In which we spend one more week in the second generation iteration of Hondas smallest and arguably its most versatile passenger vehicle
Excellent fuel economy
Versatile and configurable interior
Solid and extremely tossable chassis
No passenger center arm rest
Lower door trim looks cheap
Expensive navigation option
Re-visiting the Fit
Back in the spring of 2011, the Honda Fit was one of the first vehicles I had the opportunity to evaluate here at LotPro.com. So with a new model (as well as a new assembly location in Mexico) on the horizon, I thought I’d take one last look at the second generation version.
How it fits in
The first Honda I owned was a new 1987 Civic Wagon. It was 161.6 inches long, 64 inches wide, 59 inches tall, had a wheelbase of 96.5 inches and weighed 2,510 pounds. That Civic was powered by a 1.5-liter SOHC 12 valve 4-cylinder engine that produced all of 76 horsepower and was rated by the EPA at 23/29/25 city/highway/combined mpg – no doubt abetted by the fact that its brick-like silhouette gave it a coefficient of drag of 0.40.
Since that time and aside from a bit of a hiccup with the 2012 model, Civics have managed to maintain their well-deserved gold standard in their respective market segments. But, much like yours truly, they’ve grown and added heft, even moving from the subcompact to the compact car class over the course of 26 or so years.
Current 2013 Civic models are, on average, 18 inches longer, 5 inches wider, 2.5 inches shorter (in sedan form, there is no longer a wagon model), have a wheelbase 9.5 inches longer and are nearly 350 pounds heavier.
This means that while the newest of Civics are certainly at or near the top of the current class of compact cars they have, along the way, forsworn their heritage as über-efficient subcompacts.
A Civic fit for the new millennium
But even as the Civic was growing up, over in Japan Honda was busy creating newer and smaller models to fill the void. We just never saw them here in the States. That is, until the Fit came on the scene.
This diminutive five-door subcompact hatchback first appeared in Japan in 2001 as a 2002 model. Although Honda began exporting it to Europe the following year, it wasn’t until April of 2006 that Honda decided that American drivers, once again, might be ready for a vehicle of this size.
Just two years later a second-generation Fit made its debut as a 2008 model. It also grew, but not by much. Width was increased by an inch; wheelbase and overall length were up by 1.9 and 5.5 inches, respectively, while its height remained the same.
To put it in perspective, the 2013 Fit matches a 1987 Civic Wagon in length while its wheelbase is nearly 2 inches longer. In other measurements, the Fit is 1 inch taller, 2.7 inches wider and has a track that is 1 inch wider in the front, but just a half inch wider in back.
More importantly, even with all its modern safety equipment, the current Fit tips the scales at plus 118 pounds over the Civic Wagon with 41 more horses under the hood and EPA mileage ratings of 27/33/30 city/highway/combined mpg.
Outside, Honda has managed to give the boxy, cab-forward Fit quite a dose of style, even though it falls short of vehicles such as the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent. Sport models add a bit more to the stew with an aggressive lower front air dam that includes fog lights, body side sill kit and large upper rear spoiler.
Sport models also are the recipients of one-inch larger tires (P185/55 R 16’s) wrapped around 16” X 6.0” alloy wheels along with addition of a rear stabilizer bar.
For the 2012 model year the Fit Sport received a refresh that included a new front fascia with a more aggressive grille, black headlight bezels and a dark machine surface finish for the alloy wheels. The rear fascia was also given an update that included new taillights and lower bumper treatment.
But what the Fit may lack in style it more than makes up for in substance and it’s on the inside where it truly shines. A seemingly cavernous interior (there’s 90.8 cubic feet of passenger volume and 20.6 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats), large windows and a low beltline combine to give it an airy feeling and contribute to excellent driver visibility.
The 2012 update included a new dashboard finish, chrome accents around the instrument display, console ambient lighting, additional sound insulation in the floor and A-pillars and thicker front corner-window glass plus steering wheel-mounted audio controls (previously available only on navigation-equipped models).
Speaking of controls, all are within easy reach of the driver, while fit and finish as well as switchgear operation is flawless.
In back the innovative rear “magic seats” really do live up to their name, allowing users to configure the area behind the front seats in more than a dozen different ways. Trust me when I tell you that you can easily fit a 40 inch flat screen TV behind the front seats, upright, without having to take it out of the box.
I only have a few nits to pick – the seat cushions could be a bit longer and the plastic on the lower door panels could use some sculpting to look a bit less low rent. In addition, the front passenger seat lacks an inboard arm rest while the USB connection is located at the end of a wire in the glove box (you can at least pull it out and close the lid if you want to keep your phone handy, but you’re still left with a wire strung across the front of the dashboard). Finally, at a premium of $1,780, you might want to forgo the Fit’s satellite-linked navigation system, although be warned that it’s the only way you’ll get Bluetooth – another feature that was added in 2012. You can also forget the nav system if you want to row your own gears, since it’s only available with the automatic.
In addition to the aforementioned Sport package, which also includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel and paddle shifters for the manumatic transmission, all Fits are equipped with air conditioning, electric power steering, power windows and locks as well as a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.
Other standard amenities include cruise, intermittent wipers and rear wiper/washer and defroster. Safety equipment includes a full complement of 6 airbags; ABS, electronic brake distribution and brake assist as well as vehicle stability control.
On the road
If the interior shines, it’s on the road where the Fit truly sparkles. Whether you’re driving on the freeway or some twisty back road its’ steering is precise, telegraphing exactly where you are. To say that driving it is a hoot is an understatement. The fact is, I’ve driven a number of cars that are priced thousands of dollars more don’t offer nearly the level of driving enjoyment as the Fit.
Honda new car prices on the Fit start at $16,215 for the base model equipped with a 5-speed manual and top out with a model like our Blue Raspberry Metallic Fit Sport tester that, including a $790 destination and handling charge, has an MSRP of $20,480.
Keep in mind, however, that you can still enjoy the performance advantages of the Sport trim level with a manual transmission, minus the Bluetooth and navigation for $2,500 less – $17,950 including destination and handling.
The Bottom Line
Once you’ve driven one it’s easy to see why the Fit tops such disparate lists as Consumer Reports best values and Car and Driver’s 10 Best. Like all outstanding vehicles it’s more than just the sum of its parts.
When you combine a fit, finish and utility that are the benchmarks of its class along with that elusive fun-to-drive factor you end up with what is, in my opinion, still the best subcompact car sold in America.