2009 Honda Fit
2009 Honda Fit Expert Review:Autoblog
Evolution's a funny thing. We like our thumbs, enjoy walking upright and are thankful Ivanka Trump doesn't have a tail (although there's some debate about where she hides her horns), but when adaptation turns to automobiles, Darwin's dictum occasionally goes astray. There's a long list of vehicles we would love to see stay the same, but we understand that consumer demand and government regulation forces automakers to add amenities and tack on the pounds. The 2009 Honda Fit Sport is a perfect case-study.
Compared to the original Fit that landed on our shores in 2006, Honda's sophomore effort is larger, more spacious and marginally more powerful. But when you sit down with the spec sheet there are only a few "improvements" worth getting excited about. After spending a week with the 2009 model, we found that while evolution is good, some things need to stay the same. Make the jump to find out why.
Photos copyright ©2009 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.
It's tough to say which Fit is more attractive. We liked the simple honesty of the outgoing version, but as fans of the Euro Civic, the 2009 model's frontward aggression is a welcome addition. The fascia is more angular and less anonymous, and matched with the sculpted swage lines, over-styled hatch and dainty spoiler, the Fit Sport has ditched most of its mini-minivan character in favor of a dynamic shape that lends some familial cohesion to the lil' runabout. Praise be to Honda for erring on the Euro side of its recent stylistic endeavors, as we can't imagine the rhinoplastic horrors that would have afflicted the Fit if a Pilot/Ridgeline facelift found its way up front.
On the inside, the revisions are just as apparent and equally divisive. The leather-wrapped steering wheel on the Sport model is suitably chunky and the perfect diameter to live up to its trim's namesake. But for those who prefer a low wheel placement to compliment the Sport's high-riding seats, be prepared for the top of the center-mounted speedo to disappear from view.
The two-tiered stereo and climate control cluster has been dropped in favor of a singular slab of clickity-clicktastic plastic to house the audio system, and the fan, temperature and directional knobs apparently suffered a bout of elephantitus when they migrated to the left side of the stereo. While their placement might be more "driver oriented," pleas from the passenger seat to turn up the heat will be forthcoming. Thankfully, Honda got it right with the five-speed manual's shifter placement, which falls subconsciously to hand and delivers the smooth and solid action that comes with anything carrying an "H".
The front seats are what you'd expect in anything under $20-large, offering enough adjustability and padding to remain comfortable on the daily commute, but lacking the serious bolstering you'd require while tackling the bends. The rear "Magic Seats" still fold up to reveal a clean pass-through and a flat floor (we managed to fit a plasma TV with ease), and with the rear 60/40 bench backs folded down, there's 57 cu-ft of storage (15 cu-ft more than the 2008 model) for moving a dorm-full of detritus when headed home for the holidays.
The 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine remains, with a single overhead cam manipulating 16 valves, but output is up to 117 hp at 6,600 rpm (eight over the 2008 model) and 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm (one lb-ft more than before). Equipped with the five-speed cog-swapper, our tester was rated at 27 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway (one mpg down from the outgoing Fit), and while the fuel tank has shrunk by 0.2 gallons, the Fit's curb weight is up by 51 pounds (2,520 pounds) – a reasonable trade-off considering the additional 4.2-inches of length.
Our First Drive revealed that Honda took considerable care to give the 2009 Fit a more relaxing ride, and apart from the engine note, which drones through the cabin while motoring along at expressway speeds, the steering and power delivery remain true to the original. Bobbing and weaving through town, the uptake and clutch engagement takes some finesse to elicit smooth shifts and the upgraded rolling stock on the Sport (185/55 all-season tires wrapped around 16-inch wheels) provide a communicative – although slightly muted– sense of what's happening underneath.
