I took two potential Fit buyers for a ride in this car last night so they could see how roomy it actually is inside. There is more than enough room in the back seat and the cargo area behind the seat is fantastic. The tall roof gives SUV-like headroom, but the 1.6-liter inline-four allows for a combined 31 mpg with a five-speed manual transmission. I just heard the Fit currently has a five day supply, it seems the public has figured out small cars aren't a bad idea.
After checking out the innovative packaging, features, and basic looks of the car, everyone wanted to know how safe such a small car could be. My friend drives a Ford F-150 now, so he was concerned about being flattened by a semi in something so small. I've never worried about my safety in any B-segment car. With five-star ratings for driver and passenger in both front- and side-impact collisions and a three star rating for the back seat passengers in a side-impact crash, I wouldn't worry about my safety in a crash. I would be a little concerned if I had children in the back seat, but I don't have any children to worry about. If the Fit offered stability control, I would be even less concerned about collision performance, because you would stand a much better chance of avoiding a collision in the first place.
I know the new Fit will be hitting the road very soon, so I look forward to spending some time behind the wheel to see what Honda decided to change. I can't really think of I'd like to see besides better iPod integration as an option.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
The Fit is quickly becoming the modern-day Civic: it's small, very economical to buy and to own, reliable, well-made, and full of clever Honda touches. That it's really only okay to drive seems to be beyond the point. 28/34 city/highway mpg is this car's main selling point, as evidenced by the fact that Honda sold some 10,000 of them in June, twice as many as in June 2007. Why do I call it the modern-day Civic? Because the Fit is comparable in size to the 1978 Civic hatchback that I learned to drive in. As the Civic has grown in size and performance, a hole was created in Honda's lineup, and the Fit fits that hole.
Aside from its economy and its chuckable size, there are two aspects of the Fit that I like the most. First is its interior utility. The rear seatbacks can be folded flat, creating a large, flat cargo area, one in which I managed to wedge a bicycle, lying on its side, with its front tire still on, albeit cocked at an angle. (Granted, to make this work, I had to move the front passenger's seat far forward; luckily, my passenger, owner of the bike, was short in stature.) Or you can fold the seat bottoms up, which exposes a large, flat rear floor area, perfect for piling in bags of groceries.
The second thing I love about this car is the forward and side visibility. In the grand Honda tradition, a low cowl provides superb sightlines; you can place the front corners of the car even if you cannot see them, and you can see what is happening peripherally. In an era when more and more cars have become like bank vaults, with high sides, narrow slits of windows, and high cowls, it is incredibly refreshing to drive a car with lots and lots of glass area. It helps as well that the A-pillars are constructed as buttresses, with little triangular windows.
Other cabin likes include the radio faceplate, which has a big, easily identified knob for controlling the volume. This sounds obvious, but big, easily identified knobs for controlling radio volume are quite rare in modern cars, sad to say.
As far as driving goes, the Fit's 109-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder does the job, easily taking the car to 80 mph on the freeway and sounding refined along the way. I'm not fond of the car's 5-speed manual gearshifter, which needs a more positive feel, and the Fit could use firmer suspension damping and better body control.
An all-new Fit arrives this fall. We drive it in August, and you can read a review here soon. It will be interesting to see how Honda capitalizes on the success of the current car.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I agree with Phil on almost everything he says. It is interesting that people who drive big trucks feel that small cars are unsafe. I would take technology over mass any day when it comes to safety. Sure, weight helps with safety but modern small cars perform well in crashes.
I like the Fit. It drives well and has a nice interior. I love that it is old-school simple Honda inside compared to the Accord and Acura TSX. Sure, the carpet looks cheap but this is a cheap car. The interior packaging is fantastic. I think it is one of if not the best $15K cars on the road.
I wish stability control was available (ideally, standard) plus a less frumpy exterior design would be nice. From what I've seen, the forthcoming new Fit fixes my styling issues and I hope stability control will be added as well.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor