Honda - CR-Z
This is a distinctive car, with satisfyingly clear links to the fondly remembered CR-X coupe. A thrusting grille, blue-tinged headlights and a low roof identify it from the front, the abruptly cut tail and a two rear windows - one vertical, one gently raked - echoing the CRX design. You wouldn't call it beautiful, but it's appealing and individual.
The Insight is far more agile than the Insight hatchback on which it's based, aided by its shorter wheelbase, quicker steering, more rigid body and lower driving position. So it's quite an entertainer, if a little short of the tactile feedback you'd expect from a car so obviously sporty.
It never gets uncomfortable, but the CR-Z is not a car to cosset on big-mile trips either - the seats lack lower-back support, the ride turns a bit busy and motorway cruising could be slightly quieter. But for moderate commutes it's fine.
Honda reliability is among the best, and the CR-Z certainly feels lightly robust, even if its interior looks slightly cost-compromised in places. The main dash moulding is hard-touch, and the centre console has an oddly unfinished look, too. But the alloy pedals, a stylish wheel, attractive seats and busily intriguing instruments do much to compensate.
This isn't a grippingly fast hot hatch - not with 122bhp - but it's brisk, and feeling the occasional surge of supporting electric power certainly adds interest. Its eagerness is underscored by the slightly hammer-like revving of the petrol engine - long a Honda characteristic - which happily, quietens off at a cruise. It's worth remembering that mid-range pull varies - when the battery's depleted, the electric motor contributes little.
The CR-Z is effectively a two-seater, as the rear seat is good only for an uncomplaining child who faces Houndini-esque manoeuvres to get there. It's better reserved for luggage, especially as the shallow boot isn't so big. In-cabin storage is better, however.
The Honda is some way from qualifying for zero VED, isn't London congestion charge-exempt and turns in good rather than exceptional fuel economy. But, it's likely to hold its value well and prove impressively dependable in later life. Insurance costs are competitive for a coupe if not in the economy-car league.
For what's quite a complex, intriguing and appealing car the CR-Z is quite good value, especially in mid-range form. However, other models, notably the diesel VW Scirocco, provide equivalent economy, more performance, more room and a superior interior finish for little more.
Annoyingly, sat nav is an option only on the priciest CR-Z - at least it's well sited and easy to use. The stereo fields reasonably big speakers and puts out fairly solid sound without being exceptional.