The Honda Fit arrived on American shores in 2007 just as gas prices began to spike and quickly became the poster child for subcompacts—as well as the smart fuel-efficiency purchase for those not wanting a hybrid. An all-new, slightly larger Fit was introduced in 2009.
Inexpensive to buy and run, this gas-powered entry-level four-door hatchback touts many positives. It has an intelligent, but playful appearance, a deceivingly large and versatile five-passenger interior, and enjoys top-notch Honda build quality and reliability. But of course, the most significant advantage to this little commuter is fuel efficiency. Thanks to its small four-cylinder engine, the Fit boasts EPA numbers of 28 city/35 highway with its five-speed automatic transmission. With a manual, it comes in at 27 city/33 highway. Those figures sit between its closest peers, the Nissan Versa (28/34) and the more efficient Toyota Yaris (29/36).
If you’re thinking about buying a Honda Fit, you might also consider a Nissan Versa or Toyota Yaris. Compare these vehicles.
For 2011, the Fit’s styling is a rerun of the 2010 model, but there are several changes in equipment and features. The 2011 Fit gets a safety enhancement by including an electronic stability control system as standard equipment on all models, not just the most expensive version. It boosts convenience and connectivity by giving the entry model standard cruise control, a USB iPod interface, and remote keyless entry. And the top-line model, the Fit Sport with Navigation, is no longer available with manual transmission.
A hybrid version of the Fit is available in Japan and Europe, but Honda has no plans to bring it to the United States. However, an all-electric variant—no price info yet—is due in 2012.
The hatchback body style is the optimum design to maximize passenger and cargo room in small cars, and the Fit is one of the more uncommonly proportioned examples. The Fit’s tall subcompact body exudes an edgy and youthful character. Its styling can almost be described as avant-garde, but some may see it as having an awkward presence.
The styling, however, serves a larger purpose than mere aesthetics. Fit has a short front end highlighted by big, swept-back headlights. Its steeply angled front roof pillars frame an enormous windshield. And its long-roof, wagon-like body is sawed off just behind the rear wheels.
With an abundance of side-glass, small wheel openings, and an overall length of just 13 1⁄2 feet the effect is almost toy-like. But with a tall roofline and generous-for-its-size wheelbase—the distance between front and rear axles—Fit carves out room for four adults to ride in comfort along with class-leading cargo space and versatility.
If you prefer a bit of an athletic look to your ride, Sport models are distinguished from the base version by an underbody aero kit, rear spoiler, fog lights, and larger, 16-inch tires on alloy wheels. It takes the base Fit up a notch with its more aggressive look.
Within, you can expect to find Honda fit and finish, and its stylish design is a good match to the exterior of the car. The instrument cluster is arranged to help maximize economical driving with an instant fuel economy meter above an average mpg display. Instruments are large and easy to read, key controls are conveniently placed within easy reach of the driver. With respect to materials, the cabin is on par with cars in the subcompact class.
Tall people will feel at home in the Fit’s front seats, where there’s ample head, leg and shoulder room for the six-foot-plus set. A tilt and telescoping steering column makes easy work of finding a comfortable driving position.
Honda designers thoughtfully included a number of nifty storage features. There’s a double glove box, cubbies in the dash, an under-seat compartment, a back row cup holder and a map pocket on the front passenger’s seat that is easily reached by the driver. Well thought-out places to stow things create an atmosphere that can make the difference between happy car ownership and a growing resentment over the years.
Fit’s defining feature is an innovation Honda calls the “Magic Seat.” The interior can be configured numerous ways, accommodating everything from tall plants to bicycles and surfboards. By moving the gas tank forward to a location under the front seats, there’s an extraordinarily deep—and useful—well between the front and rear seats.
The rear Magic Seat folds flat into the floor in a slick one-hand operation, with no need to remove the headrests—even when the front seats are all the way back. The load floor becomes perfectly flat, unlike those in many rivals, creating a mammoth 57 cubic feet of storage. The seat’s design also enables the rear seat cushions to flip up, creating a side-to-side chasm behind the front seats. The front passenger seatback folds forward so Fit can carry long items such as a ladder or skis.
On The Road
Available in two trim levels, base and Sport, the Fit is powered by a 117 horsepower four-cylinder engine. Granted, 117 ponies don’t sound like much these days – and it’s not—but it is adequate to the task of motivating the 2,500-lb Fit. Although at nine seconds, the 0-60 sprint isn’t much of an adrenaline rush. Honda’s celebrated i-VTEC variable lift-and-timing valve technology is tuned here for a broad and powerful midrange. Peak torque of 106 foot-pounds is widely available, enhancing responsiveness in a wide variety of situations.
The engine can be hooked up with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. The manual offers clean gates and a comfortable, easily engaged clutch action. The Sport version is more appearance than performance, but it adds a manual shift mode to the automatic, with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Want to keep it in manual mode? No problem; move the floor-mounted shift lever to the “S” (for Sport) position and shift to your heart’s content.
What the Fit lacks in power, it makes up in handling. The rack-and-pinion steering system is electrically assisted, offering fuel savings over hydraulic systems. Unlike many electric systems, the Fit’s is communicative and responsive. The rear suspension is subcompact-typical, a torsion-bar setup, which works nearly as well as an independent design in negotiating quick corners. Rear drum brakes hold costs down without imposing much negative effect on stopping distance or fade-resistance.
In-town driving is a no-muss, no-fuss affair. Power is more than adequate in suburbia, and at modest speeds the suspension tackles bumps and dips in a gracious manner. Parking, either parallel or head-in, is accomplished with ease and you can cut a U-turn in 34 feet.
The Fit is no Mini Cooper when it comes to handling, but it is rather agile. On sharp, switchback roads, Honda’s engineering trumps the plebeian blueprint. The car responds quickly to steering inputs and eagerly bites into corners, yielding to noseplow only on high-speed turns that reveal the limited grip of the small tires. Unlike driving on city streets, the Fit’s suspension becomes a little raw when speeds increase, particularly encounters with pavement expansion joints.
However, fuel economy is most likely a higher priority than sharp handling for the typical buyer. Like all cars—hybrid, diesel or gasoline powered—the Fit’s consumption of fuel is determined by how it’s driven. Used in the typical fashion as a grocery-getter, kid-hauler and commuter car, we averaged 34 mpg in the Sport model during a weeklong, 327-mile test drive. That’s 3 mpg above the EPA’s estimated combined number. Our stint with a manual transmission Fit was exactly the opposite, obviously due to a long session of, shall we say, spirited driving.
The sticker price is where most consumers will raise an eyebrow. Base MSRP for the Fit is $15,100. That’s $940 more than the Versa hatchback and a whopping $1,845 more than the Yaris hatch. In its defense, Fit has a Prix Fixe menu — both models in the lineup have a set suite of features; factory options are unavailable. On the other hand, the Versa and Yaris offer comfort and convenience features a la carte style—nearly everything except air conditioning is extra, including a radio. Standard features on all 2011 Fits include: remote keyless entry; power windows, locks, and outside mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; and an audio system.
On a day-to-day basis, the Fit performs its driving duties admirably. It scoots about town with little effort and when it hits the highways, has no problem keeping up with the flow. Where the Fit really shines is inside. Seating is comfortable, knobs and controls are easy to reach and operate, and that trick rear seat expands the already-generous cargo area to a space that rivals small SUVs. With its 28 city/35 highway rating, the Fit is unquestionably one of the more efficient vehicles on the road. It easily has a range of more than 300 miles on a full tank of regular gas. That’s pretty impressive for a small car.
Prices are Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) at time of publication and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.