Tuesday, December 17, 2013
2013 Honda CR-Z M/T vs 2013 Toyota 86 M/T
Some car enthusiasts say that we are what we drive. In fact, some even claim that a car is a window into the driver’s soul. So, what does driving a sports car say about you? It might mean that you are: one, someone who’s always at the center of attention; two, a risk-taker; three, a person of power and influence; or four, all of the above. A sports car is a statement piece. Nothing spells out success and wealth more than a sports car.
And now, thanks to an aggressive strategy emphasizing driving fun, Japanese car companies are finally getting into the sports car act, once a segment reserved for European makes and models. And the two most popular examples are the Honda CR-Z and the Toyota 86—subjects of this head-to-head grudge match.
From the moment you set your eyes on a Toyota 86, it’s quite obvious it has something special. It seems bigger than it actually is because of its presence. The exterior is all about aero efficiency wherein Toyota adopted the “Aerodynamic Sandwich” philosophy of channeling fast-moving air over the roof and along the sides so no bolt-on spoilers or wings are needed. The front adopts the brand’s current wide-mouth look and the unique T-mesh blends well. The long, powerful hood and arrow-shaped profile are combined with the pagoda-style roof, making it fluid. Aside from sleekness, Toyota added elements of sportiness with the two oversized exhaust pipes and flared wheel arches. The result is a sleek and stylish sports car with all the right curves and the right amount of sharpness. Overall, the Toyota 86 isn’t overdone nor overstyled and is most likely to stand the test of time.
Who could imagine the words fuel efficiency and sports car could be used together in one car? The unimaginable happened with the Honda CR-Z. Standing for “Compact Renaissance Zero”—the CR-Z is a sports car that’s not bound by traditional sports cars. In fact, the CR-Z is a three-door hatchback and not a coupe; it doesn’t have frameless doors (hurting ingress/egress in tight spaces) or a separate trunk space which hurts the overall proportions (it’s a bit too front heavy). Still, it’s an attention-grabbing machine with the right amount of spunk from its low height and wide stance. The 17-inch alloys may seem small on paper, but these fill in the CR-Z’s wheel wells quite well. The rear is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the CR-Z with the tapered triangular LED tail lights and two-piece tailgate glass. As revolutionary as the CR-Z is though, it’s still not as sexy as a true sports coupe.
Winner: Toyota 86
Like the exterior, the interior of the Toyota 86 is designed and laid out in a very ergonomic manner with all the instruments and controls within easy reach. Sitting inside the 86, the first thing you notice is how low you sit. Toyota obviously decided to lower the seating position to emphasize the 86’s low center gravity, effortlessly communicating this car’s exemplary driving dynamics and impeccable balance. There is nothing in excess in the 86’s interior—it’s just you and the machine. Everything is designed to look minimal and simple; there are no steering wheel audio switches or the like inside. The dials are straight-forward and designed for easy reference. The gear stick is perfectly positioned in the middle of the console for symmetry and the pedal positions are ideal for heal-and-toe shifts. Perhaps the most frivolous feature of the 86, if you consider them frivolous, are the carbon fiber-like accents scattered throughout. Good visibility is one of the 86’s strong features and even the rear view mirror is frameless, optimizing rear visibility. The form-fitting seats are supportive and quickly configure for the ideal driving position.
Where the Toyota 86 emphasizes simplicity and straight-forwardness, the Honda CR-Z goes for the complete opposite and gives occupants a sense of excitement the moment you step in. For instance, the instrument cluster is simply futuristic with all the changeable displays, colors, and what have you; even the map lights are whitish LEDs—clearly showing Honda knows how to add visual drama without making the driving environment too busy. Honda also made sure that all the controls are canted towards the driver, with the small diameter steering wheel falling right into hand. And instead of relying on carbon fiber accents, Honda’s use of metal accents in the CR-Z actually make it more high-tech feeling than the 86. All in all, Honda does a much better job in making the CR-Z’s interior feel much more cohesive in sending a message of specialness. For one, the CR-Z’s audio system is much better integrated than the 86’s with all the displays matching in font and color.
Winner: Honda CR-Z
Space and Practicality
Both cars won’t handily win the space race given they’re compact 2+2 sports cars. That said, both offer comfortable space, at least for the front occupants. With the Toyota 86 having a low roofline, you’d think there’s not much headroom to play around with. However, thanks to the low seat point, there’s actually enough space for you to wear a cap. Still, you’ll have to squat much lower to get in, which will irk more mature drivers and passengers. However, the frameless doors do help, especially in tight spaces. The simplistic and upright dash means there’s good knee and leg room for the front passengers. Given the 86 is designed with the minimum dimensions to fit two people in the back seat, leg room is certainly a premium, but if those sitting in front aren’t too tall, you can surprisingly fit decently sized adults. And though the 86 doesn’t have the advantage offered by a hatchback body style, it’s got enough space to fit up to two golf bags (243 liters) with the rear seats up and a commendable 1,270 liters with the rear seats down—enough to fit a set of 4 wheels and tires.
