The sleek and sporty looks of the Honda CR-Z hybrid create expectations of spirited performance and immediately after it arrived in the market, tuners already began to upgrade its powertrain and even add aggressive bodykits to it.

Now Honda too is going the same path as it now has an updated CR-Z with not only styling changes that enhance its sporty looks but also made changes to the IMA powertrain. Also significant is the switch to a lithium-ion battery pack, the next generation of energy storage for hybrids and EVs.

The CR-Z’s 1.5-litre petrol engine has been improved with changes to the variable valve timing system and Engine Control Unit (ECU). An anti-vibration knock sensor has been introduced and the material of the crankshaft has been upgraded. The peak power output has been increased from is now 121 ps, a 6% increase.

The electric motor system has also been improved and the change from a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery has been accompanied by an increase in power from 14 ps to 20 ps. This is partly due to the nature of the lithium-ion battery which is denser and can pack more energy for the same size.

Working in unison, the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system now delivers a combined output of 137 ps at 6600 rpm (+13 ps in total) and 190 Nm of torque (+16 Nm). The claimed 0-100 km/h sprint time has dropped to 9 seconds from 9.7 seconds previously while a top speed of 200 km/h is possible. As would be expected, the consumption figures are not what you would expect from a 137 ps engine and Honda claims 20 kms/litre, though it depends very much on the driving style.

To help the driver make the best use of the enhanced performance, Honda has introduced a Plus Sport (S+) boost system. If the battery is more than 50% charged, the driver can activate this system using the S+ button on the steering wheel. When the accelerator is depressed, the electric boost begins, delivering increased acceleration for up to 10 seconds. A flashing gauge on the dashboard indicates when the system is active (S+ can be used in ECON, Normal or Sport modes).

Deliveries of the new CR-Z will begin in January 2013 though it’s uncertain when we will see this new version in Malaysia. Being a CBU import from Japan, it could be as quick as for any other country but it will depend on allocations from the factory too.

Honda has also collaborated with Mugen to produce an even more powerful CR-Z with a supercharger boosting the engine output to 156 ps. There will be only 300 units of the Mugen RZ, as the limited edition is known

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