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Edmunds: Japanese First Drive: Honda Fit

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A month before its showroom debut, we take a close look at — and a hard drive in — Honda's entry-level hatchback

By Peter Lyon

Date posted: 03-09-2006

Honda's mighty little Fit is already big news in Japan and Europe. Arguably the most practical super-mini on sale in both markets, the Fit will finally land in U.S. showrooms in April.

So why did Honda wait until now to introduce its four-door hatchback into the U.S.? Ask the PR types and they'll tell you that the company wasn't sure this small people mover would catch on. Or they might say that it didn't have the size or space for the local market. Well, things have changed over the last couple of years in the U.S. since the Fit took on Europe (and won). Gasoline is more expensive, and with the high-profile hybrids making waves, the mood is changing stateside. People are starting to care more about emissions and mileage. And the success of the chunky Scion xB has proved that compact, well-packaged crossover types have a place in the U.S. market.

Enter the Fit with its sharp looks, great packaging and class-topping performance and handling.

Employing a simple, but uniquely Honda-like, grille and bulbous headlight design inspired by the S2000, the Fit offers best-in-class interior space, on-road performance more like a sports sedan than a minivan and above all, mileage topping 33 mpg (city mode).

Dropped onto a newly developed "global small platform," the technical highlight of this "big" small car is its centrally located fuel tank. Positioned right under the front seats and nestled between the reinforced side members, the 10.8-gallon tank configuration gave designers the chance to pen a flat floor, thus opening up substantial legroom and headroom in addition to a sizable luggage area. Although it's only 157.4 inches long, 66.2 inches wide, 60.0 inches tall and sits on a 96.5-inch wheelbase, the Fit feels as spacious as a minivan one size larger.

The Fit doesn't just seat four adults in comfort; it actually offers minivan-like cabin height and 41.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down. And its numerous seating configurations give you the ability to carry three adults and a 7-foot surfboard — at the same time. It might be packaged like a mini-minivan, but it handles corners like a sports sedan.

The Fit is powered by the latest in Honda's new generation of compact, lightweight i-series engines. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder VTEC produces 109 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. Married to either a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic, the low-vibration front-drive unit delivers strong power and torque response from low down in the rev range right up to the 6,500-rpm redline — surprisingly low for a Honda. The torque curve is flatter than most rivals and comes on power like a much larger engine. To add to the thrill factor, Honda is offering steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters on the automatic. Obviously, the manual extracts the most performance out of this engine, with its tightly spaced ratios and short-stroke gearshift, but the auto's paddles and unexpectedly quick gearchanges make you feel like an Indy driver, and in a minivan!

So the Fit's VTEC power unit might not be as dramatic as that of the Civic Type-R or NSX, but the little hatch's gearbox ratios are superbly matched to its 1.5-liter's torque curve, thus delivering surprisingly quick acceleration.

But it's not just the well-balanced, fuel-efficient engine and transmissions that enhance the Fit driving experience. A quantum leap in chassis and suspension rigidity takes the Honda into a league of its own in the handling department. One minute of driving is all that is needed to realize just how rigid this minicar is. You soon find yourself leaning into the next corner a little quicker. With bend rigidity jumping 210 percent and twist rigidity up 116 percent, the car feels planted to the road. Completing the Fit's underpinnings in a very un-minivan-like style are MacPherson struts and coil springs up front, an H-pattern torsion beam setup at the rear and side-force-canceling springs — which work to counter body roll.

The speed-sensitive electric power steering is well weighted, if a little heavy, and could do with a touch more natural feedback from the road. Ride quality is stiff but compliant enough for U.S. roads.

The end result is that you can throw the Fit into corners at speeds you shouldn't be able to. Choose your line and enter a corner at 50 mph, and the Fit traces the arc with perfect balance, with just the slightest hint of understeer.

Honda has also incorporated its G-CON high-integrity body frame, which passes the world's most stringent crash standards, including 40-mph offset, 35-mph side impact, and 31-mph rear-collision absorption. Dual front and side-impact airbags, antilock brakes and Electronic Brake Distribution with brake assist have all been fitted as standard equipment.

On the earth-friendly side, HC and NOx emissions have been reduced by 50 percent and more than 90 percent of the Fit is recyclable.

Each model also gets power windows, power mirrors and central locking. Set to raise the stakes in the small car market, the Fit will start at around $13,000.

Posted Image

Link: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Featu...rticleId=109580

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Sounds like a good package. I'm just waiting for the big Fit vs. Yaris comparo's that every mag is bound to do the second both vehicles become available. Well, maybe I'm not waiting for it, but it'll be interesting to see how this updated Fit does against a brand new Yaris.

