It’s efficient and looks sporty but can’t back it up with performance. That has been the rap on the Honda CR-Z hybrid, a tiny car that has been a curious offering from the automaker’s performance division. Honda hopes to change that perception with the release of a supercharger kit for manual transmission models of the CR-Z. Already available in dealerships as of mid-August, Honda’s supercharger will jack up the power quotient in a pricey upgrade that cuts down on the hybrid’s ability to skimp on gas.
Honda Performance Development (HPD) shipped supercharger kits to dealerships for installation on a hybrid that maxed out at 130 horsepower in its latest model. With the aftermarket upgrade (which Honda dealers will install for a fee), the power quotient jumps to 197 horsepower, according to a statement from the automaker. Along with the power boost come an air-to-air intercooler by HPD, upgraded fuel injectors, HPD air filtration, and an ECU designed to meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations for an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV).
For an added cost, Honda is offering a sport clutch and limited slip differential. Manual models from the 2013 and 2014 are equipped to take the suite of upgrades.
The cost of this considerable boost rings up at $5,495 before dealers get to work on the fitting of the kit and will get the benefit of what’s left of Honda’s five-year warranty. That represents more than 25 percent of the CR-Z’s MSRP of $19,995 before destination charges. While Honda mentioned CARB will be satisfied, it didn’t mention how much the supercharger would ding the CR-Z’s efficiency.
A 2014 CR-Z with manual transmission rates at 31 miles per gallon city and 38 miles per gallon highway (34 miles per gallon combined) before getting the supercharger treatment. Those numbers would have to start barreling downhill with the performance boost, though it isn’t possible to draw an estimate. Whatever Honda’s reservations were on the environmental side, they were overruled by the need to inject some life into the CR-Z and its lagging sales.
This hybrid hatch is far from hot with the base 130 horsepower, but critics went after the lack of practicality (a CR-Z seats two) and the fact the package didn’t come with enough sexiness to make buyers forget they couldn’t bring a crowd. That heart-racing element is addressed by the supercharger kit, but the car’s moment may have passed.
After peaking at 11,330 models sold in its second year on the market (2011), CR-Z sales in the U.S. have plummeted to 4,550 in 2013. Its sales are on pace to dip even further in 2014, which would mark its worst performance in the hybrid hatch’s five-year lifespan. It appears the plan is “supercharge or bust.”