When we ventured out into the backroads where few econoboxes fear to tread, the 2009 model put up a fight, but ultimately failed to provide the buzzy thrills of its predecessor. Although output is up, the Fit doesn't dart through the corners or deliver the chuckability we've come to expect. The additional weight may be negligible, but there's an odd sense of heft at the helm, and while the front MacPherson struts do their best to keep the tires planted, the Sport-specific rear anti-roll bar can only do so much to keep the solid-beam rear-end dancing like the Patrick Swayze of our youth.
While we're keenly aware that its smoother ride and softer suspension will please the public at large – particularly those who opt for the automatic – we missed the tactility and balance the first-generation Fit delivered. But despite the 2009 model's limited (driver) engagement, the Fit is still the most entertaining runabout in its class, easily putting the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Chevrolet Aveo to shame. Factor in the $18,000 sticker our tester carried, and the only question left is whether or not the slightly devolved 2009 Honda Fit Sport is a natural selection for you.
Photos copyright ©2009 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.
When Honda introduced the first generation Fit to the North American market in mid-2006, its timing couldn't have been better. The entry level hatchback appeared just as fuel prices in the U.S. were heading skyward. Ever since then, the Fit has been selling as fast as Honda can bring them in from Japan. The Fit (or Jazz as its known in some markets) debuted in 2001 and the second-generation model went on sale in Japan last fall. Honda showed the new U.S.-spec Fit at the New York Auto Show last spring and we had our first opportunity to drive it on the roads north of Ann Arbor, MI last week.
As is typically the case with new models, the updated Fit has grown a bit (about 4 inches in overall length), but it's only about 44 pounds heavier than the outgoing model. Also in the usual fashion, Honda strove to increase the refinement of the Fit while not losing any of the fun-loving qualities of the original. In the process, it has had to deal with rising raw material and shipping costs while keeping the price from getting out of hand. Read on to find out if the spiritual descendants of Soichiro Honda have succeeded.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
The debut of the modern MINI earlier this decade clearly demonstrated that a small, fuel efficient car didn't have to be a cheap, plasticy, under-performing penalty box in which to suffer your commuting activities. The MINI's BMW origins, however, meant that it was a bit on the pricey side as well as having a minuscule back seat. The arrival of the Fit on our shores took those same driving qualities and added a more reasonable price and vastly more space for occupants. The Fit is taller and longer than the MINI, but smaller than cars like the Nissan Versa and Ford Focus.
The original Fit was designed well before Honda decided to bring the car to North America, so it didn't incorporate much in way of U.S. demands. Nonetheless, in its first two years on the market, American drivers took to the Fit and Honda sold as many as they could stuff on cargo ships from Japan. Besides its handling and fuel efficiency, features like the rear Magic Seats and ample cargo space also contributed to its popularity. For the second generation Fit, Honda wanted to build on what made the original a hot seller without diluting any of those properties.
The design philosophy behind the Fit is described as "Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum," shrinking the car around the biggest possible user space. As we said, the new Fit has grown a bit, but not by much. Its limbo capabilities are unchanged at 60 inches, but it's about 0.6 inches wider and 4.3 inches longer. Following its New York Auto Show debut last spring, some observers complained about the longer nose compared to the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Fit that launched late last year. Honda explained that there were two reasons for this. One was aesthetic, as American consumers in clinics felt the Japanese Fit looked a little too mini-van like with its short nose. The other had to do with crash safety. U.S. standards require a certain level of occupant safety, even for those still ignorant enough not to wear seat-belts. Both of those needs led to a slightly longer nose that Honda now claims adds to a sportier looking new Fit. We'll let you be the judge of that.
Personally, we like the snub nose look of the JDM Fit, but the U.S. version looks fine as well. The rest of the car is a clear evolution of the original with the increased length and larger windows giving the appearance of a lower stance even though it is the same height. That vertical stature is one of the keys to the Fit's interior volume. Rear seat passengers sit upright with plenty of head room and knee room. The extra half inch of width allows for the addition of a driver seat center arm-rest and the distinct feeling of more elbow room. In spite of the slightly increased size, the mass for a comparably equipped model only goes up by the aforementioned 44 lbs.
