2014 Honda Fit EV Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Handling and performance in an electric car.
The Honda Fit EV electric vehicle is in most ways similar to the regular Honda Fit. Inside and out, it looks and feels like a Honda Fit. It's fun to drive, roomy and practical. This makes it one of the best all-electric cars available.
Look closer and Fit EV is distinguished by a unique front fascia, rear spoiler and lower fascia. A stripe around what looks like a fuel filler and its location near the tire suggests it's actually an electrical outlet. Special graphics declare it's a Fit EV.
Fit EV joined the lineup as a 2013 model. It's packaged similarly to a gas-powered Fit. The current-generation Fit was launched as a 2009 model, and the styling was revised for 2012.
We found the 2013 Fit EV fizzy, fun and fast. Fully charged, it will go 82 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Drive it to work, plug it into an outlet in your garage overnight, drive it to work again.
Fit EV can be charged by plugging it into a regular household outlet (a dedicated GFCI outlet is recommended). When connected to a 240-volt circuit, the Fit EV battery can be recharged in less than three hours. When connected to an outlet, charging can be started or stopped with an included Fit EV interactive remote control, through an available smartphone application, or through the internet on a personal computer.
But Fit EV is not available in most of the country, and it can only be leased. Launched in California and Oregon in July 2012, Fit EV is now available for lease in selected markets in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey, according to American Honda. A three-year lease is $259 per month.
The Fit EV really scoots, particularly on winding roads. Completely silent, the electric motor launches it out of corners and propels it quickly up hills. The only sound will be that of the front tires chirping. Fit EV's brakes feel better than most electric-car regenerative brakes, much better than those on the Fiat 500e. Around town, Fit EV is easy to park and maneuver.
To help alleviate range anxiety, Fit EV's navigation system uses concentric circles around the car to show the driver the remaining range of the batteries in real time.
The Honda Fit is a roomy car. There's a lot of legroom in the front. Fit EV's seats are comfortable and supportive, good for zipping around corners. Lots of glass and big mirrors provide the driver with excellent visibility in all directions, including out the vertical and unobstructed rear glass. Cubbies and cupholders make everyday driving convenient.
Fit EV offers impressive cargo space. The second row of seats can be folded and flattened.
The 2013 Honda Fit EV comes with a continuously variable transmission that uses Honda's three-mode Dynamic Electric Drive system. The EV has a different front end and fascia from the other Fit models, as well as a full flat underbody panel and a redesigned rear spoiler and lower fascia. Fit EV comes with 15-inch alloy wheels.
Standard features include Bio Fabric Seats, automatic climate control, special instrument panel with EV-Centric Gauges, Honda satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera, telescoping steering wheel; power windows, mirrors and locks; auxiliary input jack for iPod; MP3/WMA playback; USB interface; 160-watt stereo, steering wheel audio controls; remote entry.
Safety features include front and side airbags, side curtain airbags, seat belt pretensioners, active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), and VSA electronic stability control.
With its wedge-shaped front end, the Honda Fit has a presence that reaches beyond its subcompact status. It wears red well, and is especially eye-catching and sporty in that color.
There's very little nose. What there is drops steeply from the A-pillars, which are raked radically down from the roof, hitting the fenders above the middle of the front tires. The roof has a very subtle arc, back to the small spoiler over the rear window on the Sport model, and again the lines speak a graceful language. The window outline is like an elongated horizontal teardrop.
The sides are a bit blocky, and the rear a lot blocky. Sills on the Sport make it look almost too low, and make the 16-inch wheels look small. The ground clearance is zilch, something to keep in mind over sharp driveway transitions and in snow.
Viewed head-on, all the angles are directed inward. The headlights have sharp inside points like exotic eyes, beginning just under the upper sharp corners of the tidy classy grille; on Sport models the horizontal air intake below the bumper stretches outward at the bottom corners, to balance the grille.
Honda calls the Fit a five-door, and not a hatchback. While Europeans love them, Americans generally don't like the idea of hatchbacks, although we detect those attitudes may be mellowing.
From the front three-quarter view, the Fit is more striking than the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris because of the sharpness of the nose and the mini-wagon body shape. It doesn't have their roundness, and looks more like a tiny wagon than a five-door. It has a wide low stance, slight fender flares and sharp character lines along the sides. Also competing in this class are the Scion xD and Kia Soul, boxy, tall subcompacts.
From the rear, the Fit's liftgate is like that of a mini SUV.
The chassis structure, called ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering), is designed to enhance crash integrity. The frame rails are polygon-shaped and computer designed to disperse the forces of crash impact all around the car, upward and downward, instead of allowing them to be jammed at the occupants. The bowed crossmember under the dashboard plays a role. The bumper and sheetmetal forward of the windshield are built to bend and absorb, reducing damage to things you might hit, namely pedestrians.
