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Honda CRZ Buyer's Guide

Honda CRZ Buyer's Guide

Posted by Matt M. on Feb 5th 2019

This guide includes all the information you'll need if you’re interested in purchasing a used Honda CR-Z. Learn more about the platform itself, its features, and any common issues affecting this specific model.

Model information

The Honda CR-Z, sold from 2011 through 2016, combines its sporty hatch styling with Honda reliability and Hybrid efficiency. Featuring a combination of new design and components derived from the existing Honda Fit and Honda Insight, the CR-Z was certainly a unique option within the market. 

A small but efficient 1.5l Gasoline 4 cylinder engine LEA similar to the one found in the Honda Fit is the primary power source. It makes 111 horsepower and 106 foot pounds of torque; which may sound a bit low on its own. However, the internal combustion engine is paired with an IMA (integrated motor assist) hybrid motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission to assist the vehicle during acceleration. The hybrid motor adds an additional 13 horsepower and 58 foot pounds of torque at low RPM. This certainly increases the driveability of the vehicle, however a weakened or dead battery will not provide any assistance. Good news is that, unlike other hybrids, the vehicle is still completely drivable even with a non-functional IMA hybrid system.

The CR-Z was offered with either a 6 speed manual transmission; unique for any hybrid offering in the market; or a CVT automatic from the Honda Insight. 

Even though the CR-Z was generally well liked by its owners, Honda didn’t sell too many during its lifespan. This means the used selection may be slim, so it will be important to look for specific options on each vehicle. Below we will cover the various trim levels offered by Honda. As well as any model refreshes and updates that should be considered prior to purchasing a CR-Z.


Trim Levels

The CR-Z was offered in the same basic trim levels available on most Honda vehicles; LX, EX, and EX-L. Each trim level offered slightly different amenities and features as addressed below.

LX trim

The LX trim is the “base” model with the least amenities and features included. Vehicles with this package would typically be equipped with the following features:

  • Halogen Headlights
  • Keyless entry / push button start
  • LED taillights
  • Body color matched mirrors / door handles
  • Power mirrors / windows
  • CVT equipped models have paddle shifters on the steering wheel

EX-Trim

The EX trim level offers upgraded amenities and luxuries that provide a more premium feeling vehicle. These models would typically be equipped with the following features:

  • HID xenon headlights
  • Fog lights
  • Heated mirrors
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Premium audio system
  • Illuminated visor mirrors
  • Leather Wrapped steering wheel w/ aluminum trim

EX-Navi

Vehicles with the EX package could be optioned with a factory Alpine Navigation unit.

EX-L Trim

The EX-L package was offered during the final 2016 model year. This package offers the same amenities as the EX package with the addition of factory leather seats and updated radio unit. These models were not produced in the same volume as the earlier models, so this spec is quite rare.


Model Year Updates

During the 2011-2016 production, the CR-Z received two major updates to the vehicle. The first during 2013 featured a few technical updates, as well as a myriad of cosmetic refreshers and design changes as noted below. The model received a few minor updates for the final 2016 model year as well prior to being cancelled altogether by Honda.

2013 Refresh:

  • Improvements made to the 1.5l engine for efficiency
  • IMA system updated to a lithium ion battery which adds 8 hp and 12 tq
  • Exterior updated with new front and rear bumpers, front grille, and rear diffuser
  • Minor interior trim updated
  • Bluetooth audio
  • Back up camera
  • S+ button added
    • “Push to pass” feature allowing for 5 seconds of increased power through the IMA system

2016 Refresh

  • Updated bumper covers with more aggressive styling
  • Leather interior option available
  • Additional wheel styles available
  • Electronic parking brake replaced traditional cable system
  • Center Armrest added to interior
  • All 2016 models feature a gloss black hatch regardless of vehicle color.

What to look for:

Honda’s vehicle are known for their reliability, and the CR-Z lives up the name with relatively few issues for their owners. However, any hybrid system faces issues that just can’t be avoided with today’s technology. Here is few things you should watch out for when searching for a used CR-Z. As with any vehicle, we suggest having a PPI ( pre purchase inspection ) performed by a professional to ensure all mechanical aspects are in good working order. A PPI may seem costly up front, however it will help you avoid a vehicle that requires immediate costly repairs.

IMA Battery Health

  • The hybrid battery powering the IMA system is prone to draining and failing like any hybrid system. The earlier models are no longer under warranty, and a failed battery could result in costly repair bills to replace it. The 2013+ vehicles have a more reliable and powerful lithium ion battery pack. The later battery packs are less prone to cycle failures, however in the event of a failure they will be more expensive to replace.

Tailgate Release Switch / Button

  • Another common fail point on the vehicle is the tailgate release switch. Be sure to check that this is in good working condition prior to purchase to avoid any unlucky situations when trying to access the cargo area.

Airbag Recall

  • The Takata airbag recall has affected a large number of vehicles on the roadway. Certain CR-Z models were affected, resulting in replacement of the Driver side airbag. You can check if your potential vehicle has had this recall completed by searching the VIN through the NHSTA recall website at: https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls . We suggest finding a vehicle that has already had this recall performed to avoid a trip to the dealer later on.

CVT Transmission “rubber banding”

  • The CVT automatic equipped models borrowed the transmission used in the Honda Insight. These utilize an early style CVT with a rubber belt inside to transfer the engine power to the wheels. This belt can stretch over time and cause slipping and failure as early as 15,000 miles into the vehicle life. Repairing the CVT internals outside of warranty can be very costly. We recommend the six speed manual transmission, if you're willing to row your own gears.

Air Conditioning at Idle

  • Honda implemented a “feature” to increase efficiency where the internal combustion engine completely turns off when idling for extended periods of time and at longer stop lights. The vehicle then uses the IMA system to move the vehicle from a stop and restart the combustion engine. The one downfall of this system is that the AC compressor is powered by the internal combustion engine. When the engine stops spinning at idle, so does the AC compressor, resulting in warm air blowing into the cabin.

Interior / Exterior Quality

  • When shopping for a used CR-Z, be sure to check the condition of all exterior body panels. The paint used for these vehicles was very thin and can bubble up over time. It is also common for the rear hatch to develop a rattle when driving over bumps. Inspect the interior for any heavy wear spots. The grey fabric can easily become stained and discolored with normal use. You may want to search for a later model with black interior.

Which CRZ would we buy?

  • 2013 plus with the recall performed / 6 speed manual. EX package.

The production numbers of the CR-Z can make it difficult to shop around between different vehicles to ensure you get the exact vehicle you want. While different specs can cater to different purposes, we recommend focusing your efforts on a vehicle produced after 2013. The updates to the vehicle's battery and styling are well worth the premium for the newer vehicle.

You should also attempt to find a vehicle equipped with the EX trim level for the improved amenities and features. Bluetooth audio and a back up camera will prove to be useful for daily driving. The Navigation option is not as significant as any modern navigation system has far surpassed the antiquated Alpine unit.

While not always possible, purchasing a vehicle with the 6 speed manual transmission will ensure your aren’t faced with any CVT slipping failures in the future. And lastly, finding a vehicle that has already had the Takata airbag recall performed will save you the trip to the dealership. This vehicle package will deliver you the most bang for your buck and limit the number of issues you may face during your ownership.  


We hope this information helps you make the right purchase when searching for a used CR-Z. If you found this information helpful, feel free to share, and check back with RedlineAutoParts.com if you need any quality used parts for your Honda CR-Z.

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