Home » A Honda CR-Z With A Dead Hybrid Battery Looks Like An Awesome K-Swap Candidate

A Honda CR-Z With A Dead Hybrid Battery Looks Like An Awesome K-Swap Candidate

K20 Honda Crz Ts
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The Honda CR-Z is among the coolest two-door coupes made in the past 20 years. When the production model debuted in 2010, we all dug its CR-X throwback vibes, and got excited over it potentially offering great handling, fuel economy, and performance.

Well, two out of the three were met; it ended up sporting a 1.5-liter four cylinder plus a hybrid system. As cool as all that efficiency was, I think any Honda enthusiast would agree: Honda should’ve offered a special-edition CR-Z Si with the venerable K20 2.0-liter inline-four found in its Civic Si contemporary. 197 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque sounds like a grand ol’ time in a lil’ 2,600-pound hatch.

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However, thanks to used CR-Zs getting cheaper and cheaper, enthusiasts have a solid opportunity to make things right by picking up one up and swapping in a Honda K motor themselves. As VTEC Academy on YouTube brilliantly demonstrates:

The Setup

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Don’t get me wrong: I dig the stock CR-Z’s excellent fuel economy, and it’s a hybrid with an available honest-to-goodness six-speed manual transmission. People say stock CR-Zs are fun to drive, too. But a combined 122 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque ain’t enough to do the plucky CR-X’s legacy proud in our modern era.

The folks behind VTEC Academy also run Hasport, an aftermarket company that specializes in engine mounts, including ones used to complete engine swaps between different Honda models — notably, K swaps. I’m pretty sure the CR-Z uses the same engine mount locations as the Fit, which has been the lucky recipient of K swappage for more than a few years.

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The CR-Z makes a lot of economic sense, too. Their hybrid—or, Integrated Motor Assist—batteries eventually need replacing. It’s not a cheap proposition from the dealer parts counter: the pack ranges between $2,600 and $2,900. Though there are a lot of second-hand options out there, as well well as aftermarket and reconditioned units, they’re still around $1,500. (Then there’s the battery swap itself: It seems like a pretty easy and straightforward job, but the pack still weighs around 100 pounds. And you have to be careful working with high voltage).

Honda CR-Z
Honda

The Right Candidate

There’s no doubt one could pick up a decent CR-Z with a bum battery for $4,000 or less—this leaves plenty of room in the budget for for throwing in a K20, even the more powerful K24. The owner may want to just get rid of it in favor of something more modern. Or even a fresh/new EV.

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Heck, perfectly fine fare seems to range from $5,000 to $8,000, which is also a great starting point. Depending upon the battery pack’s age and mileage, you might even be able to recuperate some funds by selling that bit second-hand.

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Credit: eBay

Sourcing a K20Z3 with a manual transmission and LSD seems to cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000—obviously a bit more than a new battery pack, but it offers a lot more performance and thrill-factor.

Honda CR-Z FB Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace

The Swap and Overall Improvement

As the video above demonstrates, everything bolts right up with aftermarket mounts, and even looks like it belongs there from the factory. C’mon Honda, you were so close!

However, a few special modifications are still required. Firstly, the factory AC condenser doesn’t quite fit with VTEC Academy’s K24. Then, the exhaust manifold gets in the way of the front sway bar, so doing without the bar and making up for it with stiffer front springs is necessary [Ed Note: I just want to make it clear that deleting a front sway bar and replacing it with stiff springs is a humongous compromise. -DT]. There are also a handful of modern electronic aspects to keep in mind, like programming the key, integrated control unit, and ECU to talk to each other. Otherwise, it’s not bad, and generally follows the typical Honda building blocks/Legos tradition.

As far as performance improvement goes, Brian Gillespie of VTEC Academy reports that his eighth-mile test run went from an 11.91 with the stock CR-Z to a 10.49 with the bone-stock K20 under the hood. Pretty darn impressive, and there’s still ample power to be made for anyone inclined to do an aftermarket ECU tune, header, exhaust, intake, or even a supercharger kit.

