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Roseville, Calif.- The good and bad with the new 2011 Honda hybrid CR-Z: It features three distinct driving modes, yet only has two seats. That’s right, unlike many hatchbacks, this one strangely has no backseat.

However, there’s plenty to enjoy regarding this sporty Honda vehicle. The price is right (starting at $19,345), gas mileage is great, and having three driving modes – Econ, Normal, Sport – makes it very unique. The CR-Z is a nimble, fun vehicle to drive, a fact that can’t be said about that many hybrids.

Honda certainly knows quite a bit about hybrids. The Japanese automaker currently offers the Honda Insight hybrid and the Civic can be purchased in hybrid mode. It also once equipped the Accord with hybrid capability. Attempting to offer a hybrid with some added performance capability over its rivals, the V6 Accord had fairly tepid sales and the experiment ended rather quickly.

Who knows what lies ahead for the CR-Z? It shares some similarities to the Insight, including suspension and basic structure. But at a lightweight 2,650 pounds (80 pounds less than the Insight), the CR-Z is shorter by a foot, has a wider track, and is several inches lower in height.

More seasoned drivers will recognize that Honda borrowed from its past. The CR-Z is very similar in appearance to the Honda CRX, which debuted in 1984 and lasted for more than a dozen years.

The CR-Z’s various driving modes are what most drivers will find interesting. For the best gas mileage, stay in Econ mode and watch trips to the pumps decrease. But with Econ you also get a pretty sluggish ride, an experience that seems a shame because it doesn’t go along with the fun-loving appearance of the CR-Z.

Sport mode is where it’s at for drivers who want to crank the throttle a bit. The 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder CR-Z only has a combined 122 horsepower (the electric motor chips in 13 hp), yet that works well in most situations when driving the 6-speed manual transmission. Normal mode predictably falls somewhere in between sluggish and peppy.

It’s certainly odd that the CR-Z is sold overseas with a small backseat, but offers just a flipped down rear shelf for its American car buyers. Just because the rear can lay flat doesn’t mean there’s a ton of cargo space. Maximum room is 25.1 cubic feet, good enough for a pair of golf bags or a medium-sized grocery run.

The two-passenger limit is a negative and so is the rear visibility. A bar in the hatchback rear end is quite annoying when backing up or changing lanes and realizing the view is definitely obstructed.

2011 Honda Hybrid CR-Z EX

Power: 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder, 122 combined horsepower
Mileage estimate: 31-37 mpg
Price: $22,560

Standard features include: automatic headlights; hill-start assist (manual transmission); automatic climate control; tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; seven-speaker CD audio system, USB/auxiliary audio jacks), Bluetooth; xenon headlights; foglights; leather-wrapped steering wheel; stability and traction control