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Best Bets get average or better mpg, have average or better reliability, good crash-test ratings, and our experts' recommendations.
Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Joe Wiesenfelder
October 8, 2007
Editor's note: This review was written in May 2006 about the Sport version of the 2007 Honda Fit. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what details are different this year, check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
The Fit — yes, it's called the Fit — is Honda's entry in the growing class of shrinking cars. Two things are behind this unlikely downsizing of American vehicles. One is that the Chevrolet Aveo and two Scion models have succeeded recently in exploiting the market previously cornered by the likes of the Hyundai Accent and Suzuki Esteem. When automakers see pie, they want their slice.
The second is simple: gas mileage. During last summer's gas-price spikes — or plateaus, is more like it — interest in smaller cars soared among cars.com visitors. Between July and August, searches increased as much as 53 percent for used versions of the Chevrolet Aveo and Metro, the Ford Festiva, the Toyota Echo and the Scion xA.
You can obsess all you want about hybrids and other technology, but the simplest, quickest and most affordable way to improve your fuel economy substantially is to buy a smaller vehicle. Note that I said smaller, not necessarily as small as the Fit. Now, if you can figure out how to classify today's cars according to size, you're smarter than we are. By small, do you mean from bumper to bumper? The interior? Both? These aspects no longer seem to be related as closely as they once were. For the rest of this review I'll refer to the Civic, previously Honda's smallest five-seater, as a compact and to the Fit and its competitors, priced at roughly $10,000 to $14,000, as subcompacts. Otherwise things are going to get tedious for both of us. Below is a gas mileage comparison of several subcompacts, with the Honda Civic added for perspective.
Subcompact Gas Mileage Compared
EPA-Estimated Fuel Economy (city/highway, mpg)
Automatic or CVT Transmission
Honda Civic Sedan
Chevrolet Aveo 5-Door**
*All models are hatchbacks unless otherwise noted **Preliminary 2007 specifications
Exterior The Fit currently comes only as a four-door hatchback in base and Sport trim levels. The Sport adds front and rear fascias and side skirts that make the car look as though it sits lower. There are also standard front fog lights and a spoiler above the liftgate. The Fit is a wedgelike affair that resembles many of today's larger vehicles that attempt to straddle the line between wagon and minivan. Of course, there are no sliding doors, and the rear end avoids the frumpy look of a minivan's.
Base Curb Weight (lbs.)
Honda Civic Sedan
Chevrolet Aveo 5-Door**
*All models are hatchbacks unless otherwise noted **Preliminary 2007 specifications Source: Manufacturer data
Ride & Handling In terms of their construction, econocars have come a long way overall. The Fit has an independent front suspension that employs MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar, but the rear is a semi-independent torsion beam. An independent rear end is preferred for performance reasons and is now the norm in the compact class, but affordability and relative space efficiency make the torsion beam dominate the subcompacts.
My emphasis is always on the results, not the formula, and the Fit's rear end does the job. The handling is good overall; despite the car's height, body roll is well controlled. Like most front-wheel-drive cars, the Fit tends to understeer in aggressive cornering, but it's predictable and easily managed. Having the wheels so close to the bumpers, front and rear, seems to prevent any abrupt weight shifts. Even the tires are decent compared to the old econocar approach. My Fit Sport wore Dunlop SP31 A/S all-season tires rated P195/55R15, which are standard on this trim level. At $70 a pop, according to TireRack.com, these aren't the cheapest treads, but the size is so common that there's a wide range of brands, prices and performance types. The base Fit's smaller tires, rated 175/65SR14, are $53 apiece and also a common size.
The Fit's power rack-and-pinion steering uses electric power assist, which improves gas mileage over the conventional hydraulic type. Increasingly popular in the market, electric power steering has been executed both well and poorly. Fortunately, I never thought twice about the Fit's steering performance and feedback, finding out only after a few days that it was electric.
The Fit's ride quality is something for potential buyers to consider. For perspective: Not long ago, subcompacts' handling ranged from life-threatening to merely terrifying. In terms of ride quality, one extreme could be characterized as "hobby horse." The opposite extreme: aspiration to hobby horse. We've come a long way. The Fit feels safe and controlled, but it feels different from a Civic or another larger car. You feel the bumps, for sure. It's more a matter of preference than performance. If anything, the Fit feels technically superior to some of its competitors, but that won't mean a thing if you find the ride too firm — something I've said about the midsize Accord too. Going & Stopping If you glance at the Fit's specifications, one thing is likely to jump out at you: It's powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. One-point-five liters? The last time I was behind an engine that small, I was mowing the lawn. That said, I never felt that the car was underpowered. Honda's VTEC variable-valve timing is perhaps more impressive in this little powerplant than it has been in larger ones, providing decent torque at low engine speeds. Of course, I was driving the standard five-speed manual transmission, and it's likely that the optional five-speed automatic would have a little less gusto. What the automatic does have is a clutchless-manual mode and Formula-1-style paddle shifters for racer wannabes and other silly folk.