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Gillespie also notes that the K20 CR-Z is an overall nicely driving car, too. Again, like it was meant to be in there. C’mon, Honda!

Eibach Honda CR-Z
Plenty of people/companies have swapped K motors into CR-Zs, but the world needs more. Image: Eibach

So Much Potential

Imagine killing several birds with one big sport compact stone: Giving the CR-Z the engine option it’s always deserved, avoiding a costly battery replacement that’ll still leave you with no more than 120ish horsepower, and all in a great-looking package. Plus, it could end up being a pretty inexpensive swap with the right chassis, aftermarket mounts, and know-how.

People say they’re very pleasant little hatchbacks to drive in general, too—this could be an awesome daily-commuter-slash-track car. It’s certainly got me daydreaming all weekend long.

[Ed Note: Just a bit of extra CR-Z fun: Some of you may recall the Honda Performance Division gang built a race-spec CR-Z demonstration car in 2010 that bumped the stock LEA-MF6 engine’s output to 200 horsepower via turbo. Cool, but it’s no K20 when it comes to ultimate power potential. –PV]
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Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
28 days ago

K-swapping any Honda model is always fun, extra points for hatches, and the CRZ is the next logical cheap candidate pretty much. Under appreciated little cars. I suspect Americans general movement away from small cars, coupes, and 2 seaters meant the CRZ was sadly doomed from the start, and sales would have had to have boomed to justify Honda Si-ing it. Still wish CRZ and Fit Si’s had happened just get why they didn’t.

Kasey
Kasey
29 days ago

I’d be more interested in the supercharger kit and lsd that Honda offered for the CR-Z. If it was installed by a dealer or approved shop it didn’t void the warranty and it got output up to 197hp.

Tom Conklin
Tom Conklin
29 days ago

As an owner of a 2012 Civic Si, I’ve often thought that if anything totals my car I’ll buy it back and embark on this swap. Building a CRZ Si as Honda would have would be fun. An insight is absolutely not the same, and doesn’t capture the essence of building the CRX Si successor that Honda didn’t.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
29 days ago

I mean, yes, but also, no. If you’re going to K swap a CRZ, you may as well just grab a 1st gen Insight and swap that instead. Insight is lighter, slipprier, and will be that much faster.

CRZ never made sense to me, as it wasn’t fast, and the HCH (Civic Hybrid) got about the exact same MPG, and was about just as fast, with way more space, aftermarket, etc etc etc.

BigRed91
BigRed91
29 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

This is 100% the answer. First-gen insight was actually a pretty incredible car considering its light weight and excellent aerodynamics. The swap has been figured out by a few people already and seems to be fairly straightforward at this point.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
29 days ago

Neat. Can I still use my Clean Pass and drive in the HOV lane?

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
29 days ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

I won’t tell anybody if you don’t.

Keith Hunt
Keith Hunt
29 days ago

I’m always happy to see some enthusiasm for the often maligned CRZ and glad its being looked at as a platform to mod! I loved the style and owned one for a few years with the 6MT – it was a fun little car being relatively light weight and at around town speeds was quick enough due to the extra torque of the hybrid system. I added an aftermarket rear sway bar and it was fun to get the back end of the car to step out a bit if given a flick into a turn – with the modest power you could drive it 10/10ths most of the time

But it definitely was a significant compromise in its “sport hybrid” mission and beyond the looks a manual transmission Honda Fit made a lot more sense – hell, my current 2020 RAV4 Hybrid isn’t nearly as fun to drive but is getting about the same fuel economy as my old CRZ (35 – 40mpg on average) and is significantly quicker with 100hp more and AWD, all while being 1000lbs heavier and with much more room

Haranguatank
Haranguatank
29 days ago

The Honda Maxxis boys campaigned a K swapped CR-Z for several seasons in the ARA rally series a few years back. You can hear a few seconds of that sweet K-series noise at 4:00 here:
https://youtu.be/u-b8u26fkQA?t=242

