Even before that crash test footage of a Honda being crushed like an empty beer can circulated the internet, you’d be hard pressed to find much love around these parts for the Fit. It’s the crowd it associates with. Sort of like being friends with Dick Cheney, or Rosie O’Donnell. Call it guilt by association. We like Hondas and all, but subcompacts? Come on. At any rate, someone has to be the leader of this ultra-economical/inexpensive runt race, and there is a good chance the Fit will be the best vehicle in this class for a long time.
To lead this segment, a vehicle needs to paradoxically defy the primary tenets people associate with these kinds of cars. The car must be able to haul a decent amount of cargo, although it is tiny. It must be designed and built with quality materials, although it is cheap. It must be at least somewhat sporty and fun to drive, although it is economical. In relative terms, the 2009 Fit does all of these things well.
To the slight detriment of the Fit’s fuel efficiency, the 2009 Fit is a slightly larger, (over 2 inches longer and nearly an inch and a half wider), and a slightly better driving vehicle. Rear passengers, thankfully, benefit from an extra 1.6 inches of legroom as a result. The new Fit comes in two versions; a regular and “sport,” both powered by a 1.5 liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine that produces 117 horsepower and 106 lb-feet of torque. This is a marginal, though welcome, increase of 8 horses from the previous Fit. Transmission choices are either a five-speed manual, an automatic, or an automatic with a dual-mode paddle shifter system in the Fit Sport. With any choice, reviewers have only positive things to say about the Fit, which despite a seemingly low amount of power, is aptly described as “peppy.” While the engine produces a slightly buzzy quality, as we’ve come to appreciate with Honda, it is indefatigable. 0-60 mph times are in the 8-second range, not exactly rocket-like, but sufficient none the less.
Like most Honda’s, the Fit is well made and infused with a sense of energy not typical in this segment. Despite its increased girth, handling in the 2009 Fit is happily improved as a result of added body rigidity and an optional rear stabilizer bar in the Sport version. A re-tuned suspension, larger tires and new electronic steering also help. And what about safety and that cringe-worthy crash footage? Honda points out that the test that garnered so much negative feedback only occurs in very small numbers and is not indicative of the Fit’s overall safety record. With scores that are otherwise high in federal government crash tests, the Fit is a “Top Safety Pick” with the insurance industry. Just don’t drive headlong into a mid-size car. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution come standard.
According to the EPA, the 2009 Fit achieves 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with an automatic transmission; and 27 mpg and 33 mpg for the Sport version with dual-mode transmission.
It is a given that if you are looking at buying a Fit, you either like hatchbacks or are ambivalent about its shape. It is about as “hatchy” as it gets. The windshield has been moved forward by 4.7 inches to improve visibility and add to the sense of spaciousness. This increase in the windshield dimensions also gives the Fit’s profile a more sporty aerodynamic look. Make no mistake though, it is attractive in a non-traditional, geeky sort of way with it’s big bug-eyed headlights and pointy snout.
Inside, the Fit definitely looks like it is a part of the normal Honda lineup and not some cheap knockoff with an “H” on the hood. Base Fits come standard with 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories and a four-speaker sound system with CD/MP3 player and auxiliary audio input. Opting for the Fit Sport gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, fog-lights, lower body trim, a rear spoiler, cruise control, map lights, a driver armrest and an upgraded audio system with six speakers and a USB port. Navigation comes as an option on the Sport trim level. Overall, the controls and gauge cluster are completely new and with a non-cheap look and feel.
In the Sport model, paddle shifters and audio controls have been added to the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Largely because of its roominess, the 2009 Honda Fit has one of the most well-liked interiors of its class. Nothing is worse than being in a small car that FEELS small, a problem Honda has mostly avoided with the Fit. There’s room for four adults and their luggage or with seats folded, an impressive large amount of cargo. Yes, truly it can seat four in comfort, no small accomplishment in this segment. Practicality takes precedence over luxury, of course, but while plastic is used as far as the eye can see, it is up to the quality you’d expect from Honda. Cushioning for all seats is better than last year and driver comfort is improved in Sport models with a fold-down armrest and leather-wrapped steering wheel taken from perennial-favorite; Civic.
The rear seat, immodestly named the “Magic Seat,”is a multi-position mechanism that features new flip-down headrests and the capability of folding flat with just a turn of a latch, even if the front seats are pushed all the way back. The seats can be arranged in “tall” mode (these are Honda’s labels), “long” mode, or an ambiguous “utility” mode. Actually, despite the lameness of these designations, the functioning of the “Magic Seat” is highly useful. In all, the Fit can provide 57.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Fit is not a cheap competitor in this segment, starting at nearly 15-grand and moving into the $18,000 range for the Sport model with navigation. But it neither feels cheap or fails to live up to the purposes for which it serves; utility and efficiency. In that light, few are even close to this good.