Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor
"It reminds me of last year's Fit without being last year's Fit." That's how Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr described the 2009 Honda Fit Sport with Navigation. And he should know, since he logged thousands of miles in our 2007 Honda Fit Sport long-term test car in the course of various photo assignments.
And once you count the number of changes made to the 2008 Honda Fit, you discover that the 2009 Fit is as all-new as a car can be without being labeled all-new. The improvements include new sheet metal, new chassis structure, new interior, new engine block, new valvetrain, new electronics, new features and new options.
Unlike some product updates, the Fit version 2.0 manages to retain all the things we loved about the space- and fuel-efficient little wedge, while deleting those flaws that frustrated us.
A Worm Hole Comes Standard The Honda Fit has always seemed like a car that is outside the boundaries of Euclidean geometry because it feels much larger on the inside than its exterior dimensions suggest. Now the all-new interior of the 2009 Honda Fit manages to carve out even a little more room for both passengers and stuff while growing almost imperceptibly on the outside.
Ever more slender roof pillars, wheels even farther toward the corners of the car, and a windshield pushed farther forward have all netted both real and perceived gains in interior roominess. The tape measure says the occupants of the rear seat enjoy the benefits of this growth spurt most, as even an inch or two back there makes a noticeable difference.
Another benefit of this larger footprint is that the second-row seatback now has enough room to flop forward to make a flat cargo floor without having to slide either of the first-row seats — a measure introduced last year as a result of customer complaints about the 2007 Fit. But don't fret, as the seat bottoms still flip up to accommodate items as tall as 50 inches through the rear doors. Meanwhile, the liftover height of the rear hatch has been lowered to an easy-on-the-back 24 inches.
The reshaped front seats are more comfortable, but what's even better is the improvement in the overall driving position, especially for tall people. First, the steering wheel now tilts and telescopes. The throttle pedal has been angled to move fore and aft instead of up and down, a far more natural movement when you're sitting farther back from the steering wheel. The footwell is larger and there's a dead pedal to rest your left foot on while cruising. All that's really needed now is a height-adjustable driver seat.
It's How You Use It The specifications tell you the 2009 Honda Fit's 1.5-liter inline-4 engine makes only 1 more pound-foot of torque at its maximum of 106 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm, but it's everywhere else in the rev range where the Fit's engine feels more responsive.
Where the previous version of the engine felt lethargic and in need of revs to motivate this 2,500-pound car, the new Fit inline-4 gets with the program from as low as 2,000 rpm. It's easier to drive more of the time, so you no longer feel the need to rev the Swiss out of it.
The low-effort action of the cable-type shift linkage of the five-speed manual transmission remains a model of excellence, offering the same precisely located gates and generally cooperative mechanicals. Neither the shifter nor the clutch pedal feels fragile or limp, even when hurried.
Small Car, Big Ride The 1.0 version of the Fit would dance and wiggle over anything but the smoothest roads. The new car gains a measure of stability from a wheelbase that's 1.9 inches longer and a track that's 1.4 inches wider in front and 1 inch wider in the rear. In addition, the suspension geometry has been changed to offer more stability while the components have been tuned for a more comfortable ride. This also results in improved composure around sweeping turns, so we don't feel as if constant vigilance is required anymore.
The revised electric-assist power steering still feels light in effort by any standard, but now it reminds us of a Civic Si instead of a CR-V, and that's a good thing. Maybe the adaptation of the Civic Si's steering wheel to the new 2009 Fit helps, too.
The brakes are now easier to modulate and offer a more intuitive pedal feel, even if our car's stopping distances were longer than the last Fit Sport we tested. Thank the new brake master cylinder and the standard electronic brakeforce distribution for the added feel.
Taken as a whole, the engine, steering, braking and ride characteristics of the 2009 Fit have all been calmed down, so there's no implied, expected or perceived dynamic compromise in driving a small car. Even a novice driver would choose the 2009 Honda Fit over the car it replaces simply for the effortless way it drives.
Anomaly or Fuel Economy Trade-off? Some laws of physics can't be ignored, so while the 2009 Honda Fit is more powerful, it's also a little slower and fractionally less efficient. Fuel economy has dropped 1 mpg in both the city and highway EPA estimates. Our mixed driving average produced 30 mpg, which is 1 mpg better than the EPA's estimate of the car's combined average.
Though the 1.5-liter engine's output has risen to 117 horsepower at 6,600 rpm (an improvement from 109 hp at 5,800 rpm), our acceleration testing didn't prove the 2009 Fit Sport as quick as its predecessors. It runs to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds (9.8 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and covers the quarter-mile in 17.3 seconds at 79 mph. This performance compares with our 2007 Fit Sport, which reached 60 mph in 9.4 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 16.8 seconds at 79.8 mph. Although there have been changes to the ratios of the five-speed manual transmission to accommodate the new, taller 16-inch tires of the 2009 Fit Sport, the overall gearing remains effectively unchanged, so we're not sure what the explanation for this performance might be.
