We take the rejigged CRZ for a spin to the Southern Highlands

cvz honda 2014 (6)

Rejigged front diffuser

cvz honda 2014 (7)

S+ button for extra power, but only if you hold your tongue right and squint.

cvz honda 2014 (9)

White Stitching to contrast the black leather

cvz honda 2014 (10)cvz honda 2014 (8)cvz honda 2014 (11)

We’ve driven the CRZ many times and each has proved to be a delight. The steering, handling, brakes, and ride were all sharp as a tack. The looks appealed to anyone with a pulse. Especially in the early days, it got lots of looks which always made you feel a bit special. Sadly you don’t see many of them on the road, but then the same can be said of most hybrids. Pure electric cars are even rarer and the problem is price, but let’s put that aside for a moment and concentrate on the changes. For the full review of our first drive see here.

The revamp is mainly confined to the interior. There is only one trim level now. The base model has been banished and the range is now known only as the CR-Z. For me the major difference is the Satnav unit was only available in the top model, but the top model didn’t have a manual option. So now an auto (CVT) or manual can be selected. Satnav is standard and white contrasting stitching has been added to the leather. Outside, there are some revamped LEDs and diffuser at the front and a new power output of an un-neck-snapping 100KW. It’s a tidy package and every time I see it I’m reminded of how much I loved it the first time around.

Remember my trip to Melbourne last year? I took a CRZ full of gear on a two and a half thousand kilometre round trip just to see if it could be done comfortably. In fact it was very comfy indeed and I enjoyed it very much. You can fit a surprising amount in such a small coupe when you try.

This time our trip was confined to a quick run down the M5 to New South Wales’ Southern Highlands. The dying days of winter provided the last glimpses of naked branches but unseasonably warm weather has brought the spring flowers out early. There’s a lot to see. There are many of wineries in and around Bowral, so perhaps driving the whole time isn’t a good idea. That’s OK because there are also plenty of places to stay.

The place is full of picturesque tree-lined lanes and rolling green fields growing something unidentifiable to city folk. NSW is magnificent once you get off the highways and a personal sports coupe is just the way to see it.

My dear friend miss Rose came along for the ride. Miss Rose prodded the CR-Z’s nooks and crannies and she was impressed. She thought it was cute, if a little hard to get in and out of. It was nice to have someone see the Honda through new eyes. The day couldn’t have gone much better. We rolled into Berrima by late morning, but the crispness of the air on my previous visit the week before had evaporated. Instead, spring had sprung early. The day was about driving, but also about enjoying the beautiful surrounds. That is one of the many reasons people buy cars, and in particular, sports cars.

Berrima (1)

Berrima Court House

 

 

We took time to explore the town of 350 souls. Berrima was by-passed about 20 years ago when the gazillion lane highway was built, and the townsfolk were glad of it. It took a gorgeous roadside stop and turned it back into a village, and so it’s remained since. We had a quick drinks at the Surveyor General’s Inn, Australia’s oldest continually licensed pub, then took a stroll up the road. The courthouse is magnificent and evidence that Berrima once was bound for greatness, only to be bypassed by the railway. The massive sandstone prison was in use until only very recently.

Harper’s Mansion Berrima

Berrima honda crz (1)Berrima honda crz (2)Berrima honda crz (3)Berrima honda crz (4)Berrima honda crz (5)Berrima honda crz (6)Berrima honda crz (7)Berrima honda crz (8)Berrima honda crz (9)Berrima honda crz (10)Berrima honda crz (11)Berrima honda crz (12)Berrima honda crz (13)Berrima honda crz (14)

We stopped at Harper’s Mansion, once belonging to the police chief (nice work if you can get it) where a retired solicitor now volunteers. He saw us taking happy snaps of the CR-Z and asked us in. The gardens are a sensation and later in spring will be worth a second visit.

