It used to be that if you were looking for an entry-level vehicle from Honda, the choice was clear. You had to get the Civic. There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Because the next step up would have you looking at the Accord. The Civic once came in all sorts of flavors to fit your needs: the coupe for the sporty types, the sedan for the small family, the wagon for the utilitarian, and the compact hatchback for the economically-minded. Around these parts, the Civic hatchback died out with the EK chassis in 2000, which was terribly unfortunate. It is only now, in the 2007 model year, that they have offered us a vehicle similar to the old Civic hatchback. Welcome the new Honda Fit.
I use the term “new” fairly loosely, as the Honda Fit has been available in Japan for a few years now, as well as in Europe where it is badged as the Honda Jazz (they were originally going to go with Fitta, but it turns out that “fitta” can be construed as a euphemism for female genitalia in Italy). Whereas the Civic is getting bigger and more luxurious — the current sedan is almost Accord-sized — the Fit is everything that was good about the old Civic hatchback, and then some. Despite being a subcompact, they’ve stuffed in plenty of upper-scale goodies to make this vehicle well worth the asking price.
This review is based on the Canadian version of the Honda Fit Sport, though the differences from the rendition destined to the United States should be fairly minimal. The Honda Fits destined for North America are assembled in Suzuka, Japan.
Although the Fit has a very short wheelbase (96.5 inches) and a short overall length (157.4 inches), it is fairly tall in height at 60.0 inches (5 feet). As a result, the headroom and interior dimensions are fantastic. I’m about average height at about 5’9″ or 5’10”, and I still had plenty of room to spare above my head, whether I was sitting in the front or the back. The headroom in the front and rear are 40.6 and 38.6 inches, respectively. That said, because of these kinds of dimensions, it gives the Fit a somewhat “minivan” like appearance, if only shrunken down to subcompact dimensions. This is accentuated by the very vertical rear window, which is a contrast to the rounder and more “slanted” profiles presented by the Fit’s main competitors in the marketplace, the Nissan Versa and the 2007 Toyota Yaris.
You will also notice that the front windshield is very angled, sloping nearly as much as the very slope-y hood. This is in line with Honda’s more recent dedication to pedestrian safety (you’ll find a similar design in the new Civic). If you are unfortunate enough to strike a pedestrian, they will not be “run over”; instead, they will roll off your hood and windshield, minimizing injuries.
There are five doors in all, include the large hatchback door in the back. Because of the height of the car, the doors are quite big, making entry quite easy. The seats are also elevated so there’s no need to “fall” into your seat. The front half of the cabin is very roomy with plenty of hip room and foot room, and the same can be said about sitting in the rear. There are three sets of seatbelts and headrests in the back, but I’d recommend against having three full-size adults back there for extended trips. All this said, the interior is surprisingly roomy. Honda really has maximized the cargo (and passenger) space in this vehicle. You’d be surprised, especially if you’re more accustomed to the cramped confines of an Acura Integra (as I am) or the old Civic hatchback. There’s plenty of space in the Fit.
Performance and Handling
Currently, there is only one engine choice for North Americans. The 1.5L engine develops 109 horsepower, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering that they’ve kept the curb weight down to around 2500 pounds, it’s more than enough to get this car going. Don’t expect this car to beat a Ferrari off the line, but it’s got enough umph to get you around town. Some people may find the Fit underpowered for highway driving, especially if you’re more accustomed to the brute force of a V6, but if you’re coming from another 4-cylinder compact, you’ll feel right at home with the Fit. Because the engine makes use of Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing technology, you get enough low-rpm torque and enough high-rpm horsepower for most intents and purposes.
If you opt for the top of the line Fit Sport with automatic transmission, you will also get treated to paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. These turn with the wheel and are not linked directly to the steering wheel hub. I would have preferred the latter, as it is easier to keep track of which paddle will shift up and which will shift down, but if you’re opting for the auto gearbox anyways, you will probably leave the car in “Drive”. To use the shifters, you’ll want to put the car in “S” and it will hold a gear until you tell it to upshift. When you come to a complete stop, it will automatically revert back to first gear. While in “Drive”, you can also downshift to pass a slow truck on the highway. A little more control than your garden-variety automatic, but nothing too exciting either.
Throwing the Fit into corners, I found that there was considerable body roll. I feel this is largely due to the height of the car, which makes it a little top heavy. The handling won’t be able to keep up with the Honda S2000, but it doesn’t provide a cruising boat-like experience as you would find in a Chrysler 300 for example. It is neither a hardcore racer, nor a highway cruiser, though it is certainly “sportier” than, say, a Toyota Corolla. It is a front-wheel-drive car, of course, so handling can’t exactly be exceptional either.
The front brakes are power-assisted ventilated discs, but the rears are still the so-90s drums. This is unfortunate, but it seems like every other car in the segment is doing the same. If Honda opted for rear discs, they’d have yet another step up on the competition.
Interior Design and Sound
I was perhaps most impressed by the choice of materials by Honda in terms of the interior. I sat and test-drove both the Toyota Yaris and the Nissan Versa, and I found that the Honda Fit has the best “fit and finish”, if you’ll excuse the pun. Although most of it is plastic, it is high quality plastic that doesn’t feel “cheap.” With the Fit Sport that I tested, the steering wheel came leather-wrapped with metal accents, as did the shiftknob. The heating and air conditioning is controlled by three dials which are placed side-by-side beneath the stereo head unit. Simple, straightforward, and easy to reach. I heavily prefer this layout over the vertical design found in the Toyota Yaris. The Yaris steering wheel and shift knob were noticeably lower quality as well.
