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Honda CR-Z pictured here is close to production model  (Source: Autoblog)
CR-Z hybrid sport coupe will debut in Japan in February

Hybrid automobiles are all the rage right now with consumers looking to save at the pump and become more eco-friendly. The clear leader in the hybrid realm is still Toyota with its Prius, but for car enthusiasts that like sporty vehicles, the Prius is hardly appropriate.

In September, Honda pulled the wraps off its revamped CR-Z hybrid sports coupe concept. The vehicle is designed to remind of the CR-X that was popular in the 1980's to 1990's for Honda. Honda was vague about the details of the vehicle when it revealed the concept car other than to report the car was only 161 inches long and would use a 1.5-liter i-VETEC 4-cylinder with Honda's IMA hybrid power train. The car is pegged to sell in the $19,000 to $25,000 range.

Autoblog reports that Honda has confirmed that the CR-Z will be coming to the U.S. in the fall of 2010 with a six-speed manual transmission. The vehicle should be the first hybrid vehicle to hit the states sporting a 6-speed manual transmission. Autoblog also notes that the images seen here of the concept are close to what the production vehicle will look like.

The LED lighting will likely change slightly and the mirrors will likely grow. As for official specifications for the powertrain, pricing, and performance; Honda offers no details at this point. The vehicle is set to go on sale in Japan in February so details should be coming around that time.

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By Drag0nFire on 10/21/2009 11:10:29 AM , Rating: 3
How does a manual hybrid work?

Is there a clutch? Is there regenerative braking? If I engine brake, do I lose that energy?

RE: Confused
By Brandon Hill on 10/21/2009 11:15:18 AM , Rating: 2
The first gen Insight Hybrid had a 5-speed stick:

More info:

RE: Confused
By twhittet on 10/21/2009 11:15:54 AM , Rating: 2
I was wondering that too - and I haven't really seen much info on it before. Anyone who knows what they're talking about want to explain a hybrid with a manual transmission?

RE: Confused
By Iridium130m on 10/21/2009 11:28:33 AM , Rating: 4
I had a manual insight for a couple of weeks as a rental. Because the IMA motor is paired to the gas engine before the clutch, you had to be very deliberate in not pushing in the clutch when coming to stops in order to regen and push it in at the last moment possible to not stall the gas motor.

This was a habit that I managed to get into with even my V6 6 speed accord...i had found a fuel flow diag screen on the Navi, and at 0 throttle with the clutch still out a decelerating, the ecm cut the fuel off completely to the motor until around 1200 revs. If I put in the clutch while coming to a stop, the motor would idle and use fuel while decelerating. The technique was probably good for around half an mpg saved in stop and go traffic.

The thing I really did like about the manual insight vs. my CVT Civic hybrid is I could put it into higher gears faster and force the electric motor to do more work. The downside to this was people were frying batteries rapidly, so honda squashed this with CVT setups. I'd be curious how this car will behave and how the insight with the manu-matic behaves if you try to lug the gas motor and force the electric to assist...

RE: Confused
By FITCamaro on 10/21/2009 12:46:21 PM , Rating: 2
I engine brake every day when driving around. Granted I don't row up through the gears. If I'm slowing down from 50 I just leave it in 4-5th until about 25-30 mph and then coast to a stop, using brakes as needed.

If nothing else I love the sound of my exhaust. ;)

RE: Confused
By Samus on 10/21/2009 11:41:38 AM , Rating: 5
I drove an Insight with a 5 speed back in 2000. I remember it being pretty fast off the line, mostly because of the electric motor assist.

Basically how the clutch works is it has a number of position sensors. It has a depression sensor to indicate you're foot is resting on it and about to push it in (also deactivates cruise control,) an angle sensor to measure deflection so the motor doesn't bog when lifting and to prepar the petrol engine to deliver power (i'll explain because this part is interesting) and a floor sensor to indicate the pedal is fully pressed.

All of these sensors are important, because collectively they can accurately gauge clutch activity. The reason its important is because a clutch with a hybrid drivetrain is pretty complicated, which is why nobody has ever done it other than Honda. The Honda family have always loved the sport of autocross, and the S2000 is just a fine example of an excellent autocross vehicle.

