Honda has become the first brand to try and prove that selecting a hybrid doesn’t mean giving up on elements like style and sportiness.

Its new CR-Z hybrid combines a 1.5-litre 114hp petrol engine with a hybrid motor, providing figures of 119g/km of CO2 emissions and average fuel economy of 56.5mpg – all wrapped up in a very pretty coupe shell.

The Japanese brand is offering three trim levels of CR-Z, with the middle Sport version – featuring rear parking sensors, privacy glass, USB connection, cruise control and a multi-function steering wheel – likely to prove most popular.

The cabin is well trimmed and focused pleasantly around the driver, with all the controls, including those for ventilation and audio, centred around the steering wheel. There’s enough storage space for what is effectively a two-seater coupe due to rear seats that are difficult to access and which offer virtually no legroom at all. Boot space is also on the small side at 233 litres compared with a VW Scirocco’s 433 litres, although with the token rear seats dropped, it does extend to 401 litres.

Rear visibility has the same issues as the Insight, with a bracing bar across the rear windscreen irritatingly blocking the view of following traffic. This will be compounded in wet or wintery conditions as there’s no rear windscreen wiper.

To drive, the CR-Z isn’t as sporty as it looks, despite the slick-shifting manual gearbox replacing its hybrid siblings’ automatic. However, the reduced sporting bent actually makes for a more comfortable and refined travelling experience than the Insight can offer. The lack of power is a little disappointing, but there’s nothing this good-looking that offers a 10% BIK banding. The diesel version of Volvo‘s C30, which is in the 13% banding, is about as good-looking as eco-cars currently get.

This massive advantage over other, diverse petrol rivals manifests itself in whole-life cost terms, such is the nature of a low-power coupe with such good looks. The most obvious of the three rivals listed below is

the Scirocco, although that is a larger car capable of carrying four adults. Others include the Mazda MX-5 and Volvo C30, which is closest to the CR-V for practicality, and the likes of the hatchback Mini or Alfa Mito.

The CR-Z is in some ways a frustrating compromise. It’s neither green enough to get away with not being particularly sporty, or sporty enough to get away with not being particularly low-emission. It is, though, a likeable, strikingly good-looking little car that, aside from major practicality and minor reality-versus-expectation performance issues, will offer an enticing alternative, particularly for perk drivers looking for a low-tax alternative to the mainstream.

Honda CR-Z Sport
P11D price £17.944
Model price range £16,999-£19,999
Fuel consumption 56.5mpg
CO2 (tax) 117g/km (10%)
BIK 20/40% per month £30/£60
Service interval 12,500mls
Insurance (1-50) group 17
Warranty 3yrs/90,000mls
Boot space (min/max) 233/401 litres
Engine size/power 1497cc/124hp
Top speed/0-62mph 124mph/10.0secs
On sale June 2010
Score 8/10
Verdict Likeable coupe, more
efficient than non-hybrid
rivals and with
low running costs