Strangely, there is no map light in the Fit. Instead, you are stuck using just the dome light for when you pull over on the side of the road and have to figure out where you want to go. On the passenger side, there isn’t a vanity mirror either (the driver’s side visor has one). These omissions are fairly substantial.
Although they don’t market the Fit as being “iPod ready” like how just about every other carmaker is doing these days, but it does come with an auxiliary jack standard with its MP3/CD playing radio. I like how they placed the auxiliary jack (you can plug in a standard stereo mini-plug into here, putting the other end in your MP3 player’s headphone jack) down low, below the heating controls, next to a holding area in front of the shifter. This way, you don’t have an ugly wire dangling from the top of the dash. What’s more, the signal is significantly better than what you’d get from an FM transmitter. This means, though, that replacing the stock stereo with an aftermarket sound system is quite a bit of work.
The sound system that comes with the Fit is decent, especially if you opt for the Fit Sport, which comes with six speakers and a five-mode equalizer. The head unit has a large backlit display, large knobs for controls, and a straightforward interface. It even has speed sensitive volume control. If you get the lower model, however, you get stuck with no auxiliary input jack, and you’ll only listen to four speakers.
Unique Seating Arrangements
The seats are very comfortable, hugging my sides quite well as I put the car through the corners. They’re not exactly racing seats, but they are Recaro-style buckets that hug your hips just enough. The foam used is nice and firm, and it doesn’t appear to have too much give to it. This is a further testament to Honda’s choice of high quality materials. If you are a larger fellow, however, you may find that the seats are too cramped for comfort. Taller people are fine, however, as the seatbelts can be adjusted vertically as well.
One of the coolest features of the Honda Fit, and the one that they continually try to sell you on, is that it comes with a whole bunch of unique seating arrangements. They call this the “Magic Seat” system. In addition to the usual sit-like-how-you-should arrangement, the back seats do the 60/40 split. In fact, it’ll fold completely flat to give you plenty of cargo space when you need it. They call this “Utility Mode”.
The rear seat cushions themselves can also fold upwards, providing you with what they call “Tall Mode” wherein you can easily transport vertical objects on the rear seat floor (which is completely flat, because the fuel tank is located beneath the front seats). For “Relax Mode”, you can recline the front seats in such a way that you essentially create a temporary bed. Not exactly fitting for camping, but perfect for those rest spots where you just want to catch a few extra Z’s.
For exceptionally long objects, you can fold the front passenger seat backwards, the rear passenger seat downwards, and place items as long as 2.4 meters. This “Long Mode” takes up the area from the glove compartment all the way to the back window. That’s pretty long.
On the Honda USA website, they have the EPA ratings listed as:
5-Speed Manual (City/Highway): 33 / 38
5-Speed Automatic Base (City/Highway): 31 / 38
5-Speed Automatic Sport (City/Highway): 31 / 37
On the Honda Canada website, they have the fuel consumption as:
Manual DX/LX/Sport, City/HWY (L/100km): 7.3 / 5.8
Automatic DX/LX, City/HWY (L/100km): 7.8 / 5.6
Automatic Sport, City/HWY (L/100km): 8.0 / 5.8
Summary and Conclusion
Overall, I am very pleased with the Honda Fit, and I would have to say that it outperforms both the Nissan Versa and the Toyota Yaris in just about every department. The only exception to this would be the fact that the Versa comes with a 1.8L inline-four good for 122hp and 127 lbs-ft of torque, making it a more powerful vehicle. I wouldn’t say that the Honda Fit is a speedster — not by any stretch of the imagination — but it has enough power to provide a reasonably peppy ride around the city.
If you’re concerned about safety in a small car, you shouldn’t be. This car has airbags up the wazoo, including side curtain airbags. Other standard niceties include ABS braking, ECU immobilizer, and three-point seatbelts for every seat. The front airbags are also dual-stage, dual-threshold.
The fit and finish are fantastic for an entry-level subcompact, especially considering the choice of high quality materials, an auxiliary input jack, an MP3/CD stereo, and, of course, that interesting “Magic Seat” system. Outward visibility is great for just about every direction, although doing shoulder checks on the driver’s side can be somewhat obstructed. I do like how they have included small windows in front of the side mirrors, however, as the sloping windshield would otherwise make for a very thick B-pillar. The turning radius is nice and tight, making parallel parking a joy. It’s a shame that the cargo cover is optional costing well over $200 extra here in Canada. This, I would hope, should be included in future years.
A very worthy successor to the Honda Civic hatchback, though I would have preferred a less minivan-like appearance.
Pricing and Availability
In the United States, the base Fit starts at $13,850 USD whereas the Fit Sport is priced starting at $15,170 USD. An automatic transmission is $800 USD more.
In Canada, there are three trim levels: the Fit DX starts at $14,980 CAD; the LX at $17,380 CAD; and the Sport at $19,580 CAD. Switching out the manual transmission for an automatic will cost about $1,300 CAD extra.
When priced out, the Honda Fit Sport with automatic transmission, taxes, fees, freight and PDI comes to the $25,000 CAD neighbourhood.
Honda Fit Sport Photo Gallery