Honda Fit Sport five-door hatchback feels fun to drive

2010, Honda, Fit Sport

PARIS, Ark. -- A corkscrew road in western Arkansas runs over Mount Magazine, tallest bump between the Alleghenies to the east and the Rockies out west.

Beginning in the crossroads hamlet of Havana, the narrow Ark. 309 highway scales the steep southern face of the peak in a switchback series of zigzag curves, then twists over granite ramparts at the aerie crest and descends on broad sweeper curves slicing through a pine forest down to the Logan County seat of Paris.

This Havana-to-Paris trace over an Arkansas mountain functions like a Formula One race course to challenge both driver and car in tests we devise to sample the surprisingly sporty road manners of a Fit Sport, Honda's itsy-bitsy economy car conformed as a five-door hatchback and outfitted with a fuel-stingy engine.

With a roof barely five feet high and the pint-size body about 13 feet long, little Fit resembles a sleek bullet dominated by a quick-sloped windshield and hood capped by a body-colored grille separating vast headlamp clusters mounted on front corners.

On each side, the vertical lines tip slightly inward as sharp corners fade into rounded edges to disguise an otherwise boxy form.

Flanks are relatively flat with flares around wheelwells filled by tire rubber.

Sporty ground effects wrap around the Fit Sport, with front fascia housing a broad air intake port and foglamps.

Fit Sport also adds alloy wheels, an underbody aero kit and a roofline spoiler extending over the tail.

The rear liftgate stretches down to the back bumper, its bottom edge aligning with the floor of a rear cargo bay.

Fit stands in Honda's 2010 product line as a small-scale city car with surprising cabin space and affordable price points beginning around $15,000.

Underpinnings are comparable to Honda's global small urban car sold in more than 70 countries and called Jazz in European markets.

The suspension design is compact to carve out more space for the passenger compartment and forge a low floor for easy entry.

Honda installs independent MacPherson struts in front with a stabilizer bar and an H-shaped torsion beam with stabilizer bar in the rear.

Honda installs independent MacPherson struts in front with a stabilizer bar and an H-shaped torsion beam with stabilizer bar in the rear.

The steering system gets electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of Fit's modest engine.

Brakes utilize front ventilated discs and rear drums.

For predictable straight-line stopping, Honda installs a standard anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

Top trim Fit Sport with Navigation adds vehicle stability assist (VSA) with a traction control system (TCS) plus a satellite navigation system.

Fit's front-wheel-drive (FWD) powertrain consists of a thrifty four-cylinder engine linked to either a manual or automatic transmission.

The single-cam 1.5-liter in-line-four is made from aluminum with a drive-by-wire throttle and Honda's i-VTEC (variable value timing and lift electronic control) valve valvetrain technology to precisely manage engine breathing and combustion in order to maximize horsepower and disperse torque across a broad band.

It produces 117 hp at 6000 rpm plus torque of 106 lb-ft at 4800 rpm.

Transmission choices for manual or automatic shifting draw from five-gear systems.

The five-speed manual is a lightweight unit with a firm shifter stick.

The electronically controlled automatic enhances acceleration in the first four gears and boosts fuel economy in the overdrive fifth gear.

Choose Fit Sport trim and you'll get paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel for hands-on control of the transmission.

That's the fun ticket we play for quick up-or-down shift action on the switchback run over Mount Magazine.

A wee stature and 2489-pound curb weight factor in Fit's high fuel economy scores.

Through testing by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Fit equipped with the manual shifter earns fuel consumption figures of 27 mpg for city driving and 33 mpg on a highway. With the automatic transmission Fit scores even higher numbers -- 28/35 mpg city/highway.

Climb inside to discover that the cabin feels airy and rather roomy, despite overall dimensions which tie the Fit to the smallest category of all cars.

The cockpit floor dips low so you can step aboard easily, and the ceiling bows high up front to fit tall chair-like seats on the front row. Passengers in the two front buckets sit upright, with their heads positioned high for better visibility though the ring of windows.

Designers counterbalanced spatial confinements of a small car by raising the roof and lengthening the wheelbase to fashion a cabin which seems spacious even for backseat passengers and also provides 20.6 cubic of cargo room (or 57.3 cubic feet with rear seatbacks down).

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2010, Honda Fit Sport

2010 Honda Fit Sport
2010 Honda Fit Sport
the captain's seat
the captain's seat
plenty of room
plenty of room
a sleek car
a sleek car