Does it live up to that promise?
The last year for the CRX was 1991. It weighs between 1,700 and 2,100lbs. depending on the model. The high mileage HF is rated at 47 mpg highway and 41 city under the new EPA estimates. The top-of-the-line Si could go from 0-60 in 8.5 seconds while costing the equivalent of about $15,000 in today's money.
The CR-Z will be in the same dealerships later this year as a 2011 model. It weighs around 2,800lbs and is expected to get an EPA-estimated 35 mpg city and 39 highway when equipped with a CVT automatic. The car takes 10.5 seconds to reach sixty miles an hour. List price should start at around $20,000. While it does look like a modern interpretation of the CRX, early reports show the handling doesn't compare to its predecessor, either.
In other words, while its styling looks similar to the CRX, it can't match the performance, fuel economy, handling, or price of a car that was last seen in showrooms twenty years ago.
So, if the CRX was the small, fun version of the Civic, what does that make the CR-Z?
The small, fun version of the Insight.
Both the Insight and the CR-Z are hybrids based on the same platform as the Fit. They use the same Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system, but the CR-Z ditches the Insight's 1.3l engine for the 1.5l unit used in the Fit. Early reports show that the CR-Z fixes many of the complaints of the Insight, particularly ride quality. Most importantly early reviews have noted that steering and braking feel are the best of any hybrid to date, two things that have been a major issue with this type of car.
Maybe the comparison between the CRX and the CR-Z makes some sense: These days a "Hybrid" badge has the same caché as the "VTEC" badge had during the peak of the CRX's popularity. Like its predecessor, the CR-Z is mostly aimed at being cool but if you can forgo several other cars in this price range offer more practicality. Honda's own Fit offers nearly the same gas mileage at a much lower cost while the Civic Hybrid and Insight add back seats at the expense of driving involvement.
If you must have something that is clearly a hybrid but you don't want a Prius look-alike nor do you want to sacrifice drivability the Insight may be just the car you've been waiting for. The rest of us will still be waiting for a true successor to the CRX.