By David Colman
Hypes: Fuel Efficient but Fun
Gripes: Knob less Radio, Droning CVT
When Honda redrafted the Fit for 2015, they increased its dimensions and improved its appearance without losing its subcompact dexterity. The 2016 version continues the refinement with a new CVT transmission fitted with paddle shifters. The infinitely variable ratio transmission extracts maximum performance from the Fit’s 130hp, 1.5 liter inline 4 cylinder engine. While you won’t be confusing this Honda’s straight line acceleration with that of a sports sedan, neither will you be ashamed of the speed it generates when merging onto a freeway. In fact, the diminutive four under the hood, which Honda proudly displays without a hide-all modesty shield, is quite a strong performer in this lightweight (2,625 lb.) package. With double overhead camshafts controlling variable valve timing (i-VTEC), and with direct injection of fuel maximizing combustion economy, the “Earth Dreams Technology” motor makes 32 MPG in city driving, and 38 MPG on the highway for a combined EPA estimate of 35 MPG.
In fact, the Fit power plant is so efficient and powerful for its size that the Sports Car Club of America chose it as the specification engine for its Formula Fit series of open wheel race cars. This very competitive class had gone by the name Formula Ford for over 30 years until the affordable Fit hit the market. While the EX-L doesn’t quite handle like a Formula Fit, it’s still quick to change direction, and proves nimble on back roads. Credit 185/55R16 Firestone FR740 tires, and electrically power assisted rack and pinion steering for its well bred behavior.
One of the compelling beauties of this car is its utter lack of tack-on amenities. The base price lists at $21,065. Aside from a pre-delivery inspection from your dealer ($820), this Honda is Fit to go, without extras, for $21,885. By selecting the EX-L trim level, you eliminate the need for any pricey additions to the basic sticker price. You say you want navigation? The Fit EX-L comes standard with a 7 inch screen displaying Honda’s satellite-linked navigation program with voice recognition. The same screen does double duty as an audio touch pad for the included AM/FM/CD/MP3, 6 speaker infotainment center. However, Honda designers have succumbed to the fad for touch pad control in lieu of knob control. Touch pads work fine at your desk, but very poorly when multi-tasking while driving. The simple act of raising the volume on your Fit’s radio could easily distract you from driving. To circumvent the problem, Honda has fitted the steering wheel with an audio volume control, but your first inclination will always be to address the faceplate of the unit for manipulation.
For such a small vehicle, the Fit is remarkably efficient and adaptive. Four full size doors facilitate use of the back seat for both passengers and parcels. The fifth door, which pops up with just a slight assist from your hand, opens the rear cargo area for 17 cubic feet of carrying capacity. With the rear seats folded flat, this interior space jumps to double that number with the simple flick of a lever controlling seat back position. As an added benefit, the second row seats stow two ways: with backs flat or bottom cushions upraised. Another nicety is the fact that the rear seat backs can be adjusted for angle. Up front, both seats benefit from standard 3 position heating controls. These are invaluable on cold fall mornings. Also easing inclement weather driving is a standard rear window wiper which quickly clears the heated rear window pane. The Fit’s climate conditioning system is exemplary. Despite the fact that the windshield is huge and relatively flat, the demisting operation takes but seconds, even on the wettest of days.
Thanks to its low belt line and abundance of glass, vision from the driver’s seat is exceptional. Assisting in this regard is Honda’s innovative LaneWatch camera which is embedded in the passenger side mirror. This device activates each time you signal a right hand lane change, transmitting a real time image of following traffic on the passenger side of the Fit. Once you have completed your lane change, the picture disappears. However, you can activate the screen image full time by depressing a button on the end of the turn signal stalk. This allows you to watch the world go by in reverse and proves fascinating and helpful at analyzing traffic patterns. Plus it’s a lot of fun. The only item marring a perfect rear view record is the back seat’s center shoulder harness, which dangles like an unlaced shoe from the roof of the vehicle.
Honda has continuously upgraded the Fit since its introduction. The 2016 model has matured into one of the best and most useful subcompacts you can buy for bargain money.
2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI
- Engine: 1.5 liter DOHC 16-Valve inline 4 with i-VTEC, and Direct Injection
- Horsepower: 130hp
- Torque: N/A
- Fuel Consumption: 32 MPG City/38 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $21,885
- Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars