Honda CR-Z coming very soon!

A few months ago I posted some photos from Tokyo Motor Show 2007; Featured on one of those photos was an awesome-looking Honda CR-Z, a futuristic, hybrid concept car that looked like something that had escaped from a Sci-Fi movie.
Here is that same photo so you can see what I am talking about:

Honda CR-Z

Someone commented on that post, wondering if this concept car was going to be produced, and I most ignorantly told that person that there was little chance of that happening, since Japanese carmakers always come up with a multitude of radical concepts that aren’t meant to get past its “concept” stage.
Then, late last year I saw a huge sign on the window of my local Honda dealer shop that read “NEW SPORTY HYBRID – HONDA CR-Z COMING IN FEBRUARY! PRE-ORDER YOURS TODAY!”.
So, yeah… my apologies to the person who commented. It looks like I’d made the wrong assumption. They really are going to make the CR-Z! I’m also really late in getting this news… I would’ve found out a lot sooner if I’d been looking at the news from Tokyo Motor Show 2009.

Amazingly, the production model (or rather the 2009 concept based on it) looks very similar to the concept; something that in my opinion doesn’t happen very often, especially with a design like the CR-Z’s. Look at the photo below.. looks a lot like the car in the photo above doesn’t it?

Honda CR-Z hybrid coupe

Certainly bears a lot more resemblancec than that Suzuki Kizashi from a year or two ago, which although in its concept stage looked fresh and innovative, turned out to be really plain-looking when it eventually went into production.

See how the Kizashi transformed from this… into this.

Not much semblance between the two, is there? Now I know it’s not really fair to be setting Kizashi as an example here, but when you compare different stages of these two cars, it’s easy to see that Honda actually did a very good job in staying in line with the original design.

For anyone interested, here’s a gallery full of spoilerific CR-Z photos (Japanese site):
Honda CR-Z Photo Gallery

I wouldn’t mind owning one of these babies, although with only 2 seats I’m not so sure if it will be a bit hit among practical people with family members. What do you think? Would you want to become an owner of a CR-Z?

Honda will start selling the car on February 26 in Japan. Looking forward to how this “sports hybrid” will do out there on the market!

Oh yes, and if you’re looking to buy a quality used car from Japan, keep checking Autocom Japan’s online showcase of vehicles. Sorry there’s no CR-Z in the list (since there’s no such thing as a used CR-Z yet) but there are many other great Japanese cars for you to see. Enjoy!

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Prius is STILL the Most Fuel-Efficient Car

Well, here’s some car-related news that’s worthy of attention.
Last week, United States’ E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Agency) has released its latest list of fuel-efficient vehicles. And guess what car won first place in the list of top 10 economical cars? The Toyota Prius… again! According to the Japanese article at carview.co.jp, this is the 4th consecutive year in which the Prius has emerged victorious among a multitude of green cars.

Amazingly enough, the latest Prius has managed to run 21.68km per litre in the city (that’s 51MPG!) and 20.4km/l (48MPG) on the highway.

EPA's Greenest Car

EPA's Greenest Car: Toyota Prius

Here is the top 10 list:

1:Toyota Prius
2:Ford Fusion Hybrid
3:Honda Civic Hybrid
4:Honda Insight
5:Lexus HS250h
6:Nissan Altima Hybrid
7:Ford Escape Hybrid
8:Smart ForTwo
9:Toyota Camry Hybrid
10:Lexus RX450h

It’s interesting to note that 9 of the top 10 vehicles are hybrids, cars that move by means of an electric motor as well as an engine. The only non-hybrid car in there is the tiny Smart ForTwo (which I am personally quite fond of, because it’s so cute). Even better is the fact that 7 of the cars are Japanese: 4 Toyota/Lexus, 2 Hondas, and a Nissan.

For a more detailed list, check out this link: Most and Least Fuel-Efficient Cars.

As you can see on that link, on the other end of the fuel-efficiency scale are big expensive supercars like the Lamborghini Murcielago, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and the Bentley Continental. While the MPG figures for those cars are pretty depressing to look at, I guess that if people can afford those cars in the first place, they won’t have any trouble keeping their gas tanks filled. I wish I were one of them!

On another note, I must mention that I have fallen in love with the 10th car on the list: Lexus RX450h. Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful luxury SUVs I have ever set eyes on!

Lexus RX450h

Lexus RX450h

Hybrid cars forced to create noise pollution?

Hi there, this is Maki again.
This is a small update on my last post about hybrid cars.
Remember what I said about the hybrid Toyota Harrier being so silent that it might be a potential health hazard to pedestrians? Well, I’ve just read this article on BBC News, and it looks like Toyota may have to consider adding noise to their hybrid vehicles, because blind pedestrians (who rely on sound for guidance) cannot hear the cars coming and might be hit.

