Honda’s introduce the CR‑Z hybrid 2+2 coupe. Car & Driver calls it a spiritual successor to the popular CR‑X sports car from the eighties and nineties, and the Insight a few years back. I don’t buy it, especially considering how different the three cars are.

It’s not a bad looking car, but it’s nothing to marvel at either.

What really makes me wonder is the fuel economy. It’s estimated at 7.6 litres/100 km city and 6.4 litres/100 km highway (31 mpg city/37 mpg highway). This is from a gasoline/electric hybrid system with a combined output of 122 bhp and 128 lb-ft of torque. What the horsepower figure means depends on the car’s weight, but the torque is looking good. The best thing I see about the CR‑Z is that it comes with a 6‑speed manual transmission.

As a point of comparison, let’s go back to the 1989 Honda CR‑X. When it was introduced in 1983, it you could choose between a 1.3 litre or 1.5 litre engine. Later, a more efficient 1.5 litre engine replaced the 1.3, and the model was called the CR‑X HF, for high fuel economy.

The 1989 Honda CR‑X HF had an EPA fuel economy rating of 5.7 litres/100 km city and 4.7 litres/100 km highway (41 mpg city/50 mpg highway). Remember that this is 1989. It’s certainly no gasoline/electric hybrid. It didn’t even require premium gas.

Part of the reason the CR‑X is so efficient is that it’s a two-seater, allowing it to be smaller and carry less mass. Another factor is that the CR‑X HF delivered only 62 hp. The current gasoline-powered Smart ForTwo does better with 70 hp, but the CR‑X HF would be more fun to drive with its 90 lb-ft of torque versus the Smart’s 68 lb-ft.

At first, I was astonished that the CR‑X HF was 32% more efficient than the coming CR‑Z, but I can see the compromises they made are responsible for the disparity. Yes, stricter emission and safety standards play a part, but they decided to double the number of people it can carry and double the power. Certainly that’s going to have an effect on the fuel economy, hybrid or not.

Photo courtesy American Honda Motor Co., Inc.