CR-Z sports coupe hybrid seen to fire up Honda’s resurgence

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THE UPCOMING CR-Z is expected to bring excitement to the Philippine market. Thanks to its responsive handling and snappy gearbox (if you’ll be buying the manual) this coupe will prove that exhilarating drive and hybrid power could mix.

Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) has indeed fully recovered from the twin woes it suffered two years ago.

From January to April this year, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. reported that HCPI has sold 4,967 units (1,000 units in April alone) making Honda, the organization’s third best-selling brand behind Toyota and Mitsubishi.

This achievement is a big improvement from HCPI’s performance last year when it only sold 3,510 units in the first four months, a result of the double blow it suffered in 2011 when a quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan destroyed key Honda global suppliers and heavy flooding in Thailand inundated the factory that churns out nearly 5 percent of Honda’s vehicles worldwide.

“That episode made us even stronger. It was a real tough time for us, but we have seen a recovery, especially this year,” reported HCPI president and general manager Tatsuya Natsume.

Natsume bared that the company is busy setting up additional dealerships around the country.

In the first four months of 2013, HCPI has already initiated the groundbreaking of its dealerships in Calamba, Laguna; Tacloban, Leyte; Naga, Camarines Sur; in A Soriano Avenue in the North Reclamation Area of Cebu City; and in Ortigas avenue in Mandaluyong City.

Natsume attributes HCPI’s resurgence to its customers’ unwavering commitment and loyalty. It also helped that the market is still enamored with the third-generation City, the compact sedan that the company assembles in its Santa Rosa plant in Laguna.

New features

The market also appreciates that the current City now has a 1.5-liter ENC variant, which sets the bar in terms of passenger safety in its class. The variant is already equipped with Vehicle Stability Assist, a technology that prevents skidding and stabilizes cornering; ISOFIX child seat anchors, which is the international standard for fastening child seats; a new 60/40 split-folding rear seat, which adds to the already generous 506 liters of trunk space; and seatbelt reminder for both driver and front passenger.

Driver and passenger SRS airbags, Anti-Lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (prevents the wheels from locking during sudden braking) are standard across the City range.

Since 1996, the assembly plant has rolled out over 70,000 City units.

HCPI hopes to “excite” the market with its upcoming models.

While the market will have to wait until November for the global unveiling of a fully redesigned, third-generation Jazz compact hatch (at the Tokyo Motor Show), car buyers should check out the CR-Z hybrid sports coupe, which HCPI intends to bring in August.

Priced between P1.4 million (the manual Standard variant) and P2.1 million (CVT and paddle shifter-equipped Mugen variant), this 130-horsepower hybrid is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and electric-motor combo.

The availability of the CR-Z here is expected to boost HCPI sales considering that elsewhere in the world, this model has been regarded as one of the best-performing hybrids, thanks to its superb steering, ride and handling, as well as the availability of a 6-speed manual variant.

Best of all, this two-seater ride is rated to consume just one liter of gasoline every 25 kilometers.

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