Compact outside, the Honda Fit is roomy inside. From the driver's seat, it feels like a bigger car than it is. That's due partly to space efficiency, partly to the raked windshield and deep dashboard, partly to the acres of legroom.
The Bio Fabric seats are comfortable and the bolstering is just right, with excellent cornering support. The Bio Fabric seat covers are made of a sugarcane-based material to avoid increasing the demand for corn.
Thanks to the expansive greenhouse and big mirrors, there's excellent visibility in all directions, including out the vertical and unobstructed rear glass. But especially through the large windshield. With so little distance between the bottom of the A-pillar and the front bumper, and with that sloped nose, the driver can't see the front corners of the car, but bumping into things is unlikely because the distance to them is so short.
The A-pillar was made especially thin, and those triangular windows just behind the A pillar are as big as possible, largely for driving in Japan, with all its tight spaces and pedestrian crosswalks. But that big windshield is nice here in America, too. We drove one long afternoon for about 200 interstate miles in the rain and drizzle, and with strong wipers and that big windshield, our broad visibility made us more relaxed and safer.
The little things have been well thought out, including molding cubby holes into the plastic at almost every opportunity, from thin slots about the size of a deck of cards, located behind the e-brake lever between the seats; to cupholders on the far left and right of the dashboard. There are also two cupholders forward of the shift lever on the floor, and two more for the rear seat passengers. And two gloveboxes, enabling cleaner organization.
There are comfortable usable armrests on the front doors for the driver and passenger, and flip-up armrests between the front seats. The center stack offers three big foolproof knobs for climate control; it doesn't get any simpler than that and it's a relief.
Navigation comes standard on the Fit EV. Honda EV's navigation system displays concentric rings that show the driver the range of the vehicle in real time. EV-centric gauges feature a state-of-charge indicator and a range meter.
The automatic climate control is simple and features a big digital readout of the temperature. Set it and forget it.
Legroom in the rear is good, at 34.5 inches. Compare that to the all-new Toyota Yaris, 33.3 inches; Mazda2, 33.0 inches; and Ford Fiesta, 31.2 inches. None of these are anywhere near the Nissan Versa hatchback's 38.0 inches, but then the Versa hatch is 7.5 inches longer than the Fit.
Cargo space in the Honda Fit EV is 49.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Fit offers a humongous 57.8 cubic feet, to Versa's 50.4 cubic feet, with the other hatchback subcompacts far behind. (Those figures are for the 2012 Versa, not the 2014 Versa Note.).
The all-electric Honda Fit EV is a bit different from the other models. On the road, the Fit EV is really two cars in one: in Eco mode it conserves wattage and pretty much ambles along, a sedate statement of green consciousness. In Normal mode, acceleration and torque is sufficient for cruising and city driving. Punch in Sport mode and the lightweight Fit thrusts forward with a significant kick and the EV holds a head of steam that's more than enough to attack an incline or power up an interstate on-ramp.
The Fit EV draws its power from a 20-kilowatt hour, lithium-ion battery and a 92-kilowatt coaxial electric motor/gearbox. The high-density electric motor, similar to the unit that drives the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, is highly efficient and ultra-silent; more than a couple of times we had to check the Ready to Drive readout on the dash panel to make sure that it was running and ready to engage.
The three-mode Dynamic Electric Drive system uses Eco, Normal and Sport buttons located to the left of the steering wheel. In Eco mode, it labors when uphill thrust is required, and torque is limited. In Sport mode, the EV is positively fast. Sport mode reduced the range by about 20 percent in our testing.
Fit EV is fun to drive on winding roads. Handling is crisp, steering is responsive. At 3252 pounds, Fit EV weighs more than a standard Fit. While that would be a factor on a racetrack or autocross circuit, we didn't notice it while driving around town, on freeways and on backroads.
When it comes time to recharge, the Fit EV owner should have a plan A, and a Plan B just to be safe and avoid range anxiety.
A 6.6 kW, onboard, 32-amp charger allows for recharging of the Fit EV with a 240-volt circuit in less than three hours. Owners will want to equip their home with a 240-volt charging station. Honda has partnered with Leviton as the preferred Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) charging supplier.
When using 120-volt household current, be prepared to close the garage door and settle in for a long nap; a full recharge takes more than 10 hours, Honda says. In fact, we plugged the Fit into a 120-volt household line and five hours later, the range meter hadn't budged. The charger during that time appeared to be operating, as all the charge lights were green. You'll want that 240-volt charging system.
Like any electric car, the Honda Fit EV requires a lifestyle that can accommodate its short range. Owners who install a 240-volt outlet may find the Fit to be an excellent second car, perfect for commuting and running errands. It's fun to drive and the interior is nicely designed and well thought out.
Stephen Williams reported on the Fit EV from Long Island; with NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reporting from New York and Los Angeles; and Sam Moses reporting from Portland.
Honda Fit EV.
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Honda Fit EV.
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