DRIVEN: Honda CR-Z facelift on a west coast getaway


I rarely form a connection to any test car as a true owner would, but tend to view each with a rather detached eye as something to be constantly evaluated and judged. Suppose the Honda CR-Z was a little different. I really gelled with this car during the few hundred kilometres we covered together. Its ethos, its intelligence, its looks and its dynamics – I loved pretty much everything about this darty little coupe.

The very first time I experienced Honda’s ‘hybrid sports car’ was when the previous, and debut model, hit our shores end of 2011. As usual, I had the car for a couple of days and since it was in the middle of a working week, a Klang Valley-wide test circuit was all I could manage. This time around though, Honda wanted us to see if its new CR-Z CVT is a good road-tripper… thus a longer loan period was arranged for.


My photographer colleague Sherman and I had planned a 700-km return trip through the states of Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor. Setting off from KL on a Monday morning, which was also very beneficial to us as highway traffic to our first stop of Port Dickson, about 90 km away, would be at an absolute minimum… I mean who the heck goes to the beach in the a.m., at the start of a work week anyway?

With output boosted by a significant margin compared to the ‘old’ CR-Z, the current incarnation of the coupe is definitely no pushover on the fast lane. Output is up, the 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine now offering 118 hp at 6,600 rpm and 144 Nm at 4,800 rpm. The Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system on the new car now offers 20 hp at 2,000 rpm (up from 14 hp) and 78 Nm at 1,000 rpm. Other revisions include a new 144 volt, 18.8 kW lithium-ion battery, which replaces the nickel metal-hydride one found in the older car.


As before, the CR-Z’s powertrain can be adjusted by a three-mode drive system that allows the user to choose between Econ, Normal, and Sport modes, each with their unique throttle and transmission mapping patterns.

Additional boost from the electric motor can be summoned ‘nitro-style’ via an S+ button mounted on the steering wheel. With the battery registered ‘full’ and S+ activated at a constant speed of about 100 km/h, you feel the sudden urgency of a 3.0 litre V6 for a good 10 seconds, and the speed counter quickly displayed numbers that put me at risk of a speeding ticket! But if I timed its use properly, I now had a valuable weapon against road hoggers along the North-South route since this is essentially a push-to-pass button!


A nice, low seating position is easy to find in the CR-Z – the steering adjusts for rake and reach, and the good-looking seats work quite well, although more thigh support wouldn’t have gone amiss. You might have guessed already, but the rear seats are useless for adults. Only small children will fit, but even then, they won’t be having much of a view out.

Think of it as extra storage space to supplement the 225-litre boot. But I’m not a great fan of the bar over the rear window because it hinders rearward vision, although a necessary part of the design. A rear wiper would be beneficial as well since the heating element takes a while to warm up and clear a dew-covered screen.


Seriously, aside from the beach (and it was low tide anyway) there’s really not much to experience in this oil refinery town. So after a quick stop for some shots of the car at the ‘Blue Lagoon’ (isn’t it odd that almost every coastal town has a beach called Blue Lagoon?) and at the lighthouse in Tanjung Tuan, it was time to move on to Melaka.

By now it was midday, thus heavier traffic greeted us on the highway. Thankfully, we made a rather quick 98-km jump to the historic seaside city and got there in slightly under an hour and a half… just in time for the lunchtime rush hour! Here, I alternated between a start-stop crawl at the heritage area around the famous Stadthuys in Jalan Gereja, to point-and-shoots commuting at the fast-moving coastal expressway off Pulau Jawa.


This was when I felt the influence of the CR-Z’s quick steering the most. Its liveliness jived best with the car’s darty character – turn in is sharp, body roll is negligible and body control is tight. Now if only Honda had dialled in just a bit more feel into the steering… then, I would rate this car as one of the most fun cars ever to drive in or out of a city!

The cabin design is equally effective. For all its graphs, displays and read-outs, the CR-Z’s intelligently-configured dashboard was a pleasure to look at and operate, even over extended periods. All the data available was salient and worth monitoring. The layout’s eye-catching as well as ergonomically sound. Build quality is superb and perhaps the only black spot would be the lack of a sat-nav system. I mean, if it weren’t for Sherman working out the navigation using his smartphone’s GPS, we would have gotten hopelessly lost in an unfamiliar city!


