Jekyll and Hyde character

ROADS made shiny with rain and a white car streaked with dirt hardly puts you in a Riviera mood for a drive in this clever little Honda.

Like all coupes, it’s a car built for indulgence. Something to admire for its looks and peppy enough to let you enjoy the drive.

There’s no doubting the looks; hunkered down and chunky, this is a car to park next to an Aston and not be instantly drawn into the shadows. I loved the details; from scooped door handles to nearly flat rear window and crisply carved radiator intake.

You’ll pay for these looks when you try to reverse, when the big rear panels rob most of your rearward vision. Ditto when you peer into the rear view mirror and see mostly metal, acting as a divider between the two pieces of glass that make up the rear screen.

Inside, there’s more to wonder at, mixed like the outside with quirks you’ll have to learn to live with. Nicely supportive seats and logically positioned switches compete for your attention with a set of instruments that look more fairground than A14 in intent.

They change colour depending on how hard you’re pressing the throttle and turn red when you select Sport from a dashboard switch.

Which is where the CR-Z turns clever (or not). Under the bonnet is a modest petrol engine, backed up with a slim line electric motor which helps the car achieve some impressive official fuel figures.

And buried deep beneath the token rear seats is the big, heavy battery needed when you ask the electrics to help move the car a bit more swiftly.

Doesn’t stop the CR-Z having a useful boot, though. Need more luggage room and the rear seats flop forward in a hatchback-like manner. So it’s pretty practical as well as simply pretty.

There are three versions of the CR-Z, starting with the £17,695 S model. It comes with alloy wheels, heated door mirrors and climate control, while the £18,735 Sport adds cruise control, parking sensors, better sound system and privacy glass.

At the top of the CR-Z pile is the GT, with leather trim, xenon headlights, auto headlights and wipers and the option of an old fashioned looking and feeling sat nav for a steep £1,750.

But is the CR-Z a car you wouldn’t mind getting lost in? Sometimes, yes, but not if you’ve pushed the Eco button on the dash. It might eke out the petrol but it stifles all hints of sportiness and makes the car dull to drive.

Rather, choose Normal and you’ll enjoy spirited performance (the engine gets noisy when revved really hard) and still return economy figures that ought to impress someone who hasn’t bought a sporty car for its economy. Picking Sport makes the throttle more eager, firms up the steering and turns the speedo surround red. I’d stay with Normal.

I managed 50 mpg over a week of mixed motoring. Yes, you’d do better in a small diesel hatch but that would be missing the point altogether. This is a compact, stylish indulgence that makes a wet weather drive feel just a little bit sunny.