opting for the $5,495 HPD supercharger kit kicked output to 197 hp. Don't expect either of these to change much with this refreshed Honda CR-Z.