Now we come to the longest highway stretch of the entire trip – the 214-km drive from Melaka to Johor Bahru. This is where we encounter the bulk of fast movers – a large number of these being Singapore-plated cars eager to get back home.

This is where the CR-Z displays that it has the speed for the driven to have some fun, if not keep up with turbo hot hatches with ‘S’ plates, especially when the electric motor provides a noticeable shove from low down. The engine’s so eager to rev and emit a buzzy mechanical tune that’s so very Honda. In contrast, pressing Econ mode dampens response by a few notches, but it’s probably a prudent thing to do in view of the increased number of AES-policed sectors as we approach Johor’s capital city.


In some ways, the traffic situation in JB is about the same level as KL’s circa mid-1990s. I like driving in this ever-expanding metropolis. It has a bit of everything, like that rustic State Secretariat Building, sitting on top of a hill where the ‘old’ part of JB is.

The view from this place is magnificent and the state building is often seen on postcards that depicts Johor. Nearby is the Lido Beach and from there, we get a great view of Singapore Island.


Then from here, it is just a short commute to a sector of the city once infamously known as JB’s ‘transvestite central’, Jalan Dhoby. Gentrified several years ago, the roads around this city square have been bricked over and seedy recreation spots have been banished, leaving behind the perennial Indian garment stores and barbers that make it JB’s unofficial Little India and an exceedingly popular haunt for photography enthusiasts. Among the attractive kaleidoscope of pre-war shophouses is a smattering of hip restaurants and bars that have opened post-revamp.

Parked along the roadside at JB’s ‘hipster central’, the CR-Z is without a doubt a head turner. The shape and proportions are unlike any other car in production today, and recall the curvy delights of the original, iconic CR-X pocket sports car.


The next day, instead of just making a direct run for the capital city, we decided to visit one last place before facing the dreary reality that is a normal working day. Lying just off the highway just about an hour and 100 km away from JB is the sleepy town of Kluang.

Now this place compares quite closely to Port Dickson in its slow pace but instead of it being full of oil industry professionals, this is a bit of a market town. It is the venue of choice for the many smallholders whose lifestock and vegetable farms dot both sides of the trunk road leading to the town from the highway.

First things first when we drove into though… breakfast! This was readily available at the Kluang railway station coffee house, the precursor to the Kluang Rail Coffee restaurant chain that has been operating since 1938!

As Sherman and I enjoyed our cups of hot coffee alongside servings of toast and half-boiled eggs, the CR-Z stuck a contrasting pose at the station parking lot – its sleek, 21st-century form going against a backdrop of pre-WWII buildings in the station compound.


And as we left nostalgia behind and proceeded out of Kluang town to rejoin the highway to KL, a very prominent signboard caught our attention by the roadside… ‘U.K. Farm’, it read.

After a fairly bumpy 6-km drive, we reached the farm’s ‘guest centre’. Really now, the people operating farm should really consider tarring the access road properly since I found out later that this wasn’t just a farm, but also a homestay resort that take in paying guests. Fortunately, in spite of its sleek and curvy persona, the CR-Z is blessed with firm but also a fairly long travel suspension setup. Otherwise, Sherman and I would never have dared to risk the car on an unpaved road!


We found our way to the guest cafeteria nearby and this was where we discovered a delightful menu of lamb or chicken chops, local coffee, tea and, get this, scones (it is after all a U.K. Farm, yes?) along with various other quaint cakes and pastries. Unfortunately, the two of us were still a bit stuffed from breakfast that happened not too long ago. So after a quick cup of tea, we bade adieu to this rather strange but delightful find for the long drive back to KL.

Looking at it with a cold and calculating eye, a RM119k two-seater hybrid coupe with a decent performance and economy is hardly something to get all steamy about. But drive the CR-Z along some nice scenic routes, let it get under your skin and fill you with its feel-good factor, and the picture changes dramatically.


At the end of the trip, I felt that this Honda was special, and it made me feel so every time I dropped down behind its steering wheel driving to JB and back (as such, Sherman hardly had plenty of time behind the wheel!).

Now that the government has discontinued hybrid incentives for CBU imports, this little hot hybrid will be greatly missed! After all, a much higher price tag is guaranteed, and we’re not very convinced Honda will decide to continue to sell the CR-Z with the new pricing. There are still limited stocks for the automatic version as of now, but the manual version is totally gone.

