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LOS ANGELES -- Cars typically force drivers to make a choice: sporty but piggish on fuel or efficient and underwhelming.

With its 2011 CR-Z, Honda Motor Co. is playing with a new concept. It's called responsible indulgence, and Honda's debuting the idea with a two-seat "sporty hybrid coupe" that's got some spunk but doesn't force drivers to check their environmental consciences at the door. Starting at $19,200, the CR-Z offers conservationist virtues and Kardashian curves on a Kmart budget.

The latest gas-electric powertrain from Honda is slightly larger than the one used in its slow-selling Insight hybrid. The CR-Z has 0.2 liters of additional displacement and twice as many valves on its inline four cylinders. As a result, its 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and 10-kilowatt brushless electric motor are slightly less fuel efficient, rating 39 miles per gallon on the highway for the automatic and 37 mpg for the one I tested - a six-speed manual transmission, a first for a hybrid car.

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Posted 4:50 PM

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