Despite the Honda CR-Z’s much more functional hatchback body style, it loses out in interior practicality and space when pitted against the 86. Despite a 2+2 layout, the CR-Z will fail to fit even one person at the back without severely compromising the front passenger’s comfort. In short, the rear bench is best left for shopping bags. And you’ll need it—with the rear seats up; the CR-Z has a paltry 225 liters of trunk space growing only to 393 liters with them down. However, when you consider the CR-Z as a two-seater, then things begin to even out. Whereas the 86 uses an upright dash design, Honda engineers thinned theirs and pushed it in, creating ample leg and hip space. The shifter and handbrake don’t fall right into place as the 86’s, but at least creature features such as the cup holders, USB audio input are much better placed in the Honda. Still, the CR-Z feels much more cramped.
Winner: Toyota 86
Performance and Fuel Economy
The Toyota 86 is designed to be the purest form of a sports car: it’s got the engine in front and driven wheels at the back. The 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 205 Nm of torque result in good power-to-weight ratio. The six-speed manual is the perfect partner to the engine with a light, easy to modulate and quick to pick clutch. In addition, the throw between gears is small and the engagement is precise. The Toyota 86 is very engaging to drive in any condition, perhaps save torrential rain, where the tail-happy nature of this car can catch you off-guard especially if you don’t respect it. Still, treat the 86 well, and you’ll receive exquisite balance and composure. The steering is agile and precise. It handles beautifully, responding quickly to every input. Despite being labeled as a sports car, the Toyota 86 returns excellent fuel mileage: 9.62 km/L in the city and 13.30 km/L on the highway, though this car requires a diet of at least 95 octane to run smoothly.
While the Toyota 86 is a purist, the Honda CR-Z is more pragmatic. Propelling the CR-Z is a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine with an electric power thus making this sports car a hybrid. Still, it manages good response and driving excitement if paired with the slick 6-speed manual. The CR-Z has a 3-Mode Drive System which adjusts the hybrid system for added performance or efficiency. While the drivetrain is a true gem, the CR-Z sparkles with its superior drivability. Despite employing a front-wheel drive layout and a non-independent rear suspension, the CR-Z has superb steering, ride, and handling when left in the confines of the city—95 percent of where owners will use the CR-Z anyhow. However, once the roads open up, the CR-Z starts to betray its origins. Though body roll is controlled, it tends to under steer in corners despite showing crisp, quick, and consistent steering feel. The rear suspension also tends to bottom out early. And the lack thrust from the gasoline-electric hybrid motor also means having to continuously shift through the gears to keep the engine singing in the right power range. Though the CR-Z has good city fuel economy: 10.40 km/L, it really shines cruising on the highway: 19.70 km/L.
Winner: Toyota 86
Value for Money
Toyota seems to be milking the 86 for all its worth. From a starting price of just a tad above P 1.5-million, the 86 has seen a close to P 100,000 price increase, where the manual transmission tested is now pegged at P 1,630,000. Unfortunately, despite the additional dough you need to cough up, you don’t get anything new. Still, all the stuff you want is standard in the 86 from dual-zone climate control to cruise control to automatic HID headlamps. Best of all, you get a perfectly proportioned sports car that’s fun to drive with commendable fuel economy.
On the flipside, Honda is winning the pricing wars with their CR-Z M/T which is priced at P 1,390,000—that’s some P 240,000 less than the Toyota 86—enough for a decent upgrade of wheels and tires, or perhaps, a bolt-on supercharger. And get this: the CR-Z doesn’t come any less loaded. It’s equipped to sell with automatic HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic climate control. Truly, the only thing where the CR-Z loses is in the rear passenger space; however, if you don’t plan to sit anyone there, the CR-Z is a great value sports car.
Winner: Honda CR-Z
Both the Toyota 86 and the Honda CR-Z say something about you. If you’re spirited, enthusiastic, driven, flashy, confident, purist, ambitious, and classy, then the Toyota 86 is your soul mate. If you’re innovative, sporty, stylish with flair, a game-changer, techy, efficient, and adventurous, the Honda CR-Z is the partner for you. Both cars tell your story of success, influence, and affluence. Both the Toyota 86 and the Honda CR-Z will definitely make you the talk of the town, but if there’s one that wins mainly because it’s much better behind the wheel (not to mention have more usable rear seats), it’s the Toyota 86.
Winner: Toyota 86