Honda pays the bills by offering the most amount of car for the least amount of money. This philosophy has evolved into progressively larger cars as Honda has adapted to life as an American company, but this process has threatened the company's role in the subcompact segment. As the Honda Accord grew in proportions, so, too, did the Honda Civic as it filled the void. And then the Civic's growing size and sophistication opened the door for a subcompact Honda, which wasn't available. But when rising fuel prices and shrinking pocketbooks made subcompacts suddenly popular, Honda finally brought in its international-size car, the Honda Fit.
American consumers accepted the 2007 Honda Fit, and it quickly took control of the subcompact market. But where the Fit excelled in international-size utility, it suffered in international-size ergonomics. A seating position meant for the slight of stature was matched with a thrifty but underpowered engine, and small tires limited the Fit's appeal to hard-core fuel misers.
Fortunately a second-generation Fit was in the pipeline and with the 2009 Honda Fit we have the new features we wanted without compromising those that we already appreciated.
Why We Got It
By the time we concluded our long-term test of the all-new 2007 Honda Fit Sport, we had accumulated over 25,000 miles. This new Honda brought an element of driving fun to an excruciatingly dull segment of subcompacts. We drove it everywhere and did so with only a few of the typical complaints that any econocar attracts. When we learned that the redesigned 2009 Honda Fit Sport addressed the handful of issues we'd had with the original, we were sold.
We never felt the 2007 Honda Fit was built with full-figured Americans in mind. But our full test of the 2009 Honda Fit presented a revised package that would coddle our American-size physiques with comfort and convenience.
To begin with, the wheels and tires were an inch larger in diameter, a measure that would simultaneously offer more sport and a somewhat more compliant ride. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel adjustment made the seating position more comfortable for taller drivers. An available navigation system was a treat in this sub-$20,000 car. Also new for 2009 was a more powerful 1.5-liter inline-4, generating 117 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque.
Subcompacts are often stereotyped as errand runners. And we were as guilty as the rest in this regard. But once we spent time with the 2009 Honda Fit, accepted its shortcomings and saw the car for what it was, we learned that the driving experience was pretty enjoyable.
Edmunds.com Senior Editor Erin Riches complimented its steering. "When you give the Fit a bigger steering input as you're about to enter a corner or unusually technical freeway entrance ramp, the little car turns in smartly. It's not so quick that you imagine yourself in a sport compact, but at that moment, you don't feel quite so dorky driving around in an orange hatchback. For me, it's addictive. I take every opportunity to pitch the car into corners at speed."
Riches continued, "And the engine. You're always going to hear it, so you'd better learn to love its scrappy demeanor. It's not that the Fit's gearing is so incredibly short. It's that there simply isn't a lot of sound-deadening material. That's a big reason why the Fit is lightweight. Lack of weight makes it feel as quick and nimble. So it has never once occurred to me that the Fit should be quieter. On the contrary, a quieter Fit would be a heavier, less direct-handling Fit, and I'll have none of that."
This fun-to-drive personality was evident in the first Fit, so we weren't surprised that the second-generation car measured up. But inside the cabin was where the 2009 model was supposed to be different.
Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds reflected, "One of the main reasons I disliked driving our 2007 Fit was that I didn't fit in it. It had no seat height adjustment and the non-telescopic steering wheel was too far away. My 6-foot-2 frame was utterly incompatible. But all of my complaints have been magically wiped away in the 2009 Fit. Being able to lower the seats and pull the new telescopic wheel back has several benefits. My knees have clearance behind the wheel, which means I can operate the clutch and other pedals without splaying my legs apart, mantis-style. I can also reach the wheel without reaching, maintaining a nice bend in my arm."
Meanwhile, Edmunds Senior Editor Bryn MacKinnon noted, "I was sitting in the back of the Fit and decided to rest my arm on the armrest on the door. It wouldn't let me. The slope of the rearmost part is extremely raked, and my arm sort of kept slipping off. That's an unrestful armrest."
Over time our 2009 Honda Fit showed some flaws. Squeaks and rattles from the dash were mentioned on more than one occasion. Our sole warranty repair claim began with a dead battery and led us to a door-ajar warning illuminated on the instrument cluster. We visited the dealer for this known issue and had it fixed by replacing the lock switch for the front door.
Honda of Santa Monica treated us fairly so we stuck with them for all service needs, including scheduled maintenance at 10,000 and 20,000 miles. A bubble in the sidewall of the Fit's right-front tire set us back over 160 bucks for a replacement Bridgestone Turanza. But even at that, the Fit never left us stranded.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $227.57
Additional Maintenance Costs: $161.92 for replacement tire
Warranty Repairs: Front door lock switch replaced
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 2; 1 waiting for door lock switch, 1 for a new tire
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
We first tested the 2009 Honda Fit with 1,000 miles on the odometer. As is our routine, we tested it a final time at 20,000 miles. We were impressed with the Fit's durability over the span of our test.
During its entrance exam the 2,500-pound Fit accelerated to 60 mph from a stop in 8.9 seconds (8.6 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and covered the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds at 81.6 mph. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton drove for its final exam. "It's just as quick now as when it was new," he said. "The Fit requires some wheelspin to maximize what little power it has. But it was easier to pedal it with worn tires. Clutch and gears still feel healthy."
Dynamic tests told a similar story. An initial slalom speed of 65.8 mph was matched at test end by one of 66 mph. We did experience an anomaly during skid pad tests, though. The as-new Fit recorded lateral grip of 0.78g, while nearing retirement it pulled 0.82g on the skid pad. Surface variations in our test facilities were the culprit, as the 0.82g figure was confirmed at the 10,000-mile mark when this Fit was used for a comparison test against the Ford Fiesta. Following dynamic testing Walton proclaimed, "I had forgotten how fun the Fit Sport is in the slalom. Friction-free, responsive steering, a narrow track and an ability to rotate. Seems more neutral than the previous Fits, which I remember being a little squirrely. ESP-on prompted nearly as quick due to uncharacteristically lenient tuning that returns control to the driver quickly."
Best Fuel Economy: 39.0 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 24.9 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 31.4 mpg
We added a 2009 Honda Fit Sport with Navigation to our fleet just over one year ago. At that time it had an MSRP of $18,780. After a full term of service the Fit depreciated 23 percent based on a private-party sale through Edmunds' TMV® Calculator. This seems strong considering our long-term 2007 Nissan Versa depreciated 26 percent following its test.
True Market Value at service end: $14,538
Depreciation: $4,242 or 23% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 21,568
Honda reclaimed its influence on the subcompact segment with the introduction of the 2007 Fit to the U.S. market. But it wasn't a home run. Smaller proportions and awkward design elements didn't appeal to the full-bodied American public. And so, as if listening to our suggestions, Honda took the Fit and redesigned it.
Our long-term 2009 Fit received a warm reception. It still had to overcome the stigma of being a small car. But once we accepted the limitations inherent in its stature, it became a favorite. After 12 months and 21,000 miles, the Fit had survived a year of full-service American driving. We subjected it to an onslaught of stop-and-go traffic, thousand-mile vacation treks and rambunctious children. It took all we could give with no more than a faulty door lock switch.
The 2009 Honda Fit turned out to be more car than its predecessor, and in a good way. It was fun and utilitarian for its size. Improvements in ergonomics were immediately apparent and appreciated. When it came to our daily needs, the new Fit was a better fit.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.