First Drive Review: 2009 Honda Fit
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2013.
By Douglas Kott of Road & Track
Pacific Palisades, California — In the hills above Malibu, with the 1.5-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder at full zing and the P185/55-16 Bridgestones whimpering from cornering loads, I was again reminded how fun it is to drive a slow car fast...a nice change from overachieving 400-bhp sedans that require "license and registration, please" velocities before the fun factor kicks in.
The car on the receiving end of this good-natured flogging? The Honda Fit, the company's spry little 5-door whose former self amassed a considerable fan base with its combination of appealing style, space efficiency and Scrooge-like fuel consumption.
For this 2009 second-generation model, chief engineer Kohei Hitomi has adhered to the "machine minimum, man maximum" philosophy, so the new Fit is again a roomy passenger cell with wheels at the corners. At its core is a stiffer, reinforced unit body with increased usage of high-tensile steel (54 percent, up from 40) that's been pulled out, taffy-like, in every direction, some of the key numbers being wheelbase (up 1.9 in., to 98.4) and interior width (growing 1.2 in. to 55.7).
So, the new Fit can easily seat four full-size adults (five with good hygiene) with minimal knee-splaying in the back seat. And those rear cushions, while looking pretty unremarkable at first, articulate in novel ways to maximize carrying capacity...there's the Tall mode, where the squabs flip up and lock, making room for, say, a stuffed giraffe or half-scale Yao Ming doll; and the Cargo mode, where the seats pivot forward and down to form a flat load floor. Honda calls them "Magic" seats, but they're really the result of clever engineering — the 10.6-gal. fuel tank's positioning (under the front seats) and minimalist twist-beam rear suspension help to free up the space.
Up front, the view out over the dash is quite different. The base of the windshield has been pushed forward by a whopping 4.7 in. and the fixed front quarter windows are three times larger, for a more airy feel and better outward vision. And the dash itself — a theme park of shapes and finishes — is a real break from the old car and now carries the 3-spoke Civic Si steering wheel and vertically arrayed knobs for climate control. Among the thoughtful touches: a double-door glovebox, a steering column that now tilts and telescopes, and high-mounted cupholders near the dash/door panel intersection.
Floor it and there's not only a scrappier exhaust note, but more power from the 1.5-liter, with the base model attaining highly respectable EPA mpg ratings of 28/35 city/highway. The old Fit's economy-biased VTEC system simply shut one intake valve down under some conditions to improve swirl in the combustion chamber, but the new system has both mild and aggressive intake lobes, and a rocker mechanism to switch between the two. The result? 117 bhp at 6600 rpm (up from 109 bhp) and 106 lb.-ft. of torque. That last figure is up only 1 lb.-ft. over the previous engine at its peak 4800-rpm value, but overlaying the curves shows some added twist at lower revs. So, despite a weight gain of about 45 lb., the Fit definitely feels livelier, with power sent through either a light-action 5-speed manual or paddle-shift 5-speed planetary-gear automatic.
And the Sport model, with its firmer spring/shock rates and rear anti-roll bar, is more fun than you'd think on a twisty road, the new electrically assisted steering avoiding the overboost syndrome and returning a natural feel. Aggressive driving brought out a bit of yaw and squirm under heavy deceleration and transitions — never sloppy or enough to unsettle the chassis, just noticeable — and a little eau de brake lining. But it's a good trade for reasonable noise control and a very livable ride with good impact isolation.
For the first time, you can get a navigation system in a Fit Sport, paired with traction control, starting at $17,910. Seventy percent of Fits are expected to be the non-nav Sport model that starts at $16,060. Cheap out if you must with the base Fit at $14,550, but then you'll miss the 16-in. alloy wheels, foglights, cruise control, etc., and the body kit that gives the Fit Sport (shown) a lot of its personality. Who says economy needs to be dull?