2018 Honda Fit Review: First Drive

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2018 Honda Fit

CARS.COM — Our staff has much affection for the Honda Fit. We bought one when it was fully redesigned back in 2015, and it experienced quite a bit in our year of ownership, from having its wheels stolen to Ikea trips and even a camping trip in a rainstorm. On the whole, we liked it a lot; in his review of the Fit, Senior Editor Kelsey Mays said, "With the 2016 Fit, Honda has concocted an elixir of most things small-car shoppers want, and the results are mighty desirable."

Related: 2018 Honda Fit Is On Sale Now With New Tech, Sport Trim

This doesn't mean that there weren't annoyances to go along with Fit ownership, most of which revolved around its touchscreen interface, but there were also complaints about a noisy cabin and poor highway manners.

These issues seen to be addressed directly with the refreshed 2018 Fit, but the big news is the addition of Honda Sensing, which gives the Fit the most comprehensive set of active-safety features in its class. There is also a new trim level, the Sport, which slots in between the base LX and the more luxurious EX and EX-L trims.

Styling Updates

There are slight styling changes, including new bumpers that Honda says are designed to make the Fit appear wider and lower (aka sportier). The new Sport model is the most visually interesting of the three trim levels, adding a front lip spoiler and a rear diffuser (both with orange accents), side skirts, a chrome exhaust tip and — most noticeably — 16-inch black alloy wheels. Inside, the Sport also has contrast stitching and a unique cloth pattern on the seats that matches the orange accents found outside.

2018 Honda Fit Sport 2018 Honda Fit Sport 2018 Honda Fit Sport 2018 Honda Fit Sport 2018 Honda Fit Sport 2018 Honda Fit Sport

Do the changes work? They certainly do on the Sport, though the updates will be hard to pick out on the other trim levels. Black wheels make a statement and give the Fit a tuner-type look that upped the appeal to my eyes, but they definitely won't be for everyone.

Is It Fit for Fun?

The powertrain options are the same, a 130-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a 128-hp four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable automatic. Among the updates for 2018 are improved handling thanks to added chassis reinforcement to make the car more rigid, different damping rates in the shock absorbers and a new part added to the steering column to make it feel more solid.

I didn't notice a large difference in the Fit's handling prowess or ride, neither of which were pain points in the last version. Both lean toward the better end of this class — much of the competition isn't exactly spritely or fun to drive.

2018 Honda Fit Sport

What limits the fun is the engine, especially with the CVT — it's slow to accelerate and doesn't seem to pull the car with much urgency even at high engine revs. The manual transmission improves things a bit, but the car remains sluggish from a start. Passing maneuvers need to be meticulously planned with either transmission, and short merges onto highways may be pucker-inducing.

But what really bothered me about the CVT was something else — the noise.

Let's Get Loud

To reduce wind and tire noise, Honda added more noise insulation, underbody panels and thicker glass for the windshield and front corner windows. It was hard to tell if they succeeded, however, due to the rancor coming from the engine bay. I drove two versions back-to-back, a top-of-the-line EX-L trim with the CVT and a Sport model with the manual, and in addition to being more fun, the manual is quieter and feels a bit quicker.

2018 Honda Fit Sport

The CVT is prone to that droning noise, especially at highway speeds and during acceleration. It would be more acceptable if the noise were accompanied by large increases in speed, but that's not the case, either.

Not all is great about the manual. The shifter sits almost awkwardly low in the center console and there is no armrest to rest your shifting hand on, so it ends up kind of hanging limply and awkwardly in a weird space. The clutch is also a bit light, so finding the engagement point takes some getting used to. I still prefer the manual by a big margin.

Interior Updates

2018 Honda Fit Sport

Inside, the big change is the addition of a new 7-inch touchscreen (standard on the Sport and above) that adds new technology like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Pandora compatibility. But the biggest addition to the audio system is a mechanical feature, not a technological one: a volume knob. It would have been nice to see the 2018 Fit get both volume and tuning knobs like the 2018 Accord did in its redesign, but I was very happy to see at least a volume knob return.

The rest of the cabin stands pat, and that's more than fine. The flexible interior, with its multiple backseat configurations and copious headroom for all occupants, is a favorite of mine in this segment. The Fit is one of the few with a backseat I'd feel comfortable asking adults to sit in for an extended period.

Safety Upgrade

The biggest change for 2018 is the availability of Honda Sensing in CVT-equipped Fits as a $1,000 option on LX and Sport, and standard on EX and EX-L. Honda Sensing includes a comprehensive set of driver aids and active-safety features including forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and road departure mitigation.

These are features that aren't even offered on many other members of this segment. The closest competitor would be the 2018 Toyota Yaris, which does offer automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings (no steering assist) but is missing the other two features.

Conclusion

2018 Honda Fit Sport

The Fit retains what we liked about the old version of the car: its roominess, cargo flexibility and value. Not all of the promised changes for 2018 move the needle — it's still very noisy at speed and rides busily on the highway — but the added technology and safety features hit the mark.

There was a slight increase in price for 2018. The LX and EX both rise between $100 and $200. But the EX and EX-L more than justify that cost with a better audio/multimedia system (and a volume knob!), and that's before you even start to think about those added safety features.

So yes, it might be noisy and at times poky, but the Fit pretty much kills at everything else and at this price, that's more than enough. The Fit was my preferred choice in this class, and these additions just put more distance between it and the rest of the pack. 

2018 Honda Fit

 

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L.A. Bureau Chief Brian Wong is a California native with a soft spot for convertibles and free parking. He is based in Los Angeles.  Email Brian

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