2011 Honda Fit Sport Review - Driving Down The Road Review


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2011 Honda Fit Sport

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DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2011 Honda Fit Sport

Honda positions its Fit as a "premium subcompact hatchback", and that it is. It can also be thought of as the world's smallest and most entertaining crossover/minivan/real-world utility vehicle. Definitions can be so pointless and limiting…

The Fit's secret, and the attribute that distinguishes it from all other small hatches, is it's Magic Seat™. It's not really magic, merely clever engineering, and it allows space utilization, configurability, and usefulness unparalleled in its class. Or any other…

The second-generation Fit, which debuted in 2009, added increased interior space, improved performance with no loss of economy, and flashier styling compared to the original. While the 2011 version looks the same, there are some unseen improvements.

As ever, basic trim levels are regular and Sport, with Sport meaning sportier-looking outside, with the obligatory "aero kit" spoilers and sill extensions, and with fancier interior trim and upgraded wheels, tires, and suspension. Honda packaging being comprehensive, if you want a built-in navigation system, that means the premium model, Sport With Navigation.

The improvements mentioned? All models now have Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSAŽ) stability control as standard equipment. That was previously only in the Sport With Navigation. The regular Fit gets cruise control, remote entry, and a USB audio interface; the Sport without the nav system gets the Navi's carpeted floor mats.

The engine is the familiar 117-horsepower iVTEC twincam four-cylinder, matched to a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. In the Sport, the automatic has steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Chassis layout and suspension are subcompact class-standard, transverse front engine, front-wheel drive with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam axle in the rear. Standard spec, but done right for a spirited driving experience on a minimal amount of unleaded regular.

A Fit Sport With Navigation has been my test car for the past week. It was a last-minute substitution, and absolutely no complaint from me on that. The Fit has been a personal favorite since its debut because of its mix of energetic performance, fun-to-drive nature and good fuel economy and the excellent space utilization afforded by its boxy design and oh-so-useful Magic Seat. The Sport With Navigation comes only with the paddle-shift automatic. My personal taste is for a stick, but Honda has discovered torque over the years, with the result that the automatic is not the drawback that it once would have been. And yes it does make traffic less unbearable. Economical, yes, "econobox", no. Honda's Fit may look like a small hatch, but it's really in a class of its own.

APPEARANCE: This is a car that looks like it's having fun even when standing still, with style that is far beyond "basic transportation". With its huge, well-raked windshield and short hood -- the base of the windshield is at the front axle line -- the Fit is almost a one-box design with the wheels at the extreme corners, and there's little boxiness anywhere. Honda calls it "super-forward aero form". Japanese animation meets neoteny. Its high, narrow, and short proportions suggest youth, in the manner of a kitten or puppy or baby. The bulging headlights and smiling grille make a happy face, and sharp character lines add interest to the hood and sides without excessive busyness. The Sport model is distinguished by foglamps and chin spoilers in front, sill extensions at the sides, and a visor-type spoiler, faux venturi panel, and chrome exhaust tip at the rear. And lower-profile tires on larger, 16-inch, alloy wheels.

COMFORT: Inside as well, the Fit Sport is far from basic. It also seems to be larger inside than outside, although it really isn't and the laws of physics are not violated. Visibility is good, and the front quarter windows are far more apparent from the driver's seat than from the outside. Although the top of the instrument panel is a vast expanse, it produces little distracting glare. Both Fit trim levels feature power windows, mirrors, and door locks, cruise control, and a good HVAC system with simple controls. The Sport gets a leather wrap on the rim of its tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel, and other minor details. Instrumentation is complete, and well-designed, and the AM/FM/6CD audio system accepts MP3 CDs and auxiliary audio players through either a mini-jack or a USB port in the auxiliary glovebox. The manually-adjustable front seats look sporty, with good bolstering, and are considerably more comfortable than expected in a subcompact. Still, the Fit's key interior feature is the rear "Magic Seat". It has good head and leg room for two, a bit of a squeeze for three, and is split 60/40. Nothing unusual there. But, the cushions are supported by movable tubular legs, which allow some underseat storage. Or remove the legs from the clip on the floor that holds them, fold them into the cushion, and place it (either or both parts) vertically to place tall, narrow items on the floor. Or fold the seatbacks forward, and the cushions automatically reposition for a flat load floor. Recline the front passenger seat to carry extra-long items. All that makes for a most useful vehicle.

SAFETY: With its Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ design and use of lightweight but strong high-tensile steel, strength and rigidity are high, benefitting both passenger protection and handling - passive and active safety. Dual-stage, dual-threshold front, front side, and full-length head curtain airbags and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution further protect passengers. The VSA stability-enhancement system is, as mentioned, now standard across the line.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The Fit's structural rigidity benefits its abilities on the road as well as passenger protection. It's an evolution of the first generation, with no radical differences but plenty of detail improvements. The MacPherson strut front, torsion-beam rear suspension is standard fare in the subcompact class as it allows more passenger and cargo space than an all-double wishbone system. Ultimate cornering ability might (might) be less, but only at track levels, not in the real world. Changes in geometry at both the front and rear and revised rear bushings improve the already-good cornering of the original, and the effort required by the electrically-assisted is just right. Brakes, again, are standard spec for the class, discs in front and drums at the rear, but antilock is standard in all Fits and because of the car's relatively light weight - around 2500 pounds - they're fine in daily use. The Sport gets plus-one wheels and tires -- lower-profile H-rated tires on larger (16 instead of 15-inch) alloy wheels and a rear stabilizer bar. It's great fun to drive and quiet for a small car with no luxury pretensions.

PERFORMANCE: Compared to the original, the current Fit's 1.5-liter, 16-valve single overhead cam four-cylinder engine gets an improved i-VTEC variable valve lift and timing system, better breathing, and internal developments that mean increased low-rpm torque and more top-end horsepower -- with no decrease in fuel economy. Horsepower is up from 109 to 117 (at 6600 rpm, just under the 6800 redline and 1000 rpm higher than with the earlier engine), while maximum torque is little-changed from the old 105 lb-ft to 106, still at 4800 rpm. Low-end and midrange torque is strong enough that the five-speed manual is viable, especially in the Sport where manual shifting is easily done via steering-wheel paddles. The Fit is not the quickest or fastest car on the road, but, as the old saying goes, it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.

CONCLUSIONS: The Honda Fit Sport puts the fun in functional, with an excellent combination of useful space, entertaining driving characteristics, and excellent gas mileage.

SPECIFICATIONS
2009 Honda Fit Sport with Navigation

Base Price			$ 19,240
Price As Tested			$ 19,990
Engine Type			aluminum alloy single overhead cam
				 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with
				 i-VTEC variable cam phasing
Engine Size			1.5 liters / 91 cu. in.
Horsepower			117 @ 6600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			106 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		98.4 in. / 161.6 in.
Curb Weight			2615 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		22.4
Fuel Capacity			10.6 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				185/55R16 83H Dunlop SP Sport
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / drum, ABS and EBD standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  semi-independent torsion beam
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				  front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		27 / 33 / 31
0 to 60 mph				est 9  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge:		$750

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