If you're concerned on principle that the engine is this small, the whole subcompact category runs at about 1.5 to 1.8 liters of displacement. More important, engine size doesn't matter from one model to another. The same is true of power ratings, which might seem revealing when comparing one car to another but are irrelevant absent other variables, such as weight.
Honda Fit Engine Specifications
109 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque (lbs. ft.)
105 @ 4,800 rpm
regular (87 octane)
Source: Manufacturer data
The Fit has front disc and rear drum brakes, which is also the norm in this class. While more widely available than ever, ABS isn't always standard, but it is on the Fit. In actual use, the brakes gave me no trouble. The Inside The Fit's height truly pays off in headroom, which exceeds that of the Civic. The legroom isn't quite as good, but it's consistent with that of competing subcompacts. The new crop of subcompacts take to an extreme the designs that have helped increase interior roominess in larger cars. The wheels, which can encroach on the cabin space, are located as close to the bumpers as possible. The windshield is steeply raked and the dashboard is deep — so much so that the A-pillars are far forward and in the line of sight. As shown in the photos, Honda attempts to mitigate the obstruction by building a small window into each pillar's base. Finally, the backseat and cargo area share the space more effectively. The backseat is more accommodating, but it reduces the cargo volume when the split, folding seat is in the upright position.
The Fit's steering wheel tilts but doesn't telescope, and the driver's seat has no height adjustment. While the dashboard, doors and rear view are all relatively short and not obstructive, the seat height and steering-wheel adjustments are conspicuous in their absence from safety-conscious Honda. On the flip side, the side mirrors are huge. The interior design recalls the new Civic, and the materials quality is really quite good — though I was more impressed when I presumed the Fit would sell for closer to $10,000. The base list price as of its introduction is $13,850.
Headroom (front/rear, in.)
Legroom (front/rear, in.)
Shoulder Room (front/rear, in.)
Hip Room (front/rear, in.)
Passenger Volume (cu. ft.)
Honda Civic Sedan
Chevrolet Aveo 5-Door*
*Preliminary 2007 specifications na = not available Source: Manufacturer data
The backseat is roomy in ways the specifications don't reveal. Adults can sit without their knees touching the front seats' backrests and, most important, their knees aren't raised super high to allow this. The floor is low relative to the seat. The 60/40-split backrest sections can be reclined to one of two positions. A neat innovation, a lever on the top of either front seat backrest allows the whole seat to be slid forward and back to ease backseat entry and/or to fold the backseat. I've seen tilt/slide versions of this in two-doors, but never this slide-only approach in an affordable car.
The front backrests also recline all the way to allow occupants to stretch out when parked. I found this configuration profoundly uncomfortable. Safety The Fit hasn't been crash tested, so we'll concentrate on the safety features. In addition to dual-intensity front airbags, the Fit includes front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags as standard equipment. The front passenger seat includes Honda's Position Detection System, which disables the backrest-mounted side airbag — and lights a warning near the speedometer — if the passenger is leaning toward the door in a way that might cause injury should the airbag deploy.
There are adjustable-height head restraints for each seating position, and all extend high enough for an adult except the center rear one, and even that one is pretty close. Cargo & Towing The Fit's cargo capacity is one of its strong suits. When a small car's backseat is roomy, it typically comes at the expense of cargo volume. As reflected in the table, the Fit's 21.3 cubic feet of volume behind the backseat exceeds that of the competitors shown — and the Civic sedan's trunk. The space nearly doubles when the seats are folded.
Cargo Capacities Compared
Storage Volume (cu. ft.)
Honda Civic Sedan
Chevrolet Aveo 5-Door
*All models are hatchbacks unless otherwise noted nl = not listed Source: Manufacturer data
The folding seats are an interesting design. To fold them, you have a choice of removing the oversized head restraints or, if no one's in the front seat, sliding it forward by means of a clever lever on its backrest. Once the front seat is clear, the rear seat is articulated to collapse neatly to the floor, where the headrest's thin, paddle shape allows the front seat to slide back.
The rear seat's backrest and seat cushion can be raised as a unit and secured to provide tall storage space and some hooks for tying parcels or hanging grocery bags.
The Fit is not designed to tow a trailer. Its total weight capacity, including occupants and cargo, is 850 pounds. Features With its standard high-value safety features and power windows, locks and mirrors, the Fit is by no means a stripped-down car, but it does lack niceties like a light and lock for the glove compartment. While a rear window wiper is standard, the nice, low-profile front wipers have only one intermittent setting. I guess the Fit makes it easy to forget that you're in an econocar. Overall, Honda seems to provide the standard features that matter most, excepting the seat height and steering wheel telescope adjustments. Fit in the Market Honda has long succeeded in spite of pricing its vehicles higher than its competitors. For what it's worth, the other subcompacts that start at around $10,000 typically are sedans; hatchback versions, where available, tend to cost more. That said, if potential buyers look at the percentage difference, a $13,800 Fit looks mighty expensive compared to a $12,000 Nissan Versa or a $10,950 Toyota Yaris. Come to think of it, the Civic starts at $14,560, so there's some overlap once you upgrade to the automatic Fit ($14,650) or the Sport ($15,170). Regardless, recent history suggests it's unwise to be anything but bullish on a new Honda model.