2009 Honda Fit Sport: A fine fit for the segment
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Made entirely of Japanese parts, and built in Suzuka, Mie, Japan, the 5-door hatchback Honda Fit has been on the car scene since 2001, but was a secret to the United States market until 2006. Known around the world as the Fit (China) and the Jazz in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, the Fit has undergone a new incarnation with an increased wheelbase, wider stance and altered profile (through a repositioning of the front windshield by 4.7 inches).
An entry-level vehicle with some pizzazz in the cabin, the Fit Sport is a sub-$20,000 consideration to those looking for some style in a fuel-friendly automobile.
The ’09 Fit is a valiant effort to provide subcompact affordability and economy with a sporty confidence and upgraded cabin electronics and accouterments. Premiums features, 21st century technology and lots of room in a small-car package makes the Fit a fine fit for the 5-door hatchback compact segment.
On the outside the Fit is a snub-nosed, 5-door compact that competes well in its class for looks and genre appeal. Fitting in well for the look and feel within its segment, the Fit measures 161.6 inches in length, 60 inches in height and 66.7 inches in width on a 98.4-inch wheelbase. Increasing in size over the previous model, the ’09 Fit’s wheelbase has been increased 2 inches, the length it up 2.2 inches and the car stands nearly an inch wider, while gaining only 22 pounds.
Weighing in at a light 2615 lbs., the Sport is built for fuel economy, and its 10.6 gallon tank gave me a range of close to 400 miles from full to empty.
Not surprisingly, the Fit is outfitted with a low-power, high-efficiency all-aluminum, 1.5-liter inline-4, i-VTEC engine. The Honda Fit is EPA rated at 27mpg in city driving and 33mpg on the highway, bit I fared much better than that during a week of test driving that took me from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania farm country to Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. After some 500 miles of examinations that encompassed about 350 miles on the highway, my test Honda Fit Sport averaged a whopping 38.1mpg.
Now, there is now real power thrust per se, as the system whines out 117hp and 106 lbs.-ft. of torque, and is mated to a slow-reacting 5-speed automatic transmission with grade logic and paddle shifters.
Acceleration is extremely sluggish, but one doesn’t expect an economical car to be a tire smoker. However, acceleration is slow and steady enough to easily bring the vehicle up to speed on the Interstate, and on the track 80 is reached effortlessly and triple digits requires no over-exertion on the part of the inline-4. As we must test our vehicles for speed, I drove over to a local track, raised a few eyebrows when I said I wanted to see what she can do, and proudly announced that I was going to smoke the tires and use all 117 horses in doing so. Well, the tires didn’t smoke, and my best zero-to-60mph run was 9 seconds flat – which I achieved three runs in a row. The Fit’s best quarter-mile time was 17-flat.
On the autocross, the vehicle was understandably slow in reacting, but it took quick corners surprisingly well. Its power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering made quick turns easy and smooth, but steering was loose until the hatchback reached about 25mph. Even at that, understeer seemed to be the norm.
Interestingly, on the highway, the Fit sneaks up to speed limit and in high-speed tests on the track, 80mph is as smooth behind the wheel as is 60, and if you’re not paying attention, 60 can become 80 with little notice.
In the cabin, the compact Fit is surprisingly roomy with front/rear headroom of 40.4 in./39.0, legroom of 41.3/34.5 and shoulder room of 52.7/51.3 with seating for five.
Completely redesigned, the Fit now offers premium accompaniments as standard in the Sport trim I tested. My test hatchback was equipped with such interior features as air conditioning with air-filtration system, Honda satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition, power windows, power door locks, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear window defroster, fold-flat-capable seating, reclining front seatbacks, 6-speaker, 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system, MP3/Windows media audio playback capability, radio data system, MP3/auxiliary input jack, USB audio interface, CD text display capability, digital audio-card reader, speed-sensitive volume control, fuel consumption indicator and safety-warning indicators.
Safety features include six airbags, ABS, vehicle stability assist, side impact door beams, ACE body structure and front and rear crumple zones.
The Honda Fit Sport 5-door has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $18,760, and my test ride was fully outfitted with no options (even a full tank of fuel was included). Only a destination and handling charge of $670 was tacked on for a final sticker price of $19,430.
The Honda Fit Sport is a 5-door hatchback with an entry-level price, but outfitted with standard premium packages. At 38mpg (during my tests), the only thing missing the “green” movement would be the Honda hybrid powerplant, and we understand that by 2011, that option could be a reality.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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