2009 Honda Fit: First Drive

Just three years after its debut in the US, Honda has delivered an updated version of the Honda Fit for 2009. Some analysts believe that it’s premature to bring out a new version of the subcompact five-door hatchback, but it’s here with a slightly sportier look inside and out—so we took it on a quick test drive through the curvy canyon roads north of Los Angeles.

Wrapped in completely new sheet metal, the new Fit is powered by a 1.5-liter inline four engine, yielding 117 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque. As with the previous model, the new Fit is not impressive in terms of power—often struggling to keep up with higher speed traffic. However, Honda revised the car’s final drive gear, resulting in stronger launches from the standstill position, as well as greater ability to climb steeper roadways and slopes.

What the Fit lacks in power, it makes up in handling. The new Fit feels more agile than ever. Steering is light, quick, and responsive. On sharp, switchback roads, the Fit maneuvered with ease and took corners with plenty of confidence. The Vehicle Stability System aptly reeled in the car at higher speeds. The Fit does, however, seem to lean a bit more on turn-ins than other vehicles its size, due primarily to smaller tires and a higher center of gravity.

Of course, fuel economy is one of the key selling points for the Honda Fit—along with an amazing amount of interior space for a subcompact. (In fact, for 2009, Honda breathed in more room by stretching the Fit’s wheelbase by 2 inches and moving the A-pillars forward about 5 inches.) Our time with the test car was limited, so we can’t report real-world mileage, but government fuel economy ratings for the 2009 Honda Fit with a 5-speed automatic transmission are 28 in the city and 35 on the highway. That’s a slight bump up from the previous Fit, which was rated 27 city/ 34 highway. The Honda Fit received an Ultra Low-Emission Vehicle (ULEV-2) rating from California regulators.

Based on our first drive, we believe the 2009 Honda Fit continues to be a very compelling option for shoppers seeking efficiency, practicality, and affordability. Pricing starts at $14,550, making it one of the best values in a high-mpg car.

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  • Old Man Crowder

    28/35? Is that it? I guess I thought it would be higher than that, considering how small it is.

    I thought I saw a 100 hp Civic getting better mileage than that.

  • civic

    Real world driving of a 2007 Civic EX millage is 35-42. This is average driving. I also have a Civic Hybrid and it doing 48-52.

  • JP

    My (much larger) Mazda 3i gets mileage that equals and often exceeds the numbers posted here for the Fit.

  • Bryce

    hmm, the redesign is nice, but I would expect better numbers from a smaller car. The Focus gets 35 on the highway, and the Cobalt and Civic beat it out even more with 37 on the highway. However, I would have to say the car is popular here in the bay area and more power to them. Maybe the mpg will get progressively better in coming years. : )

  • Hal Howell

    My wife’s ’07 Yaris gets 32-35 in the city and 39 on the highway! Of course, her liftback is only a 2-DR hatch. However, for a very competent commuter car that can also go on the highway, its a great little car.

  • ham

    Unfortunately you can’t look at EPA ratings that closely. I have an 07 fit and get a real world average of 37 without trying particularly hard. That model’s EPA rating is currently only 28/34 (down from 33/38 in 07 due to the EPA test changes that lowered many cars.)

    I’d fully expect that on this car. If you’re looking for a car with the best mileage double check online forums etc to see what people are really getting. And remember that it’s only an EPA anomaly that sometimes puts automatics higher than manual for millage – that will never happen in the real world (unless you really suck at driving stick).

  • Robert Brown

    I have an 08 Fit and get roughly 37-39 without trying too hard…….except i don’t jackrabbit start. Love the car, Love the mileage, and can’t wait for the hybrid!

  • Bryce

    Fit hybrid would be so amazing. It would be a first too for such a small appliacation of a hybrid drivetrain.

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  • Elliot

    You get better mileage from a Mazda 3? I have the predecessor, the Protege5 (which is a wagon in all fairness) and don’t get a whiff of those numbers. We get about 22-23 in town. Granted, our city driving is awful as we rarely get to go more than 1/4 mile without stopping.

    I think the EPA numbers for our car were something like 25/31 before they changed their measurements (so the real numbers would have been lower).

    That is my biggest problem with Mazdas. Intriguing designs, good looks, but iffy gas mileage given their size and speed.

  • Bryce

    Mazda is usually branded as a performance brand or a young kids brand, a little like Scion. If you look at Scions mpg numbers, say for the tC, it doesn’t even actually break the 30 mpg mark. lol. Getting to higher mpg takes specialized tuning. If you go check out the epa fuel economy site, the Chevy Cobalt for example, has been raising its mpg estimates steadily over the years. 2006 was about 31 on the highway for the manual. In 2007 it was 34. In 2008 it was 36, and for the 2009 model year, it has been rated for 37. (the auto has followed suit, originally starting at 29 and now at 34 or 35 now) Gradual tuning is what brands like Scion and Mazda need to start working on.

  • Boom Boom

    Brother, you must stop fabricating numbers and telling half truths. The Cobalt numbers your trumpeting are for the XFE only. This is a two door coupe. The regular Cobalt gets 33 EPA on the highway. Overall is 27 MPG. I applaud Chevy for creating a high MPG option for one of their cars, but you can’t talk about those numbers for all Cobalt models. Your earlier numbers were also off, based on the EPA’s own website.