Anyway, as soon as you push the clutch beyond 10%, the initial depression sensor has always woken on the ICE system and as soon as the angle sensor detects you're going to the floor it wakes up the motor. Basically the motor has to be running for the clutch to work because the clutch is directly linked to the drivetrain of the ICE (the IMA system assists the drivetrain AFTER the transmission as the motors are 'clutchless' or gearless. They don't go through the transmission.

In theory, the car could travel about 40mph or whatever the motors are rated at without the transmission in gear, because they are completely independent of the gearbox.

This is how the old Insight worked, and I assume this is how the CRZ works, because its impractical to put the car in gear with the ICE off, lift the clutch pedal and have it go nowhere. Electric motors obviously don't idle. It sounds cool until you consider the situation of the ICE being on at a standstill, and you being used to putting it in gear and having the vehicle not move forward as in a motor-assist only situation, but all the sudden having the car jump forward when you're not expecting it because the motor is running.

Either Honda would have to make an idle-simulation program for the electric motors or make sure the ICE is always off at a stand still, to have the system behave any other way. I doubt they've taken either of these approaches as they will have severe impacts on fuel economy, and defeat the one great thing about hybrids which is they turn the engine at low speed.

Hope that makes sense. That's how I understand the technology works from driving one of the original Insights.

RE: Confused
By Alexstarfire on 10/21/2009 1:26:01 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting, but it sounds quite painful to have to drive a manual hybrid. Maybe not literally, but figuratively.

RE: Confused
By walk2k on 10/21/2009 2:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not really, it's exactly the same as driving a normal manual, only you want to use engine braking a little bit more if you're driving for economy, but a good manual driver always uses engine braking for the same reason (and to save wear on the brakes).

RE: Confused
By Atheist Icon on 10/21/2009 5:19:18 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand the use of engine braking unless you are going down a steep grade because you could cause brakes to fail if you used them constantly. I have only used the engine as a brake when I am trying to lock up the rear tires to initiate a powerslide.

I would rather replace the brakes every 5k miles than replace the clutch every 30k.

RE: Confused
By walk2k on 10/21/2009 7:10:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well in a hybrid, engine braking regens the battery so it's very effective.

In a normal car it's still a good idea because the ECU shuts off fuel to the engine. If you shift to neutral instead the engine still requires minimum fuel to idle. It can increase your MPG by a couple % - not alot but it's basically "free" braking and doesn't wear the pads/rotors.

I don't know what you mean about the clutch, engine braking shouldn't wear the clutch, unless it's slipping or something... It may wear transmission gears a bit more, but not very much under normal driving. During extreme driving (like racing, downshifting before a corner, very high RPMs etc) it can cause gears to fail, but if you're racing you're probably used to tearing things apart and replacing bits anyway.

RE: Confused
By Samus on 10/21/2009 7:19:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't understand the use of engine braking

All you need to understand is when you engine brake, you don't use any fuel. When you idle, you do.

I would rather replace the brakes every 5k miles than replace the clutch every 30k.

What does engine braking have to do with clutch life? The only time you have clutch wear is during positive engagement. Engine braking doesn't involve changing gears...just stay in gear while slowing down (even if its a low gear) and take it out of gear as you stop.

RE: Confused
By Iridium130m on 10/21/2009 9:32:59 PM , Rating: 2
couple of thoughts...
in a isn't engine the current honda 1.3L engine, during deceleration, and in electric only mode, VTEC closes the valves completely to minimize engine compression and maximize regeneration.
in the non hybrid situation, i wouldn't make it a point to down shift from whatever gear I was in, only if I was in 4, 5 or 6th would I really leave the clutch out while slowing down. I would agree that dropping it to say 2nd at 40 mph would be hard on the drive train (and generally didn't reward me with fuel cut off in the V6 or regen in the insight cause the computer knew i was being stupid).

CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By chromal on 10/21/2009 10:50:34 AM , Rating: 4
oooh. Let the CRZ reassure people who fear that hybrids are the death of awesome manual transmissions, though the new CVT auto transmissions are a great tech and more efficient (!) than an averagely-operated manual tranny, people who love driving still love the feel of clutched manuals...

