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A More Perfect Honda Fit: Toward a More Perfect MPG, Part 3


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Jackman's Almost Perfect Honda Fit

by Michael Jackman
Louisville Bureau
The Auto Channel

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Welcome back to A More Perfect Fit, my Auto Channel column covering how to make a nearly perfect car, The Honda Fit, even more perfect. This is the final column in my series on maxing the Fit’s mpg.

Check the Honda Fit forums such as Fitfreaks.net and you’ll read a lot about something called hypermiling. Hypermilers dedicate themselves to squeezing every last drop out of their gasoline, and they’ve come up with a list of guidelines. Is hypermiling hype?

After trying some of these common sense tips, I don’t think so. Are they safe? Some of them are dangerous, such as overinflating tires, turning off the engine while driving, and drafting behind trucks. These techniques won’t be discussed here.

But other tips have proved to be helpful ways to increase mileage. Here are my top suggestions. (For more information on Hypermiling see the forum thread)

Know Your Routes

Especially when city driving, a little planning can have significant results. Things to consider include:

  • Which times of day have less traffic?
  • Which routes have fewer stop lights?
  • Where are stop lights coordinated?
  • Which routes are flatter, avoiding extra power for steep climbs?
  • Can you combine several separate short trips into one longer one?
All these considerations will save you gas.

Think Ahead and Coast Through Life

Without driving in an anxious hurry, you’ll tend to keep more space between you and the next car. Whether on the highway or in the city, when traffic slows, you can coast and gently accelerate more often, rather than making gas burning sudden stops and starts. Looking far ahead (up to three lights or a half-mile) will allow you to anticipate traffic slowdowns and stop light changes. Let’s say you see a light turning red far down the road. You can adjust your speed so that you won’t have to stop, or you can minimize that stop time, where you’re running the engine and just consuming gas. Looking ahead lets you coast through your drive, saving gas.

Use Cruise Control to make Small Speed Changes

In my last column, I talked about how S-mode cruise control is gentler and more economical than cruise control in Drive. In the Fit, each press of the ACCEL key increases speed one mile per hour, while pressing DECEL slows you down the same increment. Using cruise control this way allows for gentle, controlled acceleration and deceleration, which in turn saves gas.

By the way, you can also use the cruise control CANCEL key to coast down to lower speeds and avoid braking. Then press and hold SET to enter the new speed. Use CANCEL to coast when exiting the highway. Just remember to keep your foot ready to brake.

Slow Down when Climbing/ Use Gravity when Descending

When traffic allows, if you slow down a few miles per hour on the way up a hill and then use the downgrade to speed back up, you’ll save some gas by avoiding the extra power needed to maintain speed on the grade and get a gravity boost on the way back down.

In general, when you want to speed up, wait a few moments for a downgrade and get a gravity assist. You’ll lose less power, and thus save gas.

Save your Gas for Actual Driving

Need to adjust the seat, put on the seatbelts, put your coffee in the cup holder, arrange the mirrors, roll down the windows, find your driving mix CD and turn it on? Here’s a tip: don’t run the car while you’re doing all this prep. Put the key in the Accessory (I) position to run the audio and the power socket. Put the key in the Run (II) position, to run the fan, use the power windows, light the dash—basically, use battery power for anything else than the audio and the power socket. After you’ve done all your prep, then start the car. You’ll save all the gas you would have used while idling.

Same idea in reverse when you’re parking. Turn off the car. Move the key to Accessory or Run to roll up the windows, finish listening to that great radio program, eject your CD, fix the seat for your significant other, or what have you. Bottom line: save your gas for actual driving.

Neutral Coasting

On very long coasts, it might be worth it to shift into neutral. With the transmission on idle you’ll use lower rpm while coasting and thus save even more gas. This is the most dicey tip of the column, and the only questionable one I might try. It’s safer than drafting or coasting with the car off, because you’ll have visibility and access to all safety features: power steering, brakes, and so on, but one: you can’t accelerate with the transmission disengaged. So if a vehicle pops out of a hidden driveway or runs a red light, neutral coasting could cause you to have an accident. In addition, it’s easy to forget you’re in neutral, which is worse, because it means you’ll think you can accelerate when you can’t. So use with extreme caution and be ready to pop the car in drive in a flash.

A Couple of Corrections

In my previous column, I wrote about using the AT Sport’s paddle shifter, and the problem I called, “Where’s the paddle?” Actually, the plus paddle has a textured back, while the minus paddle has a smooth back. So when you’re steering, you should be able to find the right paddle by touch (but coloring it red with a marker probably won’t hurt either).

In my first column I recommended driving with fewer accessories on. But I’ve also been doing some experimenting with the AC. I don’t have a firm answer yet, but it doesn’t seem like mpg are taking a huge hit with the AC on low, or when running the audiio. These accessories do use more power, but at highway speeds, it seems as though there’s enough to go around. Experiment with the AC settings, and you may find out you don’t need to sweat it.

To sum up part 3: some basic hypermiling tips (the safe ones) can make a big difference to the Fit’s fuel economy, making a nearly perfect car even more perfect. As always, I welcome your comments.

Michael’s Honda Fit (2007 Sport AT) accessories and mods to date: Zeta Products dead pedal, armrest, satin dash kit, and hood deflector; Honda all-season floor mats, cargo tray, rear bumper appliqué, tonneau cover; ScanGauge II by Linear Logic, Airtabs by Aeroserve Technologies Ltd.

Michael Jackman is a Louisville, Ky. based writer and professor of writing at Indiana University Southeast. More info at www.mjfreelancer.com