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Ellfian Rahim

Ellfian Rahim is just hopeless with directions, thus keenly follows GPS tech in his spare time. Loves big sedans and K-Cars equally well, and will easily demolish a meal for three in record time. He's been in publishing since 1992 and now writes for Malaysia's longest running English language men's lifestyle title, and does translation work for some extra beer money on the side.



  • PhotoGrama on Jan 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Awesome shots! Paultan could become at same level as Jalopnik later. Cheers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 7
    • Jalopnik is a very car enthusiast based websites, something I struggle to see with paultan and its comments. But as for the articles itself yeah it could be almost Jalopnik level, I myself that enjoys taking photographs must say this is the most beautiful pictures I’ve yet to see in paultan .

      shame that it is not a manual, but in order to move on to the level of Jalop, do a Mazda Miata review Paultan team :) !

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 8
      • PhotoGrama on Jan 26, 2014 at 11:33 pm

        Thanks for getting my point. Yes I was commenting from photography point of view. In terms of overall content, I know Paultan and Jalopnik are two different types of blogs which targetting on different kind of audience, and these two are among my favorite auto sites.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0
    • sure the articles themselves are getting better. But as for the comments ?? It gave me facepalm and headache because of all the stupidity

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
  • sEnGz on Jan 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Test drive it during Honda Hybrid Roadshow last year. Great handling and good pickup during low revs! I wonder how much the price will increase after tax exemption has been lifted :(

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3
  • sudonano on Jan 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Unless they CKD it, I doubt it would make any sense to bring it in as a CBU. The price would be such a turn off.

    Sad to see it go. The facelift was nice. Especially in that purple, which looked so interesting. :/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2
    • Nissan on Jan 27, 2014 at 2:50 am

      too bad, no more tax exempted after NAP 2014.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
    • David D on Jan 27, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      Hey Sudonano, how are you mate? Havent bothered to comment no thanks to the mound of troll comments everywhere here.

      Nevertheless, i agree with you on that distinctive purple colour, which is quite simply, an awesome signature colour for the CR-Z. Never bothered with the CVT, instead taking the keys to a stick shift CR-Z immediately when offered a test drive. And boy, must i say, it’s fun to drive it, despite being a hybrid, thanks to its snappy gearshift and quick, direct steering. Plus, its safe too, with a full suite of safety kit being present here.

      If one can look past the awkward practicality, and its incredibly space-age dashboard, which is built to last rather than be top-grade, then this is the weekend car to have, alongside the Swift Sport, 208 GTi, and the Veloster. All great small cars, with their very own characters, as no matter which one we pick, we are all winners here.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0
  • The later you buy the more higher the price is going to get in the second hand market. Anybody who wants this car and is smart would get it as soon as possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6
  • Maserati on Jan 26, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    This car is one of the best drivers car out thr!

    The crappy veloster is a disgrace if compared to this!

    Sad to see it go

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 19
    • skatax on Jan 26, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      kiddo, you must be dreaming. sorry guys but this hybrid car is a joke.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 48
    • DSGTowTruck on Jan 27, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Halo Maserati,

      Sorry ah, I can’t come to your rescue now. I am busy towing your wife VW. One of her tyre came off. I know you are causing a big jam in ss2 now after your happy ending massage and now your VW DSG cannot engage Reverse.

      I will come in 1 hour time. Don’t worry. You can go for another round of happy ending while I make your wife happy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2
  • AutoFrenz on Jan 26, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Kia coupe wannabe…nice try honda…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 59
  • Guan Yin Ma on Jan 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    expect at least RM 200k for a new 2014 crz.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5
    • Henry on Jan 26, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      More like 160k.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
    • Although there is no more tax exemption….don forget CR-Z still fall under EEV so the tax maybe not that high…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2
      • Enthu on Jan 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        Think you better check again. Last I heard the EEV is only applicable to CKDs.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
        • Opss..I forget bout that..but for sake of car onli CR-Z is within those EEV level…

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • and remember oso that import tax from japan this year onli 10%..15% last year..5% next year n zero in 2016…so u guy can hope that the price is not too much

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
    • Lenglui on Jan 27, 2014 at 9:26 am

      with that performance, nobody cares.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9
  • Can this car really considered as sports car?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 14
  • can it beat GTI ?
    If not then it’s only sporty car NOT performance car

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 16
    • SamTowTruck on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:07 am

      It look more yellow hair dye ah beng car with tofu stickers all around. All look no go. A satria gti will still run around it in loop.