I wonder if you could start the engine by popping the clutch, like on my 98 civic hatchback...

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By walk2k on 10/21/2009 1:03:42 PM , Rating: 2
It's clutch-by-wire isn't it? Anyway I don't think there would be any point since if the starter-battery is dead you could still use the IMA to start it.

I'd like to see more details on the drivetrain. Is it strictly FF? What kind of differential? Or will they go with something fancier like the SH-AWD system (electronic center diff with twin clutch rear LSD)?

I'd like to see the concept system Honda showed a few years ago in the NS-X hybrid. This is where the gas motor drives the rear wheels and the electric drives the front. But I doubt they will go that way for the much lower priced CR-Z.

Then there's the suspension, the new Insight uses a front Mac-strut and rear torsion bar setup, for simplicity and reduced weight, but it's not a very well handling setup, particularly the rear torsion bar. Will the CR-Z get a fully independent front rear? Or Mac strut front/independent rear?

Of course I'd really love to see an all-gas version of this with the K20A from the Civic/Integra Type R.. Wow that would really move!

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By Suntan on 10/21/2009 1:09:54 PM , Rating: 2
If you would, please point to one instance where the advertised MPG numbers for a CVT model gets better fuel numbers than a comparably equiped model with a manual.


RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By Alexstarfire on 10/21/2009 1:31:38 PM , Rating: 2
You probably can't find one because it seems he's talking more about hybrids. Haven't had a manual hybrid and a CVT hybrid of the same model yet, that I'm aware of anyway. It's either manual/CVT all gas, or manual or CVT hybrid, but not both.

Seems to me that while it might be possible to get better mileage in a manual hybrid, which is hard to compare to ATM, that the batteries in CVTs will last longer since they have more control over the SOC of the battery. Only manual hybrid mentioned is the original Insight, but it has no car to compare to since it's a lot lighter and smaller than most cars, especially all the current hybrids.

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By Steve1981 on 10/21/2009 2:03:12 PM , Rating: 3
Nissan Versa

CVT: 28/34
Manual: 26/31

Nissan Sentra

CVT: 26/34
Manual: 24/31

Subaru Legacy

CVT: 23/31
Manual: 19/27

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/22/2009 7:53:39 AM , Rating: 2
Toyota Camry I4 2.4L Manual

Toyota Camry Hybrid 2.4L CVT
33/34 - I get 38 overall in mine.

Is that what you meant?

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By mm2587 on 10/23/2009 1:18:09 AM , Rating: 2
as long as your in the midwest. Here in Pittsburgh with our hills the damn cvt sentra is getting 22 mpg. My buddy with a spec V sentra with a 6sp manual averages 26mpg with the same driving habbits. Both are 2008 models, his comes with a larger and supposedly less fuel efficient engine.

The sentra has a handy little mpg read out. You can watch it drop like a rock the second you ask the thing to climb a hill. The cvt is constantly choosing the wrong gearing and rpm. I can't stand it

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By Keeir on 10/21/2009 4:39:34 PM , Rating: 2
Or how about the 2010 VW Golf? Both for the 2.5 and the TDI the Auto gets slightly better than the manual, despite a good 50 lbs of extra wieght.

I think the issue is that Automakers can tune thier CVTs and Automatics to drive "perfect" through the EPA testing cycles. Manuals will always be the more efficient gearbox, but its takes a skilled driver to use one.

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By Samus on 10/21/2009 7:39:32 PM , Rating: 2
CVT vehicles will often get better fuel economy since the engine computer is tuned differently, usually with significantly less torque. Often times, different engines entirely are used for CVT applications. Understand that a CVT is basically a starting gear, with the remaining 'gears' made up of two cones and a band. A band. As in overdrive band. If anybody has had an overdrive fail, they're probably aware they aren't reliable in high-torque applications. Now imagine the same technology being used for much higher gears, with much higher torque.

I haven't seen a vehicle with more than 150 lb/ft torque with a CVT. The VL300 CVT transmission is the only high torque CVT in production and it handles 205 lb/ft torque, but is for heavy duty applications (quite large) and very expensive.

