CRZ Toyo Review- 4

The longer I own it, the more I realise that the Honda CR-Z fits my needs perfectly. Cars with a good ol’ manual gearbox are hard enough to find in Malaysia, so a stick shift that’s this slick is a rare opportunity. One with duty-exemption and more kit than a CR-V 2.0 too, so yours truly is glad he took it.

The dinky little coupe seats just two adults, which is enough for me in six out of seven days. It’s not just space efficient, but frugal with fuel, too. My ‘Trip B’ that has never been reset since Day 1 (eight months ago) is reading 16.5 km/l now, which I believe is a pretty decent return for a manual, IMA Honda hybrid.

My recent target in the FC journey was 17 km/l over a week’s driving, a marker I’ve been hitting occasionally. Unlike many CR-Z drivers, this one upshifts ASAP, coasts a lot, preserves momentum and uses ECON mode whenever conducive, such as on the highway, where my cruising speed is between 80 to 100 km/h. Sounds like torture, but it’s second nature.

Then along came something to break my glass ceiling. We were offered a set of Toyo NanoEnergy 3 tyres to sample, and my humble ride was deemed the most suitable host car. Pretty obvious in a stable that includes two turbocharged Euro hatchbacks wearing 18-inch ultra high performance tyres, a Japanese rally special and one classic car.

Toyo NanoEnergy 3 Review- 1

Now, the CR-Z may be a hybrid, but it’s spicier than your average eco-warrior. That’s why it comes with a stick shift and sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres from the factory. The RE050A isn’t the newest kid on the block, but it’s still an ultra high performance (UHP) class tyre designed with specific priorities in mind. Low rolling resistance and comfort weren’t on the list, for sure.

The Toyo NanoEnergy 3 is the complete opposite, touting fuel savings, long life and comfort as main selling points. The image of a Prius on the brochure should leave no doubt about the tyre’s positioning. Since I don’t live on the edge of grip very often, eco tyres would suit my CR-Z’s slow-paced life more than sports tyres, with benefits that outweigh the sacrifces.

That’s the theory, and to put it to test, I had to purchase a set of used 16-inch Civic FD 1.8 rims to fit the Toyos. This was neccessary because at the time of fitment, Toyo didn’t have the 195/55 R16 size that would have made it a straight swap, and offered us 205/55 R16 tyres instead. The CR-Z’s 16-inch stock wheels were too narrow to accomodate the wider rubber.

The new look is less sporty (CR-Z Touring Edition anyone?) and the taller sidewalls make the wheels look slightly smaller than before, although both are 16 inchers. The extra width fills the CR-Z’s considerable arches a little better, though. The original 195/55 tyres had an overall diameter of 620.9 mm, and this new setup is just 1.8% taller, so difference in speed and mileage readings aren’t significant.

Toyo Tires may be famous for their sporty Proxes range, but the 70-year old Japanese company makes eco tyres as well. Some might be surprised to know that the NanoEnergy 3 rolls out from Toyo’s factory in Kamunting, Perak. The 148-acre facility near Taiping has been producing tyres for more than a year now.

The NanoEnergy 3 uses what Toyo calls Nano Balance Technology, which takes tyre design back to its very origins – the material, at molecular level. Analysis, simulation, design and production at nano levels help develop a compound with increased amounts of silica and active polymer, giving you rubber that strikes a balance between low rolling resistance, wet grip and wear life.

NanoEnergy 3 also features a new technology known as Silent Wall, where tiny serrations in the tyre tread groove walls disturb air flow, reducing pipe resonance and resulting in a quieter ride. 3D Multi Wave Sipes on the outer edges reduce pattern noise.

CRZ Toyo Review- 5

Development and manufacturing is equally high-tech. An advanced simulation technology called T-Mode is used to simulate virtually every variable of vehicle dynamics, surface and driving conditions, including slalom, braking, aquaplaning, vibration or even roll-over.

The role tyres play in how a car performs is often overlooked, and I got a timely reminder. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that the CR-Z, with new shoes on, felt like a different car altogether. Hondas have never been synonymous with good NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and the Potenzas didn’t do anything to help the cause, but it’s so much quieter now.

I ply the NKVE daily, and the highway’s coarse concrete surface isn’t a tyre’s best friend. Here, the NanoEnergy 3 emits a lower key hum (as opposed to high pitched), that blends in better with general noise, which is also more subdued. At my regular (low) cruising speed, wind noise isn’t a factor, and my air-con fan speed rarely goes past two bars, so the newfound silence is noticable and much appreciated.

CRZ Toyo Review-6

Sealing the deal for me is, you’ve guessed it, improved fuel economy. With the same driving style, I’ve been hitting 17.5 km/l over the last few fills, and while there could be a wee bit of extra determination on the driver’s part in play, credit goes to the Toyos. On a highway downhill stretch where I always coast on neutral (old habits die hard), the NanoEnergy 3 goes further thanks to lower rolling resistance.

Nothing comes for free and this set of eco tyres is less grippy than my old Bridgestones. One hairy moment came the day after fitment, where the CR-Z’s tail went loose on a slippery slip road – damn those leaking garbage trucks! The tyres weren’t run in yet then; now that they are, they provide me with enough grip for regular driving. The taller, softer sidewalls can be felt through the seat of my pants though, so the CR-Z doesn’t just look less sporty.

For this writer’s driving pattern and priorities, the NanoEnergy 3’s benefits clearly outweigh the drawbacks. It was always going to be quieter and less resistant than UHP rubber, but the quantum suprised me nonetheless, and I will be backing it to do well against mid-range OEM tyres on B and C-segment cars.