2009 Honda Fit

More toys for small spenders

As consumers downsize, Honda is betting buyers will be willing to put more money into their small cars. Proof of that comes from a new navigation system, one of the first to be offered in a subcompact car. The system appears on the new range-topping trim known as Sport with navigation. A 6.5-inch touch screen is easy to use and a voice-recognition feature allows destinations to be entered while keeping your hands on the wheel. The system also works clearly with an iPod connected. Navigation-equipped models are also come with standard stability control.

Perfecting the power/economy balance

The Fit continues to use a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine; slight tweaks have been made to produce equally slight changes in power and fuel economy. Power is up 8 hp to 117 hp while torque increases by just 1 lb-ft. to 106 lb-ft. Those changes are hardly noticeable from behind the wheel, but drivers should notice a slightly broader torque curve that adds a bit more energy when driving in the city and taking off from stops.

Buyers receive a five-speed transmission whether they choose an automatic or manual. Automatic transmissions feature a sport mode to keep revs up and prompt earlier downshifting, while Sport models come with paddle shifters. The manual shifter on the new car has a much-improved feel over the 2008 model and welcomes gear changes with a more precise and direct feel. The shift action is very light, as is clutch take-up, whereas we'd like more feedback to tell us when the clutch is engaging.

All Fit models achieve similar city fuel economy as last year's models. Base models equipped with automatic transmissions now achieve 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. All other Fits are rated at 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Economy-minded drivers will appreciate the new fuel-economy display that can show either instantaneous or average fuel consumption.

Smooth roads ahead

One of the most noticeable and beneficial changes for commuters (and their occasional back-seat passengers) is suspension refinement that tackles bumps and dips with much more grace. That improvement stems largely from a stiffened chassis and softened rear springs. The driving experience has improved over both smooth and severely pockmarked pavement, as stability is improved and bumps no longer jitter through the entire cabin.

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