A lot has changed since we last named the Fit an All-Star in 2009. Back then, the Fit wowed us with its sophistication, efficiency, and dynamic competence. Honda brought smart engineering to a segment that had once been notable only for its low price tags.
Three years later, it seems like everyone is taking the subcompact segment seriously, with plenty of new, and new-to-America, entries from the likes of Mazda, Hyundai, and even Chevrolet. Many of these cars surpass the Fit’s once-impressive level of sophistication, particularly in terms of interior refinement and high-speed stability. And the Honda’s 33-mpg combined fuel economy, which had people fighting for Fits when gas prices shot up in the summer of 2008, now lags near the back of the pack.
Having said all that, some time with the Fit quickly reminds me why we liked it so much — and why it’s still a good choice for many buyers. For one, the Fit is one of the best — and most entertaining — vehicles to drive in an urban environment. It’s extremely easy to see out of, with low doorsills, thin A-pillars, and huge rear-quarter windows. It also has sharp reflexes, including quick steering, a relatively smooth manual gearbox, and an engine that revs very quickly. And if the Fit’s interior no longer leads the segment in styling or technology, it most definitely retains its edge in terms of flexibility. With its cleverly folding seats, high roof, and flat load floor, the Fit has more usable space than some crossovers. This combination makes the Fit something of a no-brainer if you need a car to get around a city. If you live in the suburbs or do lots of interstate driving, one of the newer entries might better serve your needs.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The engineer in me finds the Honda Fit as magical as a Porsche 911. While this geeky-looking subcompact has pretty much nothing in common with the iconic German sports car, both cars will have you questioning logic: it turns out the rear-engine Porsche handles better than many mid-engine competitors and the subcompact Fit is as cavernous as a small cargo van. The flexibility and sheer carrying capacity of the Fit make it an obvious choice for budget-minded buyers who want to balance fuel economy with their need to carry people or gear. As a camper, cyclist, and Home Depot regular, I love the ability to lower the front passenger seat to carry a load that’s nearly eight feet long.
There are, however, plenty of reasons to pick a competitor over the Fit. The Chevrolet Sonic has a livelier, more refined engine. The Ford Fiesta has a more supple ride. The Mazda 2 has a more agile chassis. As a complete package, though, the Fit can run with the best small cars. This Honda is the car that set the standard for the modern subcompact, and it’s unique in that it’s practical enough to use as a one-person commuter but capable enough to haul everything that person owns. If you do decide to buy, I recommend skipping the navigation. Doing so trades dated graphics and fiddly little buttons for large, intuitive radio controls.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
There’s something very endearing about the Honda Fit. Its blunt nose and squared-off rear end make it look a little dorky — especially in the Blue Raspberry paint of this test car — and it doesn’t have a very powerful engine or many high-tech amenities. And yet, this is a car that simply works. The clutch and shifter of the five-speed manual gearbox work in complete harmony, helping you to wring out maximum power when you need it. The seats flip and fold in myriad configurations to give you all the room you need for hauling bulky items. The sightlines from the driver’s seat are unobstructed — note the large cutouts at the bottom of the A-pillars.
The major failing of the Fit is that it no longer matches the fuel economy of its nearest competitors, as subcompact cars like the Chevy Sonic and the Hyundai Accent now reach the 40-mpg mark in highway driving. Still, for its all-around utility and driving enjoyment, the Fit is a formidable competitor in the subcompact segment.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Aside from the high-revving engine (about 3700 rpm at 75 mph), the Fit was a perfectly pleasant car to drive two-and-a-half hours to GingerMan Raceway early on a Wednesday morning. On the track, the Fit is pretty fun to drive once you get used to its ample body roll and lack of horsepower. The fantastic gearbox and good steering make it plenty enjoyable, even if it’s not at all fast.
The Fit also excels at daddy duty, with lots of space for child seats, large door openings, and a roomy cargo hold even with the rear seats in place. Also, the tiny Honda is easy to park, quite comfortable, and very easy to see out of. Its strange styling and inferior fuel mileage are definitely things that might dissuade me from purchasing one, however.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Soichiro Honda built his name (and his global manufacturing empire) on small, clever machines that were innovative, efficient, and entertaining to operate. I can’t think of a single Honda available today – car or motorcycle – that exemplifies this spirit better than the 2012 Fit.
While other small subcompacts attempt to convince the buyer that they’re not buying small, by way of interior glitz and advanced features, the Fit wins hearts by making the most of its interior space. Its upright cabin looks odd, but provides ample headroom not only for those in front, but even for large adults forced to ride in the back seat. Cargo room behind those seats, some 20.6 cubic feet, bests most of its competitors, save for the Hyundai Accent hatchback. Fold the seats flat, however, and that figure swells to 57.3 cubic feet, still at the top of this class. Flip the seat cushions upright, and the Fit provides a sizable transverse cargo area, along with a flat load floor – the latter due to a fuel tank that’s placed beneath the front seats.
As my colleagues have pointed out, the Fit is surprisingly entertaining to hustle around town, even if its ride quality is a little bumpier than many of its competitors. The steering is light but direct, quick, and decently communicative. The 1.5-liter four is perky, but with only 117 hp and 106 pound-feet of torque, it isn’t exactly spritely. Pairing that engine with the standard five-speed manual transmission is a delight; not only is its clutch beautifully weighted and shift action crisp, but it also allows you to leverage the four-cylinder’s power band to its fullest. Those who insist on an automatic but desire this same ability need to look to the Fit Sport, which adds steering wheel-mounted shift paddles when fitted with the optional five-speed automatic.
As it’s approaching its fifth birthday with little revision, some might view the Fit as long in the tooth. Competitors have edged into this segment with flashier interiors, modern infotainment and connectivity features, and better fuel economy ratings, but the Fit continues to charm in its own way.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
2012 Honda Fit Sport
MSRP (with destination): $17,680
PRICE AS TESTED: $17,680
1.5-liter SOHC I-4
Horsepower: 117 hp @ 6600 rpm
Torque: 106 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
16-inch aluminum wheels
185/55HR-16 Dunlop SP Sport 7000 A/S tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo (rear seats up/down): 20.6/57.3 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 41.3/34.5 in
Headroom (front/rear): 40.4/39.0 in
Auxiliary audio jack
60/40-split folding rear seats
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Driver’s side armrest
Power windows and locks
Rear under-seat storage box
Intermittent windshield wipers
Rear wiper and defroster
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Automatic transmission – $850
The Fit Sport gets a new front grille and bumper for 2012.