CR-Z in the Market

The CR-Z is in the middle in many ways, including sportiness and mileage. At least Honda is pricing and positioning it in the middle, too. Though it's less efficient than other hybrids, it's also cheaper. It's more expensive than some sporty cars, but in those cases it's more efficient.

Potential competitors are an eclectic mix, and few match the CR-Z in more than one attribute. Among larger two-doors, the Civic's performance-oriented trim level, the Si, is close to $23,000 with the destination charge, and the Ford Mustang and Hyundai Genesis coupe start above $22,000.

The super-fun Mazda MX-5 Miata similarly comes nowhere near the CR-Z's mileage, and it starts at more than $23,000. With the retractable hardtop, which makes it more like a coupe, it's close to $28,000.

On some level, the two-door, 36-mpg-combined Smart ForTwo is a competitor, but ... don't make me laugh. (Smart ForTwo review.)

In my opinion, the CR-Z's greatest two-door competition comes from the Mini Cooper, modestly powered in base form at $19,500 with destination. With an EPA-estimated 32 mpg combined (manual) and 28 mpg (automatic), it's at least knocking at the CR-Z's door. For anyone who's willing to consider diesel, the Golf TDI delivers 34 mpg combined. It starts at $22,905 with destination, but a $1,300 tax credit knocks it down to $21,605.

Honda sold 20,000 CR-Zs in four months when it went on sale in Japan, but Japan is less power-hungry than the U.S. In some ways I think Honda would have been better off downplaying the hybrid aspect and presenting the CR-Z as an efficient little car that happens to be a hybrid. When shoppers hear "hybrid," I think they expect more — more mileage, or at least more space, seats or sportiness for the mileage the CR-Z offers.

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