An emphasis on safety in the new Fit plays a big part here. Honda has used a lot of high-strength steel to improve the structural integrity without bulking the car. As with other recent introductions, Honda has also incorporated Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE), which is intended to improve occupant protection in collisions between different sized vehicles.
For those unfamiliar with the rear Magic Seats, they provide immense flexibility. Like all hatchbacks, the rear seat backs fold down flat. The retracting rear head rests allow the flat fold even with the front seats all the way back. The front passenger seat back also folds forward for carrying larger items. The magic part is in the rear where the lower seat cushions also fold up against the seat back which is ideal for carrying taller items since you have unobstructed space from the floor to the ceiling between the seats.
The driver environment is well laid out with all controls close at hand. For those with a large thirst and bladder to match, the Fit's interior will be great for road trips as there are now 10 cup holders available. Two are located on the floor ahead of the shifter, one at either end of the dash board, one in each of the four doors and two more in the rear of the center console. A new top trim level has also been added to the Sport that includes an in-dash navigation system with a touch screen. Visibility out of the Fit is also excellent thanks to thinner A-pillars, larger quarter windows at the base of the more steeply raked pillars and a larger rear window. The steering wheel also adds fore-aft adjustment to its previous angle adjustment making it easier to get the right, ahem, fit.
We hit the road in a brilliant blue Fit Sport with a 5-speed manual gearbox and a navigation system for our first drive. Even for those not necessarily looking for a super-efficient car, the first generation Fit, especially in Sport form, provided a remarkably nimble and stable platform for tackling twisty roads. In spite of its tall stance, the original Fit never felt tippy and neither does this new one. Americans are generally averse to the idea of managing the gear ratio selection in their cars and predominantly opt for automatics. Thus, the new Fit carries over its five speed auto-box from the original and the Sport retains the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for those who like to play pretend.
For those who don't mind manipulating three pedals with two feet, the shift-it-yourself version proved remarkably adept. The shift throws were short and very precise. There was no slop to speak of in the shifter and the engagement of the clutch also made it very easy to drive smoothly and quickly. Also rating high praise was the Fit's steering. Unlike the Acura TL and TSX, which had inconsistent weighting and poor feedback from their electrically assisted systems, the Fit's system felt great. Honda increased the rigidity of the steering gear and changed the way it is mounted to the front sub-frame. During hard cornering, the forces going on at the tire/road interface were transmitted back through the reasonably thick rimmed wheel and there were no noticeable dead spots or free play.
The only sore spot were the brakes, and since we only had time to drive one example, it's not clear if this was a one-off problem or a common one. While the pedal feel was fine, during light braking typical of around town driving, it seemed to take more effort than expected to achieve the desired deceleration. It's possible that the pads were glazed from some over-enthusiastic use during a previous drive or perhaps they were green and needed braking in. Either way we'll be watching for this when we get a unit for a full review.
Other than that the Fit was very well behaved on curvy rural roads, highways and around town. The structure felt solid and the suspension was well damped while never feeling harsh. Wind and other ambient noise was remarkably low inside for an economy car. Probably the most remarkable aspect with regard to noise was when the car came to a stop. The Fit was so silent at idle that after recently driving other cars with auto start-stop systems, we thought the Honda was equipped with one. We had to glance at the tachometer to realize it was still running. Under hard acceleration the 1.5L four cylinder does make some noise but remains vibration free throughout the rev range.
The Fit's updated engine picks up 9 hp compared to the previous generation and 1 lb-ft of torque for a total of 117 hp and 106 lb-ft, respectively. If there is one thing that smooth running Honda four-cylinder engines can be criticized for are their relatively weak low end torque. What we'd love to see in the Fit is a 1.6L version of Honda's upcoming clean diesel. A torquey engine like in the MINI Cooper D blended with this chassis would be a perfect combination. It's not that the Fit is slow, but having the extra torque just feels better and provides more encouraging acceleration for passing or on-ramp merging.