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
1 month ago

“Honda should’ve offered a special-edition CR-Z Si with the venerable K20 2.0-liter inline-four found in its Civic Si contemporary”

Yes, exactly that. When Honda first showed the CR-Z it was like the second coming of the CRX. As a HUGE CRX fan (Ive owned 2 second gens), I was pumped. Needless to say that when they announced it would be a hybrid and only have 126 hp and weigh like 500 pounds more than the CRX it was a massive disappointment. Yet still, I kept up hope that this was just the initial launch and would be followed with the real one. CR-Z could be the CRX HF of the lineup and then they’ll release the CR-Z Si. Well we all know how that worked out.

Steve P
Steve P
29 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

We’ve all heard the story about how it was supposed to have had a K-series, but I wonder if CAFE rules had any impact on that at the time. I forget if you have to crash test variants of the same model (for the different engine/battery setups) or at least pay more to get them individually certified. It would’ve been great to have HF/DX/Si trims, but maybe the extra costs versus projected sales numbers weren’t there.

Last edited 29 days ago by Steve P
ADDvanced
ADDvanced
29 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

Get an insight 😛

Kasey
Kasey
29 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

HPD did release a bunch of upgrade parts for them at least. Iirc there was a limited slip diff, and a supercharger available for the CR-Z.

Mike Dris
Mike Dris
1 month ago

[Ed Note: I just want to make it clear that deleting a front sway bar and replacing it with stiff springs is a humongous compromise. -DT].

Hasport is one of the (if not THE) original quality Honda engine swap manufacturers and authorities. If they say stiffer springs make up for lack of the sway bar I will take their word for it.

The Eibach car doesn’t appear to have one either.

Auto Peon
Auto Peon
1 month ago

Hey, slightly off topic for this article but not offtopic for this website;

Is someone going to write the article, “For $20K you could get this Kia Carnivalle, or this 2nd hand Mikoyan MiG-31”. I’m waiting.

https://www.businessinsider.com/us-buys-81-soviet-fighter-jets-from-russian-ally-20k-2024-4

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
29 days ago
Reply to  Auto Peon

Holy FUCK. I could live my Ace Combat-ass “go fast” dreams in a MiG-29 or especially the MiG-31 (top speed at 70,000 = Mach 2.83 = ~2000 MPH before fucking melting). Do they have any spare MiG-29s?

beachbumberry
beachbumberry
1 month ago

I like this whole concept but I’m more partial to the Honda insight k swaps

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

This looks like an interesting project. Loved the cr-z looks. The seating sucked with the console waering a hole in my knee. I’d have to change the seats and figure out that front sway bar problem. Stiffer springs just ain’t the way to do that.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago

I love my stock ’16 CRZ, but the stock suspension offers little to no damping as it is, so any reduction is going to make for a ROUGH ride

SooperDooperPooperScooter
SooperDooperPooperScooter
1 month ago

Isn’t there an S/C kit for the stock motor that brings hp up to just about 200? That’s K20 hp without as much hassle.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago

Yes, and because it’s a Honda official part, it comes with a warranty. Costs $5k just for parts and IIRC you have to mail your ECU to Honda to get it reprogrammed. Also it only works on the manuals; nothing for the automatic folks

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago

This car got not much better fuel economy than the contemporary Fit. Unless the styling was the draw, there wasn’t much reason to buy one over a Fit. I had one as a loaner back in the day when our old Fit was undergoing the VTEC spring recall.

Now that time has made the hybrid stuff conk out, the more K swaps the better!

