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Finally the 2011 Honda CR-Z has come down off the stand at the auto shows and it's sitting right here on the asphalt on Naruto Skyline, a mountain road down the spine of Shikoku, the smallest of the main islands of Japan. We've been waiting to get behind the wheel of this car since the concept first appeared at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, and now we're getting our chance.

Already there's plenty of hype building for the car's introduction to the U.S. late this summer, as American Honda has already built a Web site to promote the car's arrival. But this is the real car in front of us, ready to be released into the Japanese market, and Honda officials tell us that the American version won't be much different.

The 2011 Honda CR-Z asks a lot of questions. The recession has dramatically affected Honda's adventurous engineering spirit, and the company has had to sell its Formula 1 team, cancel the development of its new front-engine replacement for the Acura NSX and end the sale of the Honda S2000 in America. Does this company still have the imaginative engineering that makes it so different?

The Honda CR-Z is certainly a different kind of car. A hybrid can be a lot of things. Clean, clever and fuel-efficient, without a doubt, and a poster child for a forthcoming generation of sensible cars. But fun?

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Inside Line: 2011 Honda CR-Z First Drive

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