Ok, it’s not exactly a new phenomena: car company shows a low and slick concept, and the final product looks like an obese baby seal. We took GM to task with its Volt bait-and-switch routine. And now we take on Honda, although probably not quite so ferociously; given that the gap between the CR-Z concept and production version is a tad bit narrower than the Volt Grand (Lie) Canyon. But the Volt was always intended to be a four-seater; not the CR-Z. Therein lies the Honda lie: it’s ok to just chop off the back of a sedan and call it…not good.
The problem in both cases is one word: cowl; as in cowl height. There is no doubt in my mind that the CR-Z is essentially a shortened Insight, forced to share the same hard points (key chassis/body structure elements) as its bigger sedan brother. Blank out the CR-Z from the cowl back, and imagine an Insight body instead. All of a sudden, that big bulbous front end makes (some) sense. The problem is that the CR-Z is trying to be a sporty little coupe like its (almost) namesake, the immortal CR-X. Well, I’m not sure if the CR-X had to the Civic’s cowl structure or not, but if it did, Civic front ends back in the day were a hell of a lot lower than they are today, thanks to the double-wishbone front suspension and a different styling ethos at the time.
Update: Profile pictures also show the extreme front overhang in relation to the rest of the car. And specs reveal that the CR-Z weighs exactly 24 pounds less than the substantially longer Insight (CR-Z: 2720 lbs; Insight: 2744 lbs)
But trying to force the Insight’s W. C. Fields schnoz on the front of a sporty little two seater just doesn’t cut it. Either spend the money to drop the cowl and build a proper sporty car, or…don’t. The whole question of what the CR-Z is trying to be, a sporty hybrid with mediocre fuel economy, or a hybrid sports car with mediocre performance is unfortunately as confused as its marriage of a sedan front end with a sports car middle. The result is a hybrid of a different sort; a mish-mash of styles and performance goals that reminds me painfully of another car with a similar problem: the Gremlin or the AMC Spirit/Eagle Coupe. Trying to serve too many masters, or being too cheap to do it right is not a recipe for success.
Or the Ford EXP, which suffered the same high-cowl problem (shared with the Escort) as the CR-Z. Note the black-out paint on the bottom of the side windows, to try to make them look deeper then the actually were, just like the Volt.