Autopizen
Autopizen
1 month ago

Do you have any details @ the Fit spring recall? Like, what years? Thanks much.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago
Reply to  Autopizen

IIRC it was the first few model years of the second generation. Our 2009 definitely needed it. Run your VIN through the NTHSA’s recall lookup.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 month ago

All of the non-Prius hybrids from that era were that way. IIRC, their gas motors idled instead of turning off completely

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

CRZ didn’t do that, though. It fully shuts off and uses the hybrid motor to bump start the engine when it’s time to set off again

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

It depended on the conditions. In good weather they shut off. When running the air conditioning they sometimes didn’t. Family had a 2005 Civic hybrid.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
1 month ago

I owned a 3rd Gen Fit and still own a CRZ. The styling is definitely why you get this; it has half the seats, half the doors, and weirdly a much lower GVWR, but you also see Fits evvveerywhere. Much more of an event to see a CRZ

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

Pardon my ignorance, why not an L15/L20 swap instead of a K-swap?

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

They have a variant of the L series already. This is basically a hybrid Fit coupe.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
1 month ago

So, arguably, the 1.5T or 2.0T would be simple enough and with more power than a K-series engine.

Steve P
Steve P
1 month ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon
Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

A first gen Honda Insight is an even better K-swap candidate. Low mass and low CdA are the goal. The lower these things are, the faster each horsepower makes the car, and the less fuel it consumes.

The CRZ is a bit of a heavy beast. Its drag is okay(most modern cars are worse). A CRX HF is a much more efficient platform, overall.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

When are you going to write an article for The Autopian??

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

Definitely will when I get some of my own projects finished. I want to make some articles showcasing their capabilities, and how they relate to the current bloated/inefficient/expensive/wasteful automotive zeitgeist.

I built a trike that only needs 8 Wh/mile to cruise 30-35 mph. That is 4,000 MPGe. While it is basically the equivalent of a college project, it proves a concept. It is in the process of being upgraded to a more efficient body, a roll cage with harness, and additional motors in the front wheels. The goal is to make a one-seater vehicle that can hang with a Hellcat at a stoplight drag, and get 1,500 MPGe cruising on the freeway at 70 mph.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

That’s phenomenally sick. I’d happily read an article about that in its current state and then read another article when it’s complete. Heck, we have a couple of daydreaming designers around here. You could write articles about dream swaps. You definitely don’t need to be done your trike to provide great information that’s fascinating to the Autopian crowd

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

Its current state is disassembled. I’d have made progress on it if it weren’t for my job eating up most of my time and caring for my disabled mother on top of that. I was hoping I’d have had it operable again by now, but I’m not sure when that will actually be. I need to refine the design of some new spindles to mount the front motors.

Autopizen
Autopizen
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Hang in there, do work, take care of your mom. We’ll wait. Eagerly.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

“I’d have made progress on it if it weren’t for my job eating up most of my time”

Stupid jobs. They always get in the way of what’s actually important.

Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Driving my K20a Insight was like riding a cannon ball or some other analogy that results in fiery crashes. Somehow I drove mine for five years without crashing or being imprisoned while slaying Mustangs or whatever came my way.

Eventually I wanted something less bonkers-hectic with a back seat, so I got an Abarth.

https://davesanborn.blogspot.com/2017/05/my-insane-honda-insight-k20-swap-is-for.html

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 month ago

What kind of fuel economy were you averaging with the K-swapped Insight?

Last edited 1 month ago by Toecutter
Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
1 month ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I logged every fill up at gas stations … and then never bothered inputting that data into Fuelly. I sold it and (I think) let the maintenance log go with it.

Anecdotally, it seemed to be in the high 30s. If I’d tuned it to have lean burn then it could’ve been much higher.

Khalbali
Khalbali
1 month ago

From what I’ve heard in the past, there were plans for the k20 but there wasn’t quite enough space between the engine and radiator to meet crash regs or something.

Steve P
Steve P
29 days ago
Reply to  Khalbali

Their project manager sounded so hopeful:

“But to answer whether there will be a more powerful version of the CR-Z, why, yes, you can expect that. The CR-Z has another 10 years left in its life cycle, so moving forward, it will always be improved until the next one appears”

https://paultan.org/2013/02/22/delving-into-the-details-interview-with-norio-tomobe-large-project-leader-of-the-new-facelifted-honda-cr-z/

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