      I know the battery provide juice but if play highway, the most they can have the boost is a few minutes, After that, my viva is even faster than this crz.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 20
      • Sorry bro, I can also guarantee your Viva is slower even the hybrid battery is taken out of the CRZ…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 6
  • Henry on Jan 26, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    I bought one of the last 6MT end of 2013.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2
  • honda won many times for f1 constructor championship, Ayrton Senna became a legend in f1 also used honda engine. Honda engine also revolutionized f1 car thru their big bang technology (vtec). Unlike vioses and myvi’s driver, hondas driver still polite and civilised on the road.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 10
    • JeremyNg on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Honda never won any constructor championship before. They only supply the engine to Mclaren and William ,is these 2 teams that won the constructor championship with Honda engine not Honda. If 2009 Honda didnt quite F1 they will be winning constructor championship under the name of Honda instead BRAWN.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
    • Ahneh on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Please lar…vtec is so yesteryear. Do you know a lot of conti car had this variable timing but they never even bother to shout like yr japo shit.

      You want engine technology, how about electro valve or multiair engine by FIAT.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 9
  • Honda on Jan 26, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Honda discontinued to bring in 2014 CRZ…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3
  • A part of me died reading this. So sad that the price is going up or even worst, not selling. Have been saving for this car. :(

    Awesome article though

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1
  • Archangel on Jan 27, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Nice review. Love it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
  • Hi there,

    May I know where is that dirt road located in the 7th pic of this article? Looks like fun to drive there!


    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
    • Ellfian Rahim on Feb 18, 2014 at 1:17 am

      That dirt road will lead you from the Kluang trunk road to the U.K. Farm farm I mentioned in the article.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • gavin on Jan 27, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Lol, i think it was the long holiday on a weekday that put you in a good mood, if you have a kancil 660, you would also find it a good trip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1
  • heybadigol on Jan 27, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Firstly, gotta hand it to the writer & photographer. Great article & wonderful photos of the CRZ in south Peninsular Malaysia, or part of it, since the article stopped at Kluang. From Kluang, should try to go back KL through Mersing & the beautifully empty Muadzam Shah route to Serting then the sweepers at Kelawang/Jelebu to stretch a car’s legs.

    Anyway, especially love the photos in the UK farm (didnt know it existed). It really looks legit, minus the cold & damp weather. Haha. Just wondering, where is that stadium picture shot? It has brick road instead of running track.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
  • isuzuki on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:38 am

    ichiban :D

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
  • Sahipul on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

    I do hope Honda Malaysia will consider assembling the CRZ in Melaka (especially now the 2nd plant already open) and offer it at a cheaper price :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
    • Henry on Jan 27, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Very unlikely since the CRZ caters to a very niche market. They will probably increase production of the Jazz Hybrid which is more marketable.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  • Storm on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Just to add in infor. theres a cap at speed 160kmph if i not mistaken. overheard a customer complaining at honda service center. if u unlock it say bye bye to ur warranty

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4
    • Suprima on Jan 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Better don’t drive fast in the milo tin. Sekali crash, you will be like the lotus driver who crash in JB and his poor dog died. Just that your body will become tuna paste sandwich in this milo tin crz for PLUS folks.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8
    • Storm, wrong info. My stock crz has gone past 160kmh before!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3
      • anonponymous on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:36 pm

        200kmh no problem at all.

        Pick up is decent but hugs corners with minimum effort. Very fun drive always..

        Annoying blinking highlighting Camry gave in at 170kmh. This is hybrid with an option to get back at many delusional bullies.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • Ken T. on Jan 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      There’s no cap. Not even 180 km/h cap like they have on Jap cars.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • Denaihati on Jan 27, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    one of the attractive hybrid car on the road that i love to see. hope and pray this hybrid incentives for CBU imports will change policy back to previous, at least for this car segmen.
    thanks for sharing the nice trip, nice photo and nice experience with us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
  • Bought the auto one last month before the year was out. PHEW! :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

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