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"109 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm"

Both the Yaris and Aveo make very similar numbers (if you want to nit-pic, the Fit has the most HP out of both of them), except the Yaris and Aveo only have 4sp Auto's (not sure about the new Aveo), while the Fit has a 5sp Auto.

It ain't no race car :iroc-dragster:

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Both the Yaris and Aveo make very similar numbers (if you want to nit-pic, the Fit has the most HP out of both of them), except the Yaris and Aveo only have 4sp Auto's (not sure about the new Aveo), while the Fit has a 5sp Auto.

It ain't no race car  :iroc-dragster:

It is not made to be a race car. These cars are supposed to be cheap and frugal for first-time, low-income or "I just use it to drive to the train station" drivers.

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It is not made to be a race car.

I don't think anybody's arguing against that.

These cars are supposed to be cheap and frugal for first-time, low-income or "I just use it to drive to the train station" drivers.

Not exactly. These are not your normal bare bones, only bought it cause I can afford it, b-segment cars of the past. Surely the Fit will be a lot of first new car purchases, and a lot of low-income families will buy it, but it is not like a Geo Metro or Hyundai Accent (you know, the cars nobody wants but they get good mileage and are cheap?).

Since when did b-segment cars come with side curtain airbags, ABS, electric brake distribution, theft immobilizer, steering wheel mounted cruise controls and paddle shifters, 5sp auto's, a/c with filtration, 160w or 200w sound system standard with speed sensitive volume, power everything you would find in a normal compact car (door locks, windows w/ auto-down, mirrors, etc), and seating for 5? And it is not a bad looking car.

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"109 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm"

GM's new Aveo is 103 hp, and 107 pounds-feet of torque, Reg I know you love to use ANY excuse to bash anything that Honda and Toyota make, but this round you've lost.

:withstupid:

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ok, just don't venture out onto the freeway.......you won't be able to keep up

Actually having over 100 hp in a small car like that is very decent, this car is light, therefore, it will have enough peppiness to keep up on the freeway, don't worry. Maybe one day, they'll make 300 hp econo cars just FOR YOU.

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For those of you bashing any of the vehicles in this segment, they are all surprisingly quiet at highway speeds and feel decently stable. Personally, I prefer the look of the Aveo 5 over either the Echo or Yaris because the design is cleaner and more balanced, IMO.

We can all look down our noses at these vehicles while paying $2.50 a gallon. I can GUARANTEE you that at $7-8 a gallon, these vehicles will ALL look so much better to you.

Only in North America do you see people driving anything other than these type of vehicles (except maybe oil rich nations that charge 25 cents a gallon!)

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Sorry, I was speaking more of the Aveo than the Echo, but my point was they are suprisingly quiet - meaning quieter than expected. One's perspective is drastically effected it one is driving a Lexus or Deville - clearly quieter than most anything on the road. I've driven professionally most of my life (starting as a car jockey in a major downtown hotel in 1981) and have particularly seen how small cars went form raucous and scary on the highway to almost pleasurable.

I am 6'2" and have no problems sitting in the front or BACK seat of the Aveo, BTW.

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I would never get into these vehicle on any freeway. With all the large trucks, SUVs and Peterbuilts, etc, these thing with airbags are still death traps. The bumper intrusion alone from a truck is serious business and I don't want to find out first hand. It is scary enough driving in the Corolla and my TA, let alone these tiny cars. Now, if gas prices go up and it swings the other way and more people drive these things, then I am in. Until then, the fifteen miles I travel on the freeway to get to the train station for the rest of my commute will continue in larger cars.

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I would never get into these vehicle on any freeway. With all the large trucks, SUVs and Peterbuilts, etc, these thing with airbags are still death traps. The bumper intrusion alone from a truck is serious business and I don't want to find out first hand. It is scary enough driving in the Corolla and my TA, let alone these tiny cars. Now, if gas prices go up and it swings the other way and more people drive these things, then I am in. Until then, the fifteen miles I travel on the freeway to get to the train station for the rest of my commute will continue in larger cars.

my 99 corolla prizm had 125hp and couldn't get out of its own way or accelrate above 55-60 mph. plus, it had scary braking at those speeds, plus questionable handling on thin tires. no smaller car with less hp will be any better.

at least the ecotec equipped cars have torque to manage the road above 60 mph.

no way do i put me and my kid in a Yaris and feel safe either precrash or during/aftercrash. Saving gas is great, but not if your family is toast in the process.

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It is not made to be a race car. 

thats the sad thing... i took an aveo out a few months ago... while its a pretty peppy car, it takes forever to get up to 85 mph... used to my 320hp monster :)

but some guy tried to race me while i was driving the aveo.... ohh my lord, where has the art of drag racing gone, when a 15 year old japanese box tries to race a newfangled rounded off box with 40% more power? haha 70+Hp compared with the aveo's 100+ hp... wow lol really smart there buddy...