We then met an old chum of Miss Rose’s and repaired to her charismatic cosy country cottage for elevenses, which then became a late lunch. Sadly I was only able to have a few small glasses of wine but the surroundings were marvellous. Our host was slightly mad and the ramshackle cottage not much more than a melange of poorly executed additions, renovations, and improvements, but it was wonderful. Lunch drew to a close and we were once again heading through the town but this time taking the main road, not the more picturesque Old Hume Highway which had brought us here.

The ride felt much nicer, but the girls at Honda assure me that nothing has changed. Maybe it’s tyres, but whatever it was, I loved it. Once again the CR-Z was like a comfy shoe but despite the power increase of about 7KW (to 100KW) in the manual transmission model, I’d like to see much more if the CR-Z is to be truly considered a sports car. The Hybrid part notwithstanding, sports cars of this ilk have between 130 and 160kw and are around the same price. For example Toyota 86/ Subaru BRZ has 147kw and the top model is $40,000. It would be churlish of me not to mention VW’s fabulous Golf GTi for a few shekels more. It has around 150kw and has been a favourite for 20 years. You see, in order for the CR-Z to be taken seriously, it has to have performance to go along with its looks. It’s about now that some might argue that it’s the torque that’s important for off-the-mark nippiness, and so it is. The CR-Z has 190Nm which is available from lowdown because of the assistance of the electric motor but it’s not quite enough.

The S+ button is intended to give extra oomph but only works above 40kph with at least a certain amount of charge in the batteries. That isn’t what most people want. What they want is the ability to press a button for extra snap, and for that extra snap to be right there on tap ready to go.

Since the base model was dropped, the manual is now available in the “luxury” model, as it always should have been. As with all hybrids, the auto is in fact a CVT and CVT just doesn’t cut it in the sports car fraternity. I have suggested a tiny little turbo to my friends at Honda but they stand resolute that the power from an engine will come sans blowing. It’s a mistake because they are being left behind.

The newer batch of Hondas has benefited from an investment in technology, the type people can see and feel. Although I love the CR-Z’s infotainment system, it’s now fallen behind Honda’s own Accord which is superb.

The changes have been small with varying degrees of success. The CR-Z remains a fabulous car but desperately needs more power, or a price drop. The problem with a bank of batteries is they adversely affect the resale price, whether or not the batteries are in good nick. A second hand buyer may think they need to spend many thousands of dollars replacing the battery, and that’s true. It’s also true that in recent years the price of replacement battery packs has come down and can be had for as little as $1,500, but the sales figures speak for themselves.

I took a quick bitch through the market report the other day. It was interesting reading. It gives a full run down on sales figures, model numbers, and percentages sold each month, and for the year to date.

The problem is market share. Of the 90,235 vehicles sold last month, only 1,100 were hybrids. Pure Electric cars fared even worse selling a miserable 20 cars all up. The problem with any car with a boot full of batteries is the price. Some markets attract a government rebate for green initiatives which makes them more accessible. Car makers don’t seem to understand most buyers buy on price. None will pay over the odds for the value they perceive their vehicles to have. For example, a buyer in the USA will pay between $20,757 and $24,587 for their CR-Z, and in California receive a $7,500 rebate on top of that. In total the CRZ could cost as little as $13,257 and as a consequence many more are sold there. Here, there are no such incentives, and the CR-Z costs about $40,000 plus on-roads. $13k VS about $40k for the CRZ explains the slow sales of electric and hybrid models especially to the private market. Carmakers and governments should work together for the future of green transport.

A few suggestions might be:

Free stamp duty, free rego, subsidised insurance, cashback green-cars program and a discounted assured battery price replacement guarantee, with one or all being used.

Until something gives, all electric and hybrid cars remain expensive and out of the reach of most people. The batteries are the main concern to second hand buyers so the resale value has suffered too. Australia has been slow to take up the mantle Eco-crusader and price is the problem.

Advertisements

Tell us what you think. We promise to reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s