The 2009 Fit also picks up one mpg across the board compared to the previous model, scoring 28 city/35 highway for the base model equipped with the automatic transmission . All Fits get anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution as standard equipment and the new Sport/navi version also includes stability control. The interior of the Fit clearly isn't a luxury car, but the shapes, color combinations and textures of the hard plastics keep it from feeling excessively cheap.
Honda scored big-time with the first generation Fit and expects to do even better this time. Capacity will limit sales to about 85,000 units for 2009, which we think will all be sold with no trouble. Honda has essentially run out of 2008 Fits over the past couple of months with supplies at most dealers in the single digits. It hasn't set a precise on sale date for the '09 model, but instead will allow dealers to start selling cars as they arrive in the next few weeks rather than waiting to fill the pipeline. All North American dealers should be selling them shortly after Labor Day, though. Finally, we'll have word on Honda's pricing for the Fit in a later post, but we think there's enough here in the new 2009 Fit to justify a few extra bucks in Honda's pocket.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
All-new model is a perfect fit.
The small car is king. Truly, in this time of gas price roller coaster rides, environmental activism and economic uncertainty, people who can make the switch to small and efficient vehicles are doing so, and in droves. This is especially the case when you see and drive the thoroughly new 2009 Honda Fit: there's little by way of sacrifice if you choose Honda's smallest car, from its innovative and upgraded interior to its fun-to-drive character and efficient bottom line. Simply put, the Honda Fit fits what many people actually need from their cars.
Of course, Honda sees what's going on, and is aggressively trying to stay one step ahead of an ever-growing crowd of competitors like the Nissan Versa, Scion xD and more. To that end, they've kept the Fit fresh, giving it a redo just two years after its debut in North America as a 2007 model.
Changes for 2009 include a new, more upscale and driver-friendly exterior design and an improved interior with better materials and seats.
About those seats. When it debuted for the 2007 model year, the Fit immediately become known for its amazingly configurable interior. Called the magic seat, because of the multitude of ways in which the second row could be folded, this feature remains largely unchanged for the 2009 model year, the only difference being the deletion of the 'refresh' mode as one of the possible configurations, and the addition of a secret compartment at the seat bottom.
Other improvements for 2009 include better performance and slightly more power on the road. Honda's new 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine gives the Fit slightly more horsepower and torque, while upgrades to chassis and suspension components improve the overall ride and handling experience. Of course, larger standard wheels have a little to do with that, as well, but overall the Fit is sized just right for today's fun-minded, economy-required consumer.
The Fit is fuel efficient, earning an EPA-estimated 27/33 mpg City/Highway. The 1.5-liter engine delivers 117-horsepower at 6600 rpm and 106 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm.
The 2009 Honda Fit comes in two models with three trim variations, Fit, Fit Sport ($16,060), and Fit Sport with Navi ($17,910). The primary differences center around equipment and technology upgrades. The Fit Sport offers one-inch larger wheels, and the Fit Sport with Navi includes satellite navigation and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA).
The Fit comes with a five-speed manual gearbox ($14,550) or a five-speed automatic ($15,350). Standard features include 15-inch wheels, black side mirrors, telescoping steering wheel, auxiliary input jack for your iPod, MP3/WMA playback and 160-watt stereo with four speakers.
The Fit Sport ($16,060) upgrades with larger wheels wheels, a sporty front bumper, body-colored side mirrors, keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel, USB connectivity, a driver side armrest and map lights. The Sport comes with a five-speed automatic or five-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters ($16,910).
The Fit Sport with Navi ($17,910) comes with manual transmission or five-speed automatic with paddle shifters ($18,760). The Fit Sport with Navi adds satellite navigation and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA).