The manual counter-parts of all the vehicles you listed I'm sure are A) faster and B) have substantially more power. It's an apples to oranges comparison. CVT's are made for saving fuel. Manual's still get better fuel economy than conventional slushboxes but are mostly benificial because of simplicity, reduced weight, low cost, ability to push-start, improved safety/control, engine braking and overall reliability. They are obviously more fun for those that care about driving, too :P

*on the topic of engine braking...I've built many car engines over the years, and rebuilt more. Engines tied to manual transmissions are consistantly cleaner (specifically, the head; valves) because engine braking creates a vacuum that sucks crap out through the exhaust that normally isn't sucked out in any other condition.

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By Keeir on 10/21/2009 8:18:52 PM , Rating: 2

I listed no CVTs at all.

But I am afraid you are quite wrong about CVTs in some respects.

Nissan has CVTs with both the 180 ft-lb I4 and the 258 ft-lb V6 in the Altima.

Audi pairs it "Multi-tronic" CVT to engines up to its 2.0T I4 which is again 258 ft-lbs of Torque. Audi's Multitronic actually goes up to 300 ft-lbs.

But since this whole treat is "CVTs are more (fuel) efficient than Manual" I choose to address those issues. Not only are CVTs advertised as more (fuel) efficient in EPA testing, Some other types of Automatic transmissions are also now more efficient in EPA testing.

CVTs should be slower, but its almost impossible to find good comparison models.

RE: CRX is dead, long live CRZ
By ND40oz on 10/22/2009 6:08:58 PM , Rating: 2
The TDI's don't have an option for an auto, they get a 6 speed or a DSG. So either way you have a gear box that's directly connected to the engine, in one, you're operating the clutch, in the other the computer is operating both clutches, the computer and dual clutches come out ahead in the fuel efficiency department.

I believe the 6 speed tiptronic in the 2.5 has a torque converter that allows earlier lockup, which boosts efficiency. Most of VW/Audi tiptronics have moved to this in the past few years.

Hybrid belongs in sport cars
By werfu on 10/21/2009 10:53:58 AM , Rating: 3
Rapid acceleration and deceleration is perfect for hybrid engine. The linear torque of the electrical engine also give a nice boost over acceleration. I think its a matter of time before we start to see other hybrid sport cars.

RE: Hybrid belongs in sport cars
By dajeepster on 10/21/2009 11:19:54 AM , Rating: 2
they already have it in motorcycles :D

By Freezebyte on 10/21/2009 5:27:29 PM , Rating: 2
Lame!! I wanted a god damn automatic Honda! Some of us hate shifting in inner city stop and go traffic, no matter how much gas we save!

Screw it, I might be getting a Prius after all and I'm a Honda fanboy. Damnit......

Who will buy this?
By corduroygt on 10/21/2009 2:28:27 PM , Rating: 1
It's slower, less practical, and less fun to drive than a civic si, or a regular civic coupe for that matter, for the same price or higher. More performance minded people will buy the new Hyundai genesis coupe, or a used GTO/RX-8 instead of this.

This car's purpose is to make the Insight sales look good, since it's going to fail even harder.

By Beenthere on 10/21/09, Rating: -1
By IlllI on 10/21/2009 12:58:45 PM , Rating: 1
yes. it is. the concept model was so much better than this monstrosity

By Alexstarfire on 10/21/2009 1:33:37 PM , Rating: 3
I find it funny that in just about every car article on DailyTech someone posts that the car is ugly.

By ChronoReverse on 10/21/2009 2:15:38 PM , Rating: 2
Here I was thinking the front looks pretty good for a hybrid.

By IlllI on 10/21/2009 3:00:20 PM , Rating: 2
the concept model was amazing. this production release.. they made it so bland and 'meh' looking. they almost completely changed the back and sides of it :(

By Spuke on 10/21/2009 3:21:27 PM , Rating: 3
I find it funny that in just about every car article on DailyTech someone posts that the car is ugly.
I find it funny that people on DT expect a CONCEPT car to look exactly like the production version.

By Alexstarfire on 10/21/2009 7:33:00 PM , Rating: 2
They never do and the concept car always looks better.

By 67STANG on 10/21/2009 8:39:48 PM , Rating: 2
No joke. Remember what the Volt concept looked like? It was awesome. Now it's a cobalt with different headlights and tailights...

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