Back in the 1980s Honda sold a two seat car called the CR-X. The same trait that made it fun to drive -- it was extremely light -- also made it extremely fuel efficient. The way the EPA rated fuel economy in those days, it got an eye-popping 57 miles per gallon in highway driving. Using today's EPA test, it would get about 51 mpg.
The CR-Z hybrid won't even touch that. Honda estimates it will get 36 mpg and 38 on the highway with an automatic transmission and slightly less with a manual. It's powered by a 1.5-liter engine and electric motors for a combined 122 horsepower.
The pay-off for today's lower fuel economy is that the CR-Z will be bigger and much safer than the CR-X. Twenty years ago, a safe small car was virtually an oxymoron. The federal government never crash tested the CR-X but, given that the larger Honda Prelude of the time earned just one star, it's unlikely the CR-X would have done better. Improved safety means more weight -- from airbags and added body structure -- and lower fuel economy.