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Honda Embraces the Hybrid with CR-Z

According to U.S. News & World Report, the 2011 Honda CR-Z ranks 15 out of 33 Affordable Small Cars. The ranking is based on their analysis of 25 published reviews and test-drives of the Honda CR-Z, and analyses of reliability and safety data.

Here is another of Rick Newman's "micro-reviews" of the CR-Z.

Starts at $19,345: 31 MPG city; 30 MPG highway

What it is : An innovative but odd hybrid posing as a two-seat sports car.

What's worth knowin g: Honda has had less success than Toyota with hybrids, which boost mileage by combining a gas engine with a battery-powered electric motor that helps power the car. The CR-Z is mechanically similar to the Insight, which is Honda's four-door competitor to the iconic Toyota Prius. With the CR-Z, Honda seems to be experimenting with a low-volume high-visibility car to see if it can nab some hybrid cred from Toyota.

Who it's for : Eco-minded hipsters who think the Toyota Prius is dreadfully boring and never need to carry more than one passenger.

What's good : It's one of the best-looking hybrids available, with a clean cabin, fun handling and even a 6-speed manual transmission, for the few drivers who still know how that works. Honda's overall reliability is a plus that generates confidence one might not have if such an odd vehicle were made by another manufacturer.

What's bad : For as cool as it looks, the CR-Z is slow for a sports car, with a blasé 0-to-60 time of about 9 seconds. While mileage is good, other hybrids do better: The Prius, for example, averages 50 MPG, while the Honda Civic hybrid averages 44 MPG. So the CR-Z is less sporty than other sports cars and less efficient than other hybrids.

What to do if you want one : Check it out if you really want to make a statement, but make sure you also consider some gas-powered subcompacts that get similar mileage and may offer better performance, such as the Mazda MX-5, the Mini Cooper, the Scion tC, the Ford Fiesta and the Mazda2.

Click here for the official Honda site .

Rick Newman is the Chief Business Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a longtime car buff. He covers corporate and consumer trends from the magazine's New York bureau. Rick is also the magazine's car reviewer and will be writing what he calls "micro-reviews" here on a regular basis, as well as writing about all things vehicular.

Follow Rick on Twitter, @rickjnewman.

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