2011 Honda Fit

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Review: 2009 Honda Fit

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2013.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

The Honda Fit has received numerous accolades for its intelligent design, and things have only improved in 2009. With new high-end features and the same economical mission statement, the Fit aims to attract a wider spread of buyers.
Pros:
  • Innovative interior spaces
  • Premium options: Bluetooth, iPod, navigation
  • Thrifty at the gas pump
Cons:
  • 1.5-liter engine needs lots of revs
  • Fit Sport can cost almost $19,000 with nav
  • A-pillar blind spot

Honda couldn’t have picked a better time to release the 2009 Fit. While gas prices continue to soar and the economy continues to tank, who isn’t looking for a reliable and economical alternative for daily transportation? The new Fit is as thrifty and innovative as its forebear, but with an improved interior, so even if you’re trading in your 5-Series it’s worth a look.

Model Lineup
The 2009 Fit has obviously been built with the idea of maximizing interior space while keeping the package size small. The cutesy five-door hatchback has more interior configurations than Batman has gadgets, making it possible to squeeze just about anything inside. And like any Honda, it’s easy to pick your Fit — it only comes two ways. There’s the Fit, and the Fit Sport.

Seventy percent of buyers are estimated to pay the extra $1,500 to get the Fit Sport, which includes 16-inch wheels with slightly larger 185/55R16 rubber (vs. 175/65R15), an aerodynamic kit, a roof spoiler, fog lights and quite a bit more. It’s easy to see why Honda expects the Fit Sport to be the volume seller — for an extra $1,500 it’s a no-brainer. Honda estimates that 10 percent of Fit Sport buyers will spend another $1,850 to add navigation and vehicle stability assist. The package is only available on the Fit Sport and is expected to attract buyers downsizing from larger cars.

Under the Hood
As with any car in this class, the 2009 Fit comes with a 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. This one makes 117 horsepower from 1.5 liters and produces 106 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. The eight-horsepower bump over the previous Fit can be credited to a new version of Honda’s i-VTEC valve technology, which better optimizes valve lift throughout the rev range.

There’s only one engine offering for both trim levels, but the 1.5-liter can be had with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic. The Fit Sport adds paddle shifters to the automatic transmission and it can also be had with vehicle stability control.

Some have found reason to complain about the lack of an independent rear suspension (this was also the case in the previous Fit), but you’ll never notice its absence on the road, and the torsion beam suspension makes room for 20.6 cubic feet of cargo volume.

Inner Space
The interior of the Honda Fit has undoubtedly been its highlight historically, and it’s better in 2009. The redesigned Fit gets the excellent steering wheel of the Civic Si, with audio controls and paddle shifters (Fit Sport), and the front seats are much more comfortable for long hauls.

The Fit comes loaded with neat touches that are typically found on more expensive cars, such as a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a passenger vanity mirror, and a USB audio interface (Fit Sport). The instrument cluster is stacked with futuristic blue gauges and Honda’s top-line navigation system is now available.

As in its predecessor, the gas tank is mounted under the front seats. This time it’s smaller, which creates more interior space. In the rear, bench seats flip completely flat at the pull of one lever, regardless of front seat position. Alternatively, the seat bottoms can be turned upward for carrying tall things. There are 10 cupholders throughout the cabin, complemented by storage nooks including a dual glove box and a hidden underseat compartment.

On the Road
The 2009 Honda Fit has a quicker steering ratio than its predecessor, which better communicates the feeling of driving a diminutive car. Like before, the steering is well weighted, and overall feel is arguably best in class. Combined with a tight 34.4 foot turning circle, it feels as though there’s no gap that can’t be split on a congested Tuesday morning.

As great as the Fit is in traffic, it’s preferable to be slotting down one of California’s winding coastal roads. The Fit makes quick work of twisty sections, thanks to a competent torsion-beam rear suspension, but the twin A-pillars necessitated by the large front quarter window make for a big blind spot when driving fast. The brake pedal is firm, but thanks to 7.6-inch rear drum brakes the Fit isn’t exactly the car you want to take bombing through an extended downhill canyon run.

Get up to highway speeds and you quickly realize that the diminutive 1.5-liter engine needs a lot of revs to really get moving, and is even more evident while going uphill. The Toyota Yaris has more torque, but is nowhere near as fun to drive through corners. Despite the Fit’s nimble moves in the twisties, the suspension isn’t overly stiff on the highway and new, higher-dollar seats are noticeably more supportive than those of the 2008 Fit.

The manual transmission offers positive shifts, but the five-speed automatic transmission is the way to go — it’s just as fast, actually gets better gas mileage (27/33 vs. 28/35 city/hwy) in base trim, and is much easier in rush-hour traffic. Our only complaint is with the shift logic when using the paddle shifters in the Fit Sport. The computer allows first-gear downshifts, which are rough on the neck muscles and usually unnecessary. It’s also worth noting that the Fit Sport manages 27/33 mpg (city/hwy) with either the manual or the automatic transmission.

Right for You?
If you’re looking for a way to drive with a clean conscience but aren’t ready to jump on the hybrid bandwagon, the Fit is a great way to get 30+ miles per gallon while hauling four friends and a hatch full of supplies. And the Fit Sport adds fun and upscale features to the equation.

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.

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BB04 - 9/23/2014 1:45:32 AM