According to what they say,

The panel is considering forcing manufacturers of hybrid cars to introduce a sound-making function that alerts passersby to the presence of a vehicle.

Click here to read the BBC News article.prius

What kind of noise are they going to add to the new Prius, I wonder? I suggest either ice cream truck music or the engine noise of a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 firing up… that should be enough to alert any passers-by, blind or not.

Why the superb Toyota Harrier Hybrid is not the car for me

Since this is my first post on this blog, I will introduce myself: my name is Maki, and I am the accountant here at Autocom Japan. I handle all the money that goes in and out the company, and occasionally dabble in other work such as advertisement design.
I am also a petrolhead; I love all things with an engine and four wheels, especially those rare, expensive metals loaded with tons of horsepower.
So, today I would like to talk about my experience in the most technically advanced car I have ever driven: the Toyota Harrier Hybrid 2008 (or Lexus RX Hybrid).

Harrier Hybrid, the most sophisticated car I've ever driven

Harrier Hybrid, the most sophisticated car I've ever driven

First and foremost of all, let me inform you that I do not own a Harrier. A huge luxury SUV is not the kind of car a 22-year-old girl should be driving, much less be able to afford. But I got to drive it at a test-driving course set aside specifically for that purpose by Toyota. And what a car!
Here are a few of the things that impressed me:

1. It’s so eerily quiet to drive. That is of course due to the car being a hybrid, running entirely on its electric motor during the course of my drive without the use of its powerful 3000cc engine. It’s so silent, in fact, that I think it could possibly be a health hazard to unwary pedestrians crossing the road!

2. It’s very, very comfortable inside… not very surprising in a heavy luxury car, but the ride was so smooth that it almost felt like the car was floating and gliding over the road. It’s great as long as the driver doesn’t fall asleep from being too comfortable.

3. All of the interior – especially the dashboard – look awesome! It has enough cool buttons and gadgets to keep any driver or passenger entertained during long drives.

I now understand why the Harrier is so popular among men: it looks cool, sporty and luxurious at the same time, and when you’re driving it you start to feel invincible, as if you were in a heavily armored tank.

However, as I was climbing out the car after my drive, I could not help thinking “was I really driving it?” Sure, I was behind the wheel, making turns, signalling, pressing down the gas and the break. Only it did not feel like I was in direct control of the car, but more like I was telling its in-built computer what to do, and that computer was in turn directing the car. So, when asked how the driving experience was, I wasn’t sure how to answer.

Now, let me take you back a couple years back in my lifetime, back to a time when I lived on the island of Hawaii. The car I and my roommates drove back then was an old gray Nissan Maxima. I don’t know exactly how old the car was, only that the model was first produced in 1989. And what can I say… the car was like the exact opposite of the afore-mentioned Harrier: a plain, old, half-broken-down car. Here’s why…

The Nissan Maxima, in one of its better days

The Nissan Maxima, on one of its better days

1. The air-conditioner never worked correctly so that the windows often had to be opened to let in the fresh tropical breeze… along with all the noxious fumes from surrounding cars and lorries. Oh, joy.

2. The steering was crooked so that if I let go of the wheel, the car would automatically veer to the left and into the opposing lane (this is in America, with right-side lanes).

3. No matter how diligently we washed and cleaned it, it always looked as if someone had poured acid over its bonnet.

4. Occasionally, the car stubbornly refused to start its engine at all and was therefore completely useless.

However, when the old Maxima did obey its driver, despite the hot, humid air, despite the coughing engine noise and the crooked steering, and despite its shabby looks, it could sometimes create a truly wonderful driving experience. I could feel each part of the car working hard, moving and responding directly to me, and it gave me a sense of freedom.
After driving the new Harrier Hybrid, I realized that that was what was missing from my driving experience in it. I could not “feel” the car like I could in the Maxima.

So, you might ask, what’s my point in comparing these two vastly different cars? One is an epitome of modern Japanese engineering, while the Maxima is just a plain, out-dated car by today’s standards.
My point is this: modern, technologically-advanced cars can sometimes be so sophisticated that there is very little left for the driver to do, and therefore lose a lot of that “connection” between car and driver. Don’t get me wrong, the Toyota Harrier Hybrid is an excellent car. I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants a sporty SUV that is both luxurious and economical at the same time. Toyota really does some amazing things.

…but sometimes, depending on time and place, and if I could choose between the two, I would much rather go out for a drive in an old beaten-up Maxima.

– Speaking of Toyota Harriers, though, we usually have a few for sale on our website… somewhat older and definitely not hybrids, but Harriers none the less. Please feel free to take a look and see other cars as well if you’re interested. Click here to see our stock list