The subcompact 2013 Honda Fit Sport provides entry-level transportation that doesn’t feel or drive ‘entry-level’. And Honda’s simple approach to trims and options makes a purchase or lease extremely easy.
By David Boldt
THE BIG PICTURE
American Honda has, over the last four decades, maintained an on-again/off-again relationship with the small hatchback. Through several iterations of the Civic, the suits at Honda headquarters in Torrance, California loved it, watching the Honda Civic 3-door (hatchback) gain in popularity among commuters while fostering its own cult of ‘hot’ hatch converts. More recently American Honda execs have been aloof, dropping a Civic hatch from the U.S. lineup while 3-and-5-door hatchbacks continue to win kudos in virtually all of Honda’s other markets outside our country. In short, our Honda execs lack the ability to commit.
The exception here is the 2013 Honda Fit, which launched in the U.S. with the ’07 model, and received a round of updates and changes last year.
AN INSIDE JOB
The typical knock on small cars is that, well, they’re SMALL. And in a country dominated by quarter pounders and gastric bypass, ‘small’ wouldn’t play today in Smallville. Thankfully, the Fit is only smallish on the outside; its interior could serve a shuttle service. With an overall length of just over thirteen feet Honda’s design team manages to provide over 90 cubic feet of interior volume. And with its split rear Magic Seat you can accommodate all sorts of cargo often saved for the in-laws’ Suburban.
Combine the cavernous interior room with above-average materials and thoughtful ergonomics and you have a small, efficient family wagon that’s fully appropriate to both the car pool and car pool lane. One knock is the lack of a height-adjustable driver’s seat; those drivers height-challenged may have an awkward time seeing over the wheel – or being seen by other drivers. Also, with its steeply raked windshield you could play croquet on the dashboard.
With an interior volume that will swallow virtually everything you throw at it, along with a longish roofline to which you can mount any number of accessory racks, the Honda Fit can be virtually anything you want it to be. And given the brand’s traditionally high build quality and long-term durability, you can transport your toddlers and teens while keeping it in the fleet for their (eventual) use.
And although its visibility is generally good, the 2013 Honda Fit doesn’t provide the high view point of a compact SUV; those of you making eye contact with delivery drivers (you know who you are) will instead focus on knees rather than eyes. Finally, historically good/great resale value means that if your transportation needs change, your Fit equity puts you in a fiscally sound position for sale or trade-in.
As you’d expect from a vehicle targeting a family audience, the Fit is well-equipped to meet the needs of a customer transporting youngish families or driven by young family members. Active safety – the ability to avoid an accident (always the best option) – is augmented by good visibility, well-connected steering, Vehicle Stability Assist and anti-lock brakes. There is also the Fit’s stability-enhancing low center of gravity, especially when compared to compact SUVs offering a similar amount of interior room. Passive safety – the ability to survive an accident – is aided by what Honda dubs an Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure and a passel of airbags, including front, front-side and side-curtain. In short, there’s ample argument to offset the traditional take: Small cars aren’t necessarily more dangerous than large cars or SUVs.
THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE
The 2013 Honda Fit engine, a 1.5 liter SOHC (Single Overhead Cam) four-cylinder motor, is now smallish for the category, and its 117 horsepower is some thirty ponies short of what Kia offers on the new Rio. Happily, the Fit weighs but 2,500 pounds – and its 117 horsepower feel very real, especially when connected to our test vehicle’s 5-speed manual. A 5-speed automatic is also available (and proves relatively responsive), but if you’ve considered buying a manual transmission, the Fit provides a compelling argument.
With modest power and light weight the Fit should prove efficient and the EPA agrees, giving both variants of the Fit a 27 mpg city / 33 mpg highway rating. Now, in an era where ‘40’ has become the new ‘30’ you might find ’33 mpg’ too modest; we’d suggest it’s more indicative of a real world rating. Adding a sixth gear to either manual or automatic transmissions would certainly boost highway efficiency, but it’s a gear you’d hate – especially in manual mode – as the engine would offer little or no acceleration without a downshift. We like our efficiency, but only when it’s deliverable without a penalty in drivability.
GIZMOS AND TECH
T Given the Fit’s launch some six years ago, the small Honda makes no pretense at occupying the leading edge of what we’ll call consumer connectivity. That said, Honda has never had to rely on the Consumer Electronics Show to make viable its vehicle platforms; competent engineering, quality assembly and great resale values take care of that. The standard-spec Honda Fit does offer 160 watts of audio with USB port, an auxiliary audio input jack, MP3/WMA playback capability and Radio Data System. Opt for the Fit Sport (the uplevel counterpart to the standard Fit) and you’ll enjoy six speakers and an available Satellite-Linked Navigation System with Voice Recognition and some seven million(!) points of interest. With that, this writer tends to agree with the Fed’s Department of Transportation: When in a car, drive; and when in your office or home, get reconnected with associates, friends and VroomGirls.com.
Any number of new models offering reduced size will fully meet your reduced expectations. Thankfully, the Honda Fit isn’t one of them. Great build quality, an expansive interior and one of the best fun-to-drive factors for under $20K makes for a great ownership experience, now and into the future. It’s a little like a ‘maxi’ Mini, with an almost winsome charm in combination with very real practicality.
Honda Fit Sport version is fun to drive!
All the tech features you could want
Could have better fuel efficiency