The Right Stuff in a Small Package
Steve Schaefer, Mon, 27 Jun 2011 03:41:33 PDT
The Honda Fit has been a big hit with American automotive journalists since it appeared on the scene in 2006. Despite its role as Honda's entry-level car in America, it has been a Car and Driver 10 Best Cars award recipient for five straight years.
The Fit debuted in 2001 in many other markets. In Europe it's called the "Jazz" - a name I wish it carried here, too.
Years ago, the Civic occupied the starting rung of the Honda ladder, but it has become too large to do that anymore. The Fit, now in its second generation, is even better, with surprising room and functionality. Its "one box" design, with wheels pushed out to the corners, is roomy inside - 90.8 cubic feet of passenger space -- while still taking up just 161.6 inches of parking space. In this second generation design, it goes its own way with radical but effective styling and layout.
Inside, the Magic Seat not only folds down flat to create a rear cargo volume of 57.3 cubic feet, but the lower cushions fold up so you can carry taller objects in the middle of the car. The Fit carries a bass easily-but the front seats are close together so you have to place it in carefully.
The Fit comes in a standard version or the Sport, which is also available with a navigation system. My Milano Red tester was the latter variety. All Fits use a thrifty 1.5 liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 117 horsepower and 106 lb.-ft. of torque-plenty for a 2,600-pound car. A five-speed manual is standard or you can opt for the five-speed automatic -I had the automatic in mine.
Mileage is 27 City, 33 Highway for the manual (Average 29-the automatic averages 30). I actually got 29.5 mpg with the automatic, splitting the difference. The EPA Green Vehicle Guide gives the Fit 6 for Air Pollution and 7 for Greenhouse Gas-good enough for SmartWay designation.
The car is fun, but definitely shows its budget origins. In an era of metallic trim, the Fit wears gray plastic accents. However, attractive gauges use bright blue lines to delineate the speed, RPM and fuel amounts. The angled shapes in the interior match the faceted forms of the body, giving the Fit a feeling of solidity despite its modest materials.
Prices start at $15,850 for the base model, including shipping, and run to $19,990 for the Sport with Navigation.
All Fits come standard with air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows, power mirrors and power door locks. There is also an AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers, a USB audio interface and auxiliary audio input jack for your portable music player.
The Fit Sport earns its status by throwing in carpeted floor mats, alloy wheels, an underbody aero kit, a rear roofline spoiler, fog lights and a security system. It also adds two speakers to the audio system. The Navigation system adds $1,530 to the price, but works very effectively.
Despite its modest proportions, the Fit is chock full of safety features. Active safety components include the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure. The ACE body structure is highly effective at absorbing the energy of a frontal crash and also helps minimize the potential for under-ride or over-ride during head-on or offset frontal collisions with a larger or smaller vehicle.
For crash protection, dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, dual front-side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS) and side-curtain airbags are standard on all models.
All Fit models now include Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) as standard equipment. VSA is an active safety system that combines the familiar Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Traction Control System (TCS) with a Side Slip Control feature. In brief, sensors placed around the vehicle detect when a side slip is occurring and an electronic control unit sends out signals to have the car correct for it automatically. This is the kind of feature that likely will be standard on all cars soon.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show last fall, Honda introduced a Battery Electric version of the Fit that's due next year. The Fit EV is expected to have a range of about 100 miles per charge and a top speed of 90 mph. I wonder what the car magazines will think of that version. Electric vehicles tend to be heavier with their load of batteries, which affects acceleration and handling.
The Fit hasn't changed much for 2011. As a hot property, especially during a time of $4 a gallon gas, it doesn't really need to. For four people and their stuff, it offers a modest cost of ownership and driving fun too.