DRIVEN: 2008 Honda Fit Sport

By - August 18, 2008
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The Honda Fit is the smallest and most economical car from a company known for building small, economical cars. The Fit is essentially a modern interpretation of the CVCC, the car that popularized Honda in the United States when it became the first car to meet the strict regulations of the Clean Air Act (regulations that several automakers said couldn't be met). Over the years, the CVCC Civic grew larger and more sophisticated, leaving room for a new subcompact car in Honda's lineup. Debuting in 2006 as a 2007 model, the four-door Fit hatchback is rated at 28/34 mpg by the EPA (with a manual transmission) and is incredibly roomy, given its compact dimensions. Although it is due for a redesign on 2009, the current Honda Fit is still one of the most popular subcompacts on the market. With prices starting at $14,620 for a manual-transmissioned model (the uplevel Fit Sport starts at $15,940), the Honda Fit isn't the cheapest small car available, but high resale values largely negate the price premium.
STYLING
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Like most cars in the subcompact category, the Fit is more about functionality and packaging than about styling--which is not to say that the Fit is unattractive (well, actually, we HAVE heard some people mention its slightly awkward dimensions). The Fit's sharply sloping roofline makes the front end look a little stubby, but from the driver's seat, that sloped front end greatly enhances visibility. And the upswept line at the rear window (similar to that on the Honda CR-V), is a good example of a familial design cue. The Fit Sport adds a rear spoiler, a body-colored underbody kit, fog lights, and 15-inch alloy wheels, all of which enhance the Fit's appearance.
INTERIOR
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Like the exterior, the interior of the Fit is more about function than form. Having said that, the plastics that are used on the dash and door inserts don't look or feel cheap, the backlit blue gauges on the instrument panel are simple and legible, and the HVAC and stereo controls are intuitive and easy to use. The most glaring example of cost-cutting can be seen in the Fit's "carpet." That word is in quotation marks because whatever the material is that covers the floor of the Fit, it doesn't resemble a carpet in any but the most generous of descriptions. In fact, it looks and feels more like an odd carpet/cardboard hybrid, and is a definite reminder that the Fit is an economy car.
Where the Fit really shines, however, is in its interior packaging. The Fit is only 157.4 inches long, yet it has 90.1 cubic feet of passenger volume. Because of the Fit's tall roofline, headline rivals that of an SUV. Rear-seat legroom for such a small car is exemplary, and even with both rows of seats occupied, there is 21.3 cubic feet of room in the cargo area behind the rear seats. With the 60/40-split second row lowered, cargo volume goes up to 41.9 cubic feet. In addition, the front passenger seatback can be lowered to provide even more space when you're transporting extra long items.
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On the safety front, the Fit (which gets a five-star rating for frontal collisions) has side and side-curtain airbags standard on all models, along with ABS and a tire-pressure monitoring system. On our wish list for the Fit is stability control, but as of yet, there is no sign that stability control is on the Fit's horizon.
ENGINE/POWERTRAIN
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It might not sound like a lot, but 109 hp is sufficient to haul this 2500-pound hatchback around town and at highway speeds. Although you won't exactly rocket up to speed, cruising on the highway at 80 mph in the Fit feels quite comfortable, if a little loud. The Fit's SOHC 1.5-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine is mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. We prefer shifting for ourselves, and Honda's manual transmissions are among the best on the market. The shift and clutch action are precise and well-weighted, and they allow the driver to wring the most out of the four-cylinder engine. We realize that most drivers will likely opt for the automatic transmission, however. The good news is that automatic transmission in the Fit Sport model comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, giving the driver the option to shift for himself. No matter which transmission you order, however, you can feel comfortable in knowing that your fuel economy will be among the tops on the market. Manual transmission models are rated at 28/34 mpg by the EPA, automatic models get 27/34 (without paddleshifters) and 27/33 (with paddleshifters).
CHASSIS/SUSPENSION
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The Honda Fit can an entertaining drive, which is saying a lot for a car in this category. The Fit feels nimble and surefooted on two-lanes, and the fun factor goes up if you keep the revs up in the curves. Steering is very precise, and there is minimal body roll. On the highway, the Fit feels stable, although we noticed some buffeting during a stretch where the wind was gusting heavily and we were passing a semi. That's not unexpected in a small car, however, and compared with, say, a Smart car, the Fit practically felt glued to the pavement.
CONCLUSION
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The Honda Fit is among the best cars on the market in the subcompact category. Although more expensive than most of its competitors, it makes up for it with great reliability and brilliant packaging. If that's not enough for you, however, you might want to wait a few months for the 2009 Fit. The new model will be slightly larger, will have a bump in horsepower from an all-new 1.5-liter VTEC engine, and will be available with a navigation system. For audiophiles, the new model will also have a USB audio interface, so you can listen to the music on your iPod. As is typical for Honda, it is taking a good thing and making it even better.

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