    With a smaller car, the real savings is going to be in the city or stop and go traffic with lots of acceleration. If you look at the overall MPG for the fit compared to the Civic/Focus/Cobalt, it is 2-4 MPG better.

    I have also heard many anecdotal stories that the Fit gets much better mileage than EPA. (This may be a result of the EPA modifying their calculation method. Perhaps now it is underestimating mileage instead of overestimating like it did before.)

  • Bryce

    The XFE is the manual I was talking about. The standard manual isn’t sold anymore. The numbers you are talking about are the automatic 4 speed, and I said in my post, its highway mpg was 33 or 34, couldn’t quite remember at the time. (the auto has been going up as well. If u look at 2006 editions on the EPA site, the auto only got 29 mpg highway with the new rating scale. It has gone up one or 2 mpg a year since then along with the manual edition….or xfe, or what have u) If you look at the EPA site, the standard manual for 2009 isn’t even listed anymore. There is the auto, the xfe and the 2L turbo for the SS edition. Anyways, point is, whatever company or model, gradual improvements allow for better fuel economy for all of us at an affordable price.

  • Dom

    So if the automatic Fit gets 28/35 mpg, what does get with a manual transmission I wonder???

  • MLS21

    You only get 22-23 in town? I have a 2001 Protege 5 (stick shift), and regularly measure 28 mpg in town. Of course, it requires some restraint in my driving habits, which is sometimes hard to do. It’s such a fun car to hammer, I can’t help myself at times. I’ve always been disappointed with its highway mileage, which varies between 29 – 32 mpg depending on the speed I drive and the wind conditions of the day. I try to keep it at 76 mph with the curise and get about 30. I wish they would have stayed with the Ford Focus frame instead of going with the larger Ford Fusion frame at Mazda. I liked the looks of the Protege over the Mazda 3.

  • jvoelcker

    Not sure why “some analysts believe that it’s premature to bring out a new version of the subcompact” … the Fit (known in other markets as the Jazz) dates back to 2001, so it’s seven years old, longer than the usual Honda product cycle. We just didn’t get it in the US until midway through the cycle.

  • Elliot

    Yep. We struggle to get over 22 or 23 in town. Once again, we live in the epitome of a stop/start neighborhood and there is no way around it. While I might have “dropped the hammer” on other cars as a kid, thesedays I am reasonably gentle on the car. It is an automatic so I can’t play the games I did with my old Saturn (drive down normal roads in 5th, etc).

    My parents have an old Mazda Protege (not a Protege5) and they get 26 or 27 in the city (roughly the same neighborhood….not quite as bad). Maybe the difference is either the move to the sportier look/feel around 2001/2002 or the fact that I have the wagon.

    IMHO my frustration comes out of this….my car should either be faster or get better gas mileage. Pick one. If it was fast, I could better understand the gas mileage. If it got better gas mileage, I could understand why it didn’t leave a trail of fire behind it. But both leave me wondering what the heck is going on.

    Right now the Protege5 is really getting tight with 2 kids, and I am fighting the urge to go buy a freaking minivan or something else like it.

  • MLS21

    Those are good points. I was getting a kick out of the new Mazdaspeed version of the Mazda 3. Why would I want to pay extra for a car to boost the horsepower to where I still can’t outrun anything with a decent V6, and pay for premium gas because of the turbocharger? Oh yeah, my gas mileage goes down as well. I think Mazda will figure out that they can keep the tight sport car handling, and drop the power a bit to up the mileage before too much longer. The quality of their car interiors and their longevity always bring me back. It’s hard to beat what you get for the money you spend.

    My mileage in town is helped by the fact that I can drive about 45 mph on most of the roads around here. There is very little in city driving since I live and work in a suburban area. I’m sure if I lived in a true downtown area I would see a good hit to the mileage. Still, the feather touch on the gas, as well as coasting into red lights in order to accelerate moving at about 10 mph or more does make a huge difference for me.

  • Zippy

    I still don’t get it. Where’s the modern high MPG? I still drive an 86 Suzuki gas-powered Chevy Sprint. Never on the interstate and never less than 45 MPG.

  • MrE

    I just got a 2009. When i drove home for the dealer on the highway i got an average 48 mpg. Driving a round town I have been get around 36-38 average.

  • MrE

    I just got a 2009 Fit 5 speed Sport . When i drove home for the dealer on the highway i got an average 48 mpg. Driving a round town I have been get around 36-38 average.

  • kurtdaniel

    i specially like the looks!!!!honda really has the best designers!!!

  • bishop

    i have an 07 honda fit sport and i get 33-35 mpg on average in city and when i drove mainly highway it was 42 mpg. i love the car and have been so happy with it.

  • Bryce

    Fits are nice little cars and after this redesign, they are even better. Congrats Honda…..show up that stupid happy bunny looking Yaris.

  • Jason

    I’m getting 47 1/2 mpg with my 2008 fit mixed highway and city driving.

  • LT2211

    Epa says the FIT automatic gets 35 MPG Highway. Yet the FIT sport, same car same engine is rated at 33 MPG highway. The transmissions are the same, except the fit sport has the optional paddle shifters. Does the EPA dock highway mileage for the paddle shifters being there? Even if not in use. Trying to figure what is causing the 2 MPG drop in Highway rating. On a recent 600 Mile road trip, Mostly interstate, I averaged 41 MPG. So have little faith in the EPA ratings.