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109 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm

and

To add to the thrill factor

Where else but Edmunds can you read those two quotes in a single car review? Geez, you can't get anymore lapdog than that, can you? They might as well have used "Best of all, it's a Honda" in their review as well. Edmunds shows us again and again why their reviews are far from objective.

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The 103HP in my xB is adequate for me, a 19-year old male. I guess I am weird? I drive on various highways reguarly and I have no problem merging or keeping up with traffic. Granted, everyone wants more power for those fun Saturday afternoon-type drives on back roads. I would not mind it either but one of the reasons I chose the xB was for fuel economy. More fuel economy = less power, for the most part.

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Where else but Edmunds can you read those two quotes in a single car review?  Geez, you can't get anymore lapdog than that, can you?  They might as well have used "Best of all, it's a Honda" in their review as well.  Edmunds shows us again and again why their reviews are far from objective.

Well we won't know until we actually see the performance times. Just looking at peak numbers does say much, we need a complete tq plot on a dyno chart and put together with gearing we can see thrust curves and know how well it will accelerate at certain speeds. Gearing plays almost a larger role in accleration than the engine itself.

And you also have to remember, of course it won't be "thrilling" to drive when compared to a Corvette, but maybe, just maybe, when compared to other vehicles in its segment, it might be fun to drive (maybe not thrilling though :) )

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Actually having over 100 hp in a small car like that is very decent, this car is light, therefore, it will have enough peppiness to keep up on the freeway, don't worry.  Maybe one day, they'll make 300 hp econo cars just FOR YOU.

They do: it's called the Caliber SRT-4 :P (it's a C-segment but still).

How did all those economy car drivers survive the 90's, its a miracle.

Hey I have a Dodge Shadow (first car) and it's a great little car. It's not a speed demon, but it's not that slow. Man if only I had the 2.2L Turbo version...that has 174 hp and 210 pounds of torque...cuz that's a pretty quick Shadow. But oh well.

I'm curious to see edmunds to a comparosin test against the new/redesigned Accent, Yaris, Fit, and Aveo...and later the Dodge Hornet.

Edited by Dodgefan

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They do: it's called the Caliber SRT-4 :P (it's a C-segment but still).

That's like comparing apples to oranges.

The Fit and Aveo fall into the A-class (sub-compact) and the Caliber is a C-segment (compact), trust me, 100 hp is more than enough for a car that weighs around one metric ton.

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The 103HP in my xB is adequate for me, a 19-year old male.  I guess I am weird?  I drive on various highways reguarly and I have no problem merging or keeping up with traffic.  Granted, everyone wants more power for those fun Saturday afternoon-type drives on back roads.  I would not mind it either but one of the reasons I chose the xB was for fuel economy.  More fuel economy = less power, for the most part.

Hey, if you have a 5-spd, the car should be peppy, the autos, however robs the little 4 cyl of much of it's power.

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and

Where else but Edmunds can you read those two quotes in a single car review?  Geez, you can't get anymore lapdog than that, can you?  They might as well have used "Best of all, it's a Honda" in their review as well.  Edmunds shows us again and again why their reviews are far from objective.

hey cmattson, i checked the Fit out at the autoshow here yesterday.

WHAT A PILE OF DUNG!!!!!!!

Seriously! its complete and total crap compared to what else you can buy.

-ugly

-tinny

-uncomfortable

-dash equally as ugly and cheap looking as the new civic's

you want this car? Go buy an AERIO wagon and you'll get a more useful, more comfortable and better looking microcar with 50 more hp! And a warranty, all for about the same price.

Seriously, the whole thing about this car being space efficient is hogwash. It was way too small and the cargo hold was not that spacious. Any of the competition hatchbacks are a better buy.

I'm gonna have to eat a little crow on this next one...I REALLY liked the Yaris and aside from the DUMB AS HELL center gauges and childish looking climate controls (and useless motor), I would have to say the Yaris to me is a highly desirable runabout in either form, assuming the price is cheap. I still would pass on it unless it had exceptional safety scores. The Yaris had a nicer interior it seemed than many other cars in the show at prices up to 3 times as much. And its extremely roomy. If the Yaris were available with a 180hp engine, or even 150hp, I would be checking it out. The Yaris is much cooler than the old fart's Corolla. The new Accent / Rio combo looks third world in comparison and the Yaris absolutley blows away the LAME ASS fit in comparison. IMO. I would have ot say anyone who is remotely interested in a Fit simply is not a very good shopper, because I just don't think its got the attributes for the American market. No looks, no power, no comfort, tinny, not as much space as they suggest in their hype.

Get a Yaris, or a base Caliber, or a Vibe, or an Aerio or Reno, or a base outlander

BTW, the new Aveo's interior is REALLY nice. That car is gonna SELL!

Edited by regfootball

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