Posted by: David Kiley on September 10, 2008
Overall: An Almost Perfect Fit
Pros: Fuel Economy, Nimble Driving and good cargo space management.
Cons: No Sat radio available.
Honda isn’t always a master of good timing. Remember the Ridgeline pickup? But with an all-new 2009 Fit sub-compact hitting showrooms in a few weeks, it looks like the smartest kid on the block.
The old Fit, which was launched in overseas markets in 2001 but only arrived in the U.S. in 2006, was already being sold at many Honda dealers over MSRP. This new model, slightly roomier and more refined than the old one, and with an up-market version sporting a Navigation system, is also piling up an order list at dealers.
The biggest design change to the Fit is what the company calls a “super-forward aero-form.” That gives the top of the Fit’s dashboard an overly elongated and more exaggerated length from behind the wheel, not unlike that found in Volkswagen’s New Beetle. Though the interior has many of the plastic surfaces one would expect in an automaker’s entry-level car, those trading down from more expensive and gas thirsty cars and SUV will find options packages with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather shift knob and the like.
The seats and visibility on the Fit (a common complaint on the older version) originally design for Japanese keesters have been made wider and more cushioned for the U.S. Too, the seatback is taller and the rear-view visibility has been enhanced 30% by way of rear headrests that retract into the seats. Forward visibility has been enhanced by 10% over the old model.
As is the case with even sub-compacts, the Fit overall is a bit larger thana the outgoing model. It is a bit more than four inches longer, with a wheel-base that is more than two inches longer. This has helped second row rear-leg room. This is key, especially for people looking to trade out of larger, thirstier cars and SUVs. Too, the cargo space with the second row folded flat has increased by 38% from the old Fit. It really is one of the most versatile small cars around.
Fuel economy of the Fit is a smidge lower than the old model thanks to an increase of about 50 pounds of weight and the larger dimensions—27 city/33 highway for the manual transmission and 28/31 for the automatic. But in two hours of driving the 1.5 liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine mated to a five speed manual around Ann Arbor, MI in both city and highway (averaging 75-80 mph on highway) driving, we achieved almost 39 mpg combined!, according to the fuel economy dashboard computer.
One of the things that kept me from buying a Fit last year for my own driveway was the absence of a navigation and up-market audio system. The new Fit offers an in-dash voice-activated navi on Sport models. This is very close to the same system offered on the Civic. It has an in-dash CD player supporting MP3 and Windows Media playback, a compact flash card reader, an analog aux-in jack, and a USB interface that is compatible with iPods, iPhones, and USB memory devices. The one boneheaded product decision I will lambaste Honda for is not offering a satellite radio option in the navi package. Honda explained that the two big audiences for the car—Gen Y and older empty nesters—said they wanted to hold the purchase price down. Baloney! It’s ridiculous not to offer a factory-installed Sat radio in the navi package. Those buyers will have to get an after-market radio bolted into their new dashboard.
The overall ride and handling of the Fit is a step-up from what was perhaps already the most nimble driver in the category. The new FIT has 16” tires, compared with the old car’s 15-inchers. The "Dual Mode Paddle Shifter" Sport Shift system operates the same as the old Fit, meaning you can drive the car like a regular automatic transmission or demand an upshift or downshift by tapping one of the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifter buttons. I don’t like the system much (preferring a manual transmission) but it’s there.
Honda upped the safety offering on Fit. Advanced Compatability Engineering (ACE) improves driver and front-passenger safety in a head on crash. There are dual-stage fron airbags, side airbags and a side curtain airbag system. Vehicle Stability Assist, which mitigates rollover possibility, is available on the Sport model
All in all, an almost perfect Fit.
*Author disclosure. Kiley has placed a deposit on a 2009 Fit.