2009 Honda Fit Sport: Flight Deck
July 06, 2009
After a couple of weeks in assorted high-style cars with fast windshields, gracefully arching roofs, high protective doors and all the usual suspects of what passes for modern design, the 2009 Honda Fit Sport is a great relief. You can actually see the road again!
The tight little cabins of modern cars look really snappy in design renderings, but they leave you feeling like you're driving in some kind armored personnel carrier. In comparison, the Honda Fit puts so much glass in front of you that you feel like you've just walked onto the flight deck of some classic airliner from the golden age of air travel.
And for this you can thank Honda's big book of standards and practices, the manual of officially approved design and construction that determines the final form of every Honda built. In fact, it's this emphasis on visibility that has everything to do with the ease with which every Honda drives.
When Honda makes a car, it carefully plots the driver's field of view through 360 degrees, determining sightlines and minimizing the obstruction by the roof pillars. Even after crash-safety regulations have led to an increase in the width of roof pillars (both to accommodate curtain-type airbags and to improve rollover protection), you'll notice that Honda still does its best to keep the front bulkhead low, the beltline below your shoulder and the windows large and expansive.
The visibility of the Honda Fit can be a little bit of a shock at first. The windshield of the redesigned Fit seems farther away than before, and there are some unflattering design cues from the dustbin-style GM minivans of the 1990s, but the field of view gives you a great view of the metropolitan cityscape, which is just what you want when you're trying to thread your way through Ford F-250 pickups on city streets. When you can see, driving is a thoroughly naturally exercise. You just go where you need to go; it's as if there's no mechanical interface (you know, the car itself) to get in the way.
It gives me the same feeling that you get in old airliners, the ones built in the days when pilots were afraid of running into things. I still remember being led onto the flight deck of an old Boeing 377 Stratocruiser from the days when Pan American Airways flew this derivative of the WWII-era B-29 bomber between San Francisco and Hawaii. It was an airplane from a long time ago, when airliners actually carried a flight engineer to monitor the propellers and piston engines (the 377's four Pratt & Whitneys were notoriously sensitive to combustion temperature and were monitored with a crude cathode-ray device), but the idea of great visibility still seems as modern as tomorrow.
Everything is easier when you can see.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 8650 miles