The Fit is GOne.
After an extended tour of duty with our team — 18 months — we bid farewell to our 2007 Honda Fit Sport.
Has Honda's cheapest car tarnished the company's sterling reputation? Did we tire of the compromises (were there any?) required of a car that will get more than 30 mpg? In real-world conditions with real drivers, is the Honda Fit GO for the American market (as Honda's advertising claims)?
Why We Bought It
Honda recently found itself in a very awkward position. It was, for the first time in its history, without a small car for the American market, a segment it helped define with the introduction of the Civic in 1972. Year after year, car after car; bigger was better where the Civic has been concerned. More safety, more gadgets, more storage space, more, more, more. The current Civic is bigger than Accords of only a few years ago. Accords are bigger than an old BMW 5 Series, and the Pilot is now roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Honda had been studying the market for entry-level cars for some time, but only when Scion demonstrated that the market was bigger than anticipated did Honda finally make a move. Honda certified its small car already doing duty in Japan as the Fit and in Europe as the Jazz. (A sedan version known as the City is also available in Japan.)
When the Honda Fit appeared in the U.S. market in mid-2006, Honda hoped to sell 25,000 or so. Then gas began to rise toward $4 per gallon, and Fit sales took off as Americans sought out fuel-efficient vehicles. For the 2008 model year, Fit sales reached 85,000. Just as you'd expect from a Honda, the Fit is small, light, nimble, remarkably spacious, fuel-efficient and quirky enough in appearance to counter the frumpy-and-frugal image that hatchbacks have acquired here in the States.
We figured the Honda Fit would fill the gap in Honda's lineup left by the gentrification of the Civic and give Honda a solid entry to compete with the new breed of inexpensive fuel misers like the Chevy Aveo, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.
Twelve months and 20,000 miles; that's our mantra for long-term test cars. It takes something serious for us to change course, or not to meet our goals. Sometimes cars are just too impractical to live with daily (like our long-term 1984 Ferrari 308 GTB and our 2007 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited) and it keeps them from hitting the mileage requirements. Sometimes they go and do something scary, like need to have the transmission rebuilt (like our long-term 2007 Chevy Silverado LT) which keeps them in service a little longer. Our 2007 Honda Fit Sport fell into the latter category.
Mileagewise, the Fit was on track for a traditional 12-month loan, but then Senior Photographer Scott Jacobs got his hands on the car. Shifting into Reverse, he heard a clang that sounded not unlike change dropping into a pan. Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath described the Fit's subsequent transmission repair: "A bolt had fallen out of the shift-arm linkage. (This could explain the noise Jacobs had heard that fateful day in the parking lot.) The dealer said it must have been loose from the factory, as this piece coming loose by itself was near impossible. The loose shifting fork damaged the reverse gear, reverse idler gear, 1st- and 2nd-gear synchros, synchro springs, synchronizing friction damper, and the shift fork was heavily worn. The reverse gear assembly and synchro rings would need replacing."
It took 11 days to complete this complicated repair, and we decided to add another six months of reliability testing onto the Fit's tour of duty.
Apart from the transmission repair, our 2007 Honda Fit visited the dealer four times. Each of those visits included routine oil changes that averaged about 30 bucks a pop. The 10,000-mile service also included a full inspection and air filter replacement, bringing the grand total (including oil change) to $165.37. At its 20,000-mile service, it was clear that the Fit's front brakes were in trouble, as they not only squealed but shuddered when used with conviction. Replacing the pads and resurfacing the rotors cost us $607.23.
While it was good that the major transmission repair was covered under warranty, we think it's safe to say that our Fit visited the dealership more often — and with a higher price tag — than its direct competitors in our long-term fleet, notably our 2007 Nissan Versa.
Complaints also abounded on the Fit's interior packaging. Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds, who stands 6-foot-3, just didn't fit the Fit: "When your knee whams the back of the steering wheel every time you let the clutch out, you tend to have a hard time liking a car. Sure, there're gobs of headroom, but I feel like a praying mantis in this thing.... A telescopic steering wheel is an absolute must. Contrary to what you might think, it is the taller of us who need to pull the steering wheel out to give the knees room to schroom."
It seemed obvious to us that the upright driving position of the 2007 Honda Fit had been scaled for Japanese drivers. Most of our editors over 5-foot-10 expressed similar difficulties with the driving position. Others criticized the lack of a proper dead pedal in the footwell. And still others complained about the angle of the pedals, which seemed to have been designed for short drivers sitting close to the steering wheel.
Total Body Repair Costs: $650
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 18 months): $866.62
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: 1
Non-Warranty Repairs: 1
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Days Out of Service: 12
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 1
Performance and Fuel Economy
Fuel economy is one of the prime motivations for the purchase of a small car. And boasting an EPA rating of 33 mpg city/38 mpg highway, the 2007 Honda Fit is a strong competitor in the non-hybrid fuel economy wars. Our fuel economy numbers at the end of a long-term test are right in line with the Fit's revised fuel economy estimates. Even so, our combined average was only 31.4 mpg, which is well short of the EPA's 35.5-mpg combined average. Leafing through the fuel log, more than a few entries are in the high 30s, but more still are in the mid-20s. Why? We think it's a combination of our location in Southern California with its mix of high-speed freeways and jammed commute-hour traffic and our driving habits. While the Fit can achieve excellent fuel economy — as evidenced by our best tank of 42 mpg — we tended to drive it very aggressively.
Track testing the Fit at the end of its service confirmed our seat-of-the-pants assessment of its ability. Snaking through the slalom at 66.3 mph and wrapping itself around the skid pad at 0.79g, the Fit was praised for its excellent poise, willingness to rotate toward the apex, well-bolstered seats and quick steering. It was knocked, however, for the softer damping compared to our initial test. Straight-line acceleration in the quarter-mile improved by 0.2 second in the 27,000 miles we recorded, clicking the timers at 16.8 seconds at 79.8 mph. Reduced tread on the 195/55R15 Dunlop SP37s contributes some of the improvement.
Best Fuel Economy: 42 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 23.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 31.4 mpg
The 2007 Honda Fit Sport did an excellent job of retaining value. When we purchased our vehicle, there was a long waiting list. We got lucky and found a Fit Sport sitting on a dealer lot, unsold primarily because of its manual transmission (back to that L.A. traffic again). Considering this and the current climate of fuel prices, a lightly used Honda, we thought, would command a premium at resale time. Our long-term 2007 Mini Cooper S did. Running the Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) calculator, we found that our Fit was worth $14,117, roughly $1,000 below what we paid for the Fit new. Clearly the littlest Honda is still in demand. The car was sold, as is our policy, to a dealership that offered us $13,600. More could have been had if we'd sold it to a private party.
True Market Value at service end: $14,117
What it sold for: $13,600
Depreciation: $2,195 or 7.2% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 26,900
Reliability, fuel economy, practicality. That is what the 2007 Honda Fit Sport promised and that's what we were expecting. We were not expecting this five-door hatchback to be so much fun. Nor were we expecting its light-effort five-speed manual transmission and clutch to be so accommodating both in heavy traffic and on twisty mountain roads. We were expecting a car compromised for frugality, but what we ended up with was just a car with compromises. We didn't expect problems with packaging, service intervals and reliability, but these are exactly where issues cropped up.
As it turned out, this Fit represents the end of this particular Fit generation. The next-generation 2009 Honda Fit is already in showrooms and we've noted that the driving position is notably better thanks to the incorporation of a telescoping steering wheel and reconfigured pedal action. A better packaged, more powerful, more reliable and more Americanized Honda Fit is a pleasant proposition indeed.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.