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It seemed a little out of place that one of my first appointments at this year’s E3 in Los Angeles was with Honda. No, it wasn’t with Electronic Arts, Microsoft, or Capcom. It was with a carmaker. Why were they here, at a gaming trade show of all places? Simple. They wanted to show us the new 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe.

The Reimagining of the Honda CRX

I’ve been a Honda guy for a number of years. My brother owned an Integra, I owned an Integra, and I had a lot of friends that owned Civics. Much of this Honda crowd loved the CRX hot hatch back in the day. It wasn’t the most powerful car, but it was attractive and nimble.

The Japanese automaker is trying to elicit the same kind of emotional response with the new Honda CR-Z. Even the name is pretty close to the CRX, but this is an entirely different car. For starters, it’s a hybrid. The main powertrain comes from the 1.5L SOHC i-VTEC, but it is bumped up with the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. That’s what makes it a hybrid.

Combined, they produce 122 horsepower and develop 128 lbs-ft of torque. This results in 37 combined miles per gallon with the CVT and 34 miles per gallon with the standard transmission. Interestingly, it is the only hybrid on the market with a manual transmission.

Gaming-Inspired Gauges for CR-Z

Honda recognizes that much of its target demographic for the Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe also happen to be video game enthusiasts. We enjoy games like Need for Speed and Forza, so we’ve come to expect a certain kind of experience.

While they certainly don’t condone street racing, they have no problem with gaming-inspired gauges for the dashboard. These gauges can change color or even “pulse” based on how much throttle you give it, for instance.

Three Modes for the Sporty Hybrid

One car can’t be all things to all people, so this two-seater (they couldn’t do the 2+2 that Japan gets, presumably because North Americans are too big) probably isn’t the best option for hauling the family around on long road trips. It does, however, offer three different driving “modes” for different scenarios: Sport, Econ, and Normal.

With Sport mode, you get the most responsive throttle and the most “oomph” when you take it for a rip down the highway. According to the American Honda rep, you won’t even feel like you are driving a hybrid with this mode, separating the CR-Z from something like the Honda Insight.

Econ (Economy) mode dials down on the performance to help you save even more fuel, whereas Normal fits somewhere in between. Other noted features include standard USB connectivity, Bluetooth, satellite navigation, HID headlights, and an optional 360W sound system.

Not Just Another Prius Wannabe

It’s easy to compare just about any hybrid car to the Toyota Prius, but Honda is trying to be a little different with the CR-Z. It’s sportier and should have a greater appeal to the “tuner” set.

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