Safety features on all models include front and side airbags and side curtain airbags.
Though the Fit has always been considered modern, few people considered the outgoing 2008 model stylish. That changes with the 2009 Honda Fit, thanks to a new style that's functional and attractive, with sharply styled headlights, larger front quarter windows and a more aerodynamic front design.
The improved look makes the Fit arguably the most appealing small car in its class, avoiding some of the quirks found on competitors such as the Scion xD while improving the practical nature of the car, ala more visibility. Additional design changes for 2009 include a wider stance, more aggressive fender flares and sharper character lines along the side.
Since it debuted in 2007, what's inside the Fit has been perhaps its most talked about feature, in good and bad ways. Case in point: while the seats configure into a multitude of handy ways, the quality of the materials left many wanting.
For the 2009 model year, Honda has improved critical elements of the interior while leaving the awesome utility of the little car mostly intact. For example, the Fit gets new front seats and sits taller and wider, providing slightly more room for passengers.
The materials feel more ample and durable, and the center stack layout is among the easiest, most intuitively placed schemes we've seen in some time. The large knobs that control the environment and settings curve around the stereo controls on the driver's side, making the design stylish and easy to reach, though the plastic controls felt a bit thin to the touch.
Another high point of the new interior are the in-dash cupholders and split glovebox, though both upper and lower boxes are too small to be of much use. Even with all these changes, the best thing about the Fit hasn't changed much: magic seats. No, they won't transport you like George Jetson or Aladdin, but Honda's magic seats do move in a number of ways, from folding flat for utility and up for tall objects. There's even a small storage compartment under the seats for small items.
Space inside the cabin ranges is almost-spacious in front and adequate in back, especially for a car this size. Surprisingly, the 2009 Fit offers slightly more cargo volume than even the spacious Nissan Versa.
Comfort-wise, the Fit feels large inside, thanks to its expansive green house and new seats. Visibility from the driver's seat is excellent. The side mirrors are 30 percent larger than those on the outgoing model. The most noticeable difference is up front, where a broader front windshield and close-up seating improve sightlines and feel for the road. Slender roof pillars front and rear minimize blind spots and create a more airy feel to the cabin.
The Fit is fun to drive. For everyday driving it's an obedient and comfortable conveyance, thanks to new seats and suspension changes that smoothed out the previous model's ride.
While the Fit's power supply is modest, we found driving a model with either the manual transmission or automatic with paddle shifters upped the fun meter by allowing drivers to dip down into the vehicle's torque band when needed.
Fit delivers an EPA-estimated 27/30 miles per gallon City/Highway, so it's a nice fit between fun-to-drive and frugality.
Case in point: on twisty corners, the Fit is much more fun, and almost as efficient as the Scion xD or Nissan Versa. Most of the time, the rear of the car nicely follows the front, even under aggressive duress, and with a new electric steering set up that's improved, but still lacks touch, the Fit communicates its intent clearly, if not with authority. We found the Fit to be quite tossable, the kind of car that's easy and predictable under spirited driving, without much wallow or ungainly lean in the corners.
We found that the clutch and throw play on the manual transmission was easy to manipulate and quite fun to operate.
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of driving the Fit is the noise: the engine squeals when you hammer the throttle, whining and moaning its displeasure even during normal driving situations, like accelerating from a stop light. You get a more muted response from the competition.
The Honda Fit offers a compelling balance of economy, fun, interior convenience and comfort. It offers engineering excellence and value. From a healthy list of standard safety equipment to multiple seat configurations and ample storage room, the Fit simplifies your life. Drawbacks include a noisy and thrashy ride, slightly numb steering and a small (split) glovebox.
Brian Chee filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Honda Fit models in Southern California.
Honda Fit ($14,550); Honda Fit Sport ($16,060); Honda Fit Sport Navi ($17,910).
Options As Tested
Honda Fit Sport Navi ($17,910).
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