NSX envy: a tale of two Honda hybrid cars

24 April 2013

New Honda NSX

Honda has begun taking deposits for its new NSX sports car, which is, of course, a petrol-electric hybrid. The retail price has yet to be announced, but deep-pocketed punters for whom the unspecified list price won’t be an issue can reserve one of these super hybrid cars from Honda UK for a mere £5,000 down. For delivery in about two years’ time.

The new NSX will feature a mid-mounted V6 engine driving the rear wheels, supplemented by two independent electric motors propelling the front tyres. Honda says the NSX will be able to use its two motors to independently accelerate or brake either of the front wheels, yielding improved turn-in and cornering poise. It sounds clever and no doubt it will work seamlessly. With a combined total of about 400bhp on tap the new NSX should be quite quick too.

2010 Honda CR-Z side view

If you want some hybrid thrills and can’t wait two years – or indeed if a supercar just seems a bit silly – I can highly recommend a much more modest Honda. When I drove the pocket-sized CR-Z sports hybrid at its launch three years ago, I climbed out totally smitten. If I didn’t need to carry more than one passenger from time to time, it would be very hard to resist. There are seats in the rear of the CR-Z, but not ones you’d want to sit in if you’d like your legs and head to retain their current shape.

New, the CR-Z can feel a little pricey – though obviously not by NSX standards – starting at £21,200 for the Sport model. The cheapest “S” trim level that used to be available was retired from the range at the start of this year. The top-spec GT-T version currently costs £24,720 before options.

2010 Honda CR-Z rear view

Used prices, by contrast, are starting to seem quite tempting. I found a 2010 Sport edition with 57,000 miles on sale through Honda’s approved used scheme for a smidge under £9,000. The better equipped GT model, which comes with a big glass sunroof, leather seats, xenon lamps and Bluetooth, can easily be found at half its new price, around £12,000. I found a two-year-old GT with 27,000 miles from a dealer forecourt. Upping the budget to £14,000 will give a lot more choice and lower mileages among 2011 cars, bought from a dealer.

The CR-Z was revamped for 2013, so the very newest secondhand cars have an uprated motor and various other tweaks. They are marginally quicker – nearer nine seconds to 62mph compared with ten for the older cars. You can spot the new ones by the presence of a circular Sport+ switch on the lower right side of the steering wheel. Thumbing this button liberates a boost of additional electric motor power, assuming there’s enough juice languishing in the battery. The newer cars have lithium-ion batteries, by the way, compared to nickel-metal-hydride cells in the older CR-Zs.

2013 Honda CR-Z Sport Plus button

There aren’t many of these upgraded cars on offer secondhand – it’s only four months since they arrived new – so if you want a bargain, best stick to cars from before the facelift.

For me, I’ve found a nice privately advertised CR-Z Sport, six months old, with 11,000 miles on its clock and in my favourite shade of sparkling metallic blue, for a fiver under £12,000. Which looks absolutely perfect. The only problem is it’s parked 182 miles way.

Still, at least I know the drive home will be fun. Now where did I put my chequebook?

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