by Gary Chan
- Gas mileage
- Storage flexibility
- Structural rigidity
- Perfectly weighted steering
- Engine size = limited power
- Driver’s cup holder have are not in best locations
- Triangulated A-pillar blocked visibility at times
- Fold-down driver’s arm rest thin and high
The original Fit beat its competition in multiple comparisons so I was very eager to drive this updated and larger version to see how well it performed. Its design and build was surprisingly good for a small car, but then again, it’s a Honda so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Having “Sport” in the name is appropriate for how fun and agile it is, and worth a test drive in itself at your local dealer.
The Milano Red (with black fabric interior) Fit Sport that I drove was manufactured entirely in Suzuka, Japan. It’s 117-hp, 1.5-liter engine with 106 lb-ft of torque struggled when the car was loaded or pressed for duty, but was more than enough for driving around town. The Sport is amazingly packed with features such as A/C with filtration, a powerful sound system, a tilt/telescoping steering column, as well as many other standard features. Differentiating the Sport from the base model, you’ll find larger wheels, cruise control, perforated leather steering wheel, a rear stabilizer bar, a dual-mode paddle shifter system, and exterior enhancements in the form of a underbody kit, rear roofline spoiler and chrome exhaust finisher.
When driving by myself, the Fit accelerates smoothly, and the passenger compartment insulation adequately quells engine noise. I really enjoyed the driving dynamics of the Fit: everything (steering, suspension, braking, body structure) work in unison providing a car that’s easy to drive. Some road noise is evident as well, but it’s acceptable and not annoying. Due to its aerodynamic shape, there’s barely any wind noise. The only driving hindrance to note was the small window under the A-pillar. With a wide A-pillar, the visibility rounding turns (especially blind ones) was obscured. I had to move my head so I could see where I was going. During the day, this wasn’t much of an issue, but at night on a two-lane mountain road, it’s a bit scary when you can only see as far as the headlights. Parking the car is a piece of cake, and due to its size, you can park in spots too small for other small cars.
My wife’s feedback was very positive. She rode in the front passenger seat, and raved about comfort of the seats and the overall ride quality. “I could hardly feel the bumps on the road, and the engine is very smooth for a 4-cylinder engine [even compared to my dad’s ’99 Civic]” she said. She went on to ask, “Maybe that should be our next car?” That’s quite an endorsement as she has not said that for any of the other cars that I’ve reviewed yet (and this is possibly one of the least expensive cars that I’ve tested).
The doors are very light weight, and only require a minor amount of force to close latching reliably all of the time. While driving on the freeway, we did notice an intermittent rattle emanating from the glove box area, but we were unable to determine the exact cause. Construction of the interior components is of good quality for a small car, and I think the textured fabric seats will hold up to years of wear. The engine is tucked in the elongated engine bay, and all fluids are easy to access.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Some may call the instrument panel “futuristic”, and I’d have to agree. It’s like no other dash I’ve seen before, and was so easy to read and use during the drive. The blue-backlit gauges were easy to read at a glance. The layout of the speedometer/multi-function readout appears to the user as two distinct gauges stacked upon one another in bright light. At night, the two gauges (as well as the indicator lights behind speedometer) all “flatten” out and become one making it very easy to determine your speed or average fuel consumption in a quick glance.
The navigation system is one of the easiest systems I’ve used, and with the voice commands (you’ll have to remember the basic commands) and the steering wheel voice button, you never really have to remove your hands from the steering wheel to enter an address or find a point-of-interest. It did have some trouble locating some street names by voice command (like “Fillmore” in San Francisco), but in those limited cases, you can switch to manual mode, and simply type the name into the touch screen. Verbal navigation instructions were clearly annunciated, and the calculated routes were optimized routes that I would have taken myself. A satellite radio option would have been a nice option with the Navigation package, but is not offered.
Front seat adjustment is limited only to seatback angle. Does this limit the number of people that can sit in the front seat or effect overall comfort? Surprisingly, it wasn’t a problem as I had short (5’3”) and tall (6’4”) people sitting in the front seats. The seat cushions are supportive for extended drives and spirited driving. The rear passenger seats fold forward easily or can even fold “up” allowing tall objects to be placed directly on the passenger floor. The mechanism for the seats is ingenious and very easy to use.
There are plenty of cup holders, but the driver’s holders were not located in the best places (at least from my experience). Being right-handed, the cup holder to the left of the instrument panel was a bit challenging, plus the sides of the A-pillar and the instrument panel made it difficult to grab my grande-sized Starbucks cup. The cup holder in front of the gear shifter is a bit low and forward to reach easily while driving.
One thing that would be nice would be the ability to program at least the driver side door to automatically unlock when the ignition is turned off. Finding the button was always a chore. When passengers were in the front seat, they also had to search for the unlock button (integrated above the door release); I saw this consistently with many different passengers.
The Honda is nothing like a Subaru WRX STi accelerating from a dead stop, but light weight does have its advantages especially around town at lower speeds. I never felt like the Fit was underpowered around town. The drive-by-wire throttle is well designed providing proper resistance/feedback with respect to the driver’s input. I do remember hesitating to pass a slower car on the freeway: I was closing fast on a slower car in my lane ahead of me and I could see a car in the left lane fast approaching from the rear. Deciding to go for it, I floored the Fit, and the engine screamed trying to increase vehicle speed. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite accelerate as fast as desired and the faster car approaching from the rear had to slow slightly until I moved back over to the right. From that situation, planning a pass in tight quarters is a definite must. Braking performance is okay considering the small size of the tires and disc/drum brakes. I did one panic stop, and the car quickly came to a stop never straying from the intended direction.
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