And it is now a used bargain.
Ever since the Honda del Sol (also known as the CR-X del Sol) went out of production in 1998, we've heard countless rumors of its inevitable return. By the end of the late 2000s, it seemed like a guarantee the CR-X would finally get a replacement called the CR-Z. This was fantastic news for enthusiasts - a lightweight, front-wheel-drive, manual transmission sports coupe with an affordable price tag and fabled Honda reliability would finally grace the US once again.
When the CR-Z finally arrived in 2010, it wasn't what enthusiasts expected. Not even close. The del Sol exited production with 160 horsepower in the US and even more than a decade later, the CR-Z didn't match its predecessor on output. Instead of building an affordable sports car for the masses, Honda created a car both the enthusiasts and eco-maniacs never truly loved. Honda finally put the CR-Z out of its misery in 2016 and even though it wasn't great at the time, we think there is tremendous value in a used example.
So if the CR-Z was such a failure, why would we recommend getting a used one? While it was never the perfect car for enthusiasts, we think there could be a market for a heavily unloved and depreciated hybrid that doesn't look bland like a Prius or a second-generation Insight. This could be the perfect used car for a college student on a budget, who can't quite afford a used Mustang or Subaru BRZ, and needs to make frequent trips back and forth home on the weekends. We always thought the CR-Z looked cool and it was one of the few hybrid vehicles in the US market to offer a manual transmission.
The CR-Z was never an expensive car with a starting price of $19,950 when it debuted in 2010. But today, examples with over 100,000 miles can be picked up for just over $5,000. This is an incredible price for a frugal vehicle with a strong track record for reliability. You can even find a certified pre-owned 2016 example for around $16,000. Honda's CPO program includes a seven-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and a four-year/48,000-mile limited warranty from the date of manufacture but even an out-of-warranty example should be reliable.
As mentioned, the CR-Z's performance is not blistering with a small 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine under the tiny snout. The engine produces 111 hp on its own (112 hp with the manual transmission) and an additional 14 hp from the electric motor for a total of 121 hp. Power was later upped to 130 hp in 2012 and the sprint to 60 mph took around 8.5 seconds. Fuel economy was better on CVT-equipped models but the six-speed manual was the transmission of choice for enthusiasts.
Honda wanted the CR-Z to feel peppy but its main goal was fuel efficiency. The EPA rates the manual model at 31/37 mpg city/highway while CVT models can hit up to 35/39 mpg city/highway. These ratings put it near the top of fuel economy ratings at the time but its distant predecessor, the CR-X HF, was actually rated higher at 41/49 mpg city/highway. Honda also sold a supercharged Mugen variant with nearly 200 hp, but only 300 were built exclusively for the Japanese market. Like most Honda cars, there is a healthy aftermarket available for the CR-Z if you want to make it faster.
The CR-Z's interior blends standard Honda design elements with radical, futuristic styling. The gauge cluster, in particular, has a retrofuturism vibe looking back on it in 2019. Honda also went outside of the box with driver-centric controls, much like an S2000. The climate controls and drive modes flank the steering wheel on either side, leaving little but two air vents for the passenger to look at. Infotainment is handled by either a basic head unit or a Honda navigation system on upper trim levels. Even the NAV system is a bit dated by 2019 standards but could easily be replaced by an aftermarket unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Honda originally wanted the CR-Z to have a 2+2 seating arrangement but North American-spec models had a rear seat delete, leaving an odd storage area that can be folded down to create a passthrough to the hatch.
The CR-Z may be small but if offers impressive practically. We wish Honda hadn't ditched the rear seats in the US but the trunk still offers 25.1 cubic feet of storage with the rear divider up. Honda never listed space with the rear divider folded but cargo capacity increases tremendously when it's down. Few two-seat cars offer the same amount of practicality as the CR-Z, making it a livable daily driver.
Like the CrossTour and the Acura ZDX, the CR-Z was an unmitigated failure for Honda. But Honda's misstep can now be your gain as used CR-Z prices have plummeted to the point where they make a great first car for young enthusiasts who want to drive a manual but have parents who don't want them to have a fast car. The CR-Z will never be a speed demon but it can be upgraded and customized on the aftermarket to suit the owner's personality. Kids will love the sporty styling and manual transmission while parents will love the Honda reliability and nearly 40 mpg.
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