With its razor-sharp looks, Honda's CR-Z concept coupe demonstrates that hybrid drivetrain tech can be stylishly clothed. Better still, company sources familiar with the now completed design of the 2010 production version, swear little has been changed for the assembly line. The only major change will be the car's transparent tail panels, which apparently proved too large and curvy for current plastic mass-production tech.
And the CR-Z could have performance to match its looks. The Formula One engine-tech experts left with nothing to do after Honda's February decision to withdrawn from Grand Prix racing weren't idle for long. Honda Europe sources say they were immediately reassigned to work on the company's ambitious hybrid development program.
The F1 engineers will have reasonable raw material to work with. Our sources say the petrol-electric CR-Z will have a 1.5-litre engine, rather than the 1.3-litre four of the new Insight or not-so-new Civic Hybrid.
The CR-Z engine will apparently be a hybrid-specific version of the Jazz's 1.5-litre (Insight's is based on the Jazz 1.3-litre, but has a completely different cylinder head).
To cement the car's sporty credentials, a six-speed manual transmission will be offered, although our sources aren't saying whether it's to be the only option or there's to be an auto, too.
But Honda knows that its relatively inexpensive IMA (for integrated motor assist) hybrid tech can't keep delivering efficiency improvements forever.
According to Insight's chief drivetrain engineer, Hiroshi Yoneguchi, the company is studying the alternatives closely. His personal opinion is that a series-hybrid system, like GM's for the Volt, offers the greatest potential...
Honda's hybrid plans
2009 Insight = affordable
2010 CR-Z = sporty
2011 Jazz Hybrid = mainstream