Meanwhile, the new 185/55R16 Bridgestone Turanza EL470 tires are narrower than the Sport's former 195/55R15 Dunlop SP37s, so there's a little less grip. Our best stop of 134 feet is longer than average for such a small, light car, and we suspect the 10 feet of additional stopping distance compared to our 2007 Fit is largely due to the tire swap.
Around the skid pad, the '09 Fit Sport managed to hang on to the asphalt with 0.78g of grip and ran between the slalom cones at an average speed of 64.1 mph, which compares to the previous car's 0.79g and 66.3-mph performances.
Upgrading the Experience Navigation systems are becoming nearly expected these days, so naturally the Fit incorporates one that's operated through a 6.5-inch touchscreen with voice activation. And since electronic stability systems will soon be mandated on all passenger cars, the 2009 Honda Fit Sport has one (although the base model does not).
There's a new USB connector for audio devices in addition to the aux jack that was already in place. Illuminated steering-wheel audio controls are now included in the Fit Sport and, are you ready for this? Driver and passenger vanity mirrors plus map lights are standard on the Fit Sport! Honda often pinches pennies on details like this, so their inclusion is more significant than you might think.
It's the Right Time To Be Fit When the Fit first arrived here in late 2006 as an '07 model, gas prices were about $2.30 per gallon and there didn't seem to be much of a compelling proposition for such a Japan-centric small car as the Fit. But now that gasoline peaked above $4 per gallon this summer, Honda ran out of its allotment of 85,000 Fits by September. Honda took a chance with its little car, and it paid off big.
The 2009 Honda Fit now fits our recently tightened American budgets, our ever varying cargo and passenger needs, and finally our 95th-percentile biometric bodies. This car is plainly not built to win races; instead, it's built to squeeze as much efficiency as possible out of every gallon of gas and every cubic foot of interior volume.
For the money, the 2009 Honda Fit Sport is the best small car for sale in the U.S. for most people.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
News Editor Kelly Toepke says: Let me be honest. I hardly ever drove our long-term 2007 Honda Fit. I didn't exactly avoid it like the plague (like I did the 2007 Nissan Versa), but I never chose the Fit either.
I wasn't keen on its wedgy shape or its go-kartlike ride. But from the moment I spotted the 2009 Honda Fit in the garage, I was hopeful. The updated styling looked sporty instead of economical, and the whole package just looked more substantial.
After some time behind the wheel, my affection for the new Fit deepened. Despite its small exterior size, Honda has managed to make it feel roomier inside, for both front- and rear-seat passengers. My daughter is used to being chauffeured around in an SUV or minivan, and even she didn't balk at the idea of buckling into the Fit's backseat. She didn't leave any dirty tennis shoe prints on the black seatback either, which indicated plenty of room for her lanky limbs.
My commute consists mainly of stop-and-go traffic, and often shifting back and forth through the lower gears is annoying, but the new Fit's clutch pedal was so nicely weighted, it immediately felt as if it was my own daily driver, with no wimpy lightness to get over first. And the 117-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-4 is powerful enough so you don't feel like you're swimming upstream when the traffic starts to break and everyone around you stands on the gas.
I will now save my dismissive disdain for the Versa alone.
2009 Honda Fit Sport w/ Nav
Overall Grade: B+
USB iPod connection, navigation system
Price if optional:
USB Standard on Sport, nav system standard on this model
CD, MP3, WMA
Bluetooth for phone:
How does it sound: B The Fit Sport's standard audio system is an upgrade over the base model. It adds two extra speakers and includes a USB port for connecting portable MP3 players. The sound quality is good but it certainly won't win over true audiophiles. Considering the Fit's low price, the audio system is better than expected.
Bass is noticeable and well-rounded, although it's not especially rich or even deep. Thankfully, that bass isn't so heavy that it distorts. Highs are suitably bright but not metallic sounding. Midrange is not well represented, as separation overall is slightly lacking. Sound quality overall is just above average for cars in the Fit's price range.
How does it work: A While the sound quality is a little above average, the audio system's functionality and flexibility is top-notch. Opting for the Sport version of the Fit means you get a USB connection for your portable music player and the single-disc CD player allows playback of MP3-coded CDs as well as burned CDs with WMA files.
Accessing and playing music from various sources is simple and intuitive thanks to the illuminated controls on the steering wheel that are standard equipment. The head unit itself is also fairly straightforward and the way MP3 and iPod tracks show up on the display is especially user-friendly. The text is large and easy to read at a glance and the background can be changed to one of three options.
Special features Ordering the Fit with a navigation system means you get a PC-card slot that allows even more options for playing digital music. PC cards are not super easy to come by — we visited three consumer electronics stores before finally finding a PC card adapter at Fry's. By using the adapter, you can play music from a compact flash or SD card. It seems like a minor point, but those who don't have (or even want) an iPod can still play digital music in the car. The only bummer here is that any tracks with strict DRM protection (i.e., songs you bought from iTunes) will not play through the PC card slot — one more reason to curse Apple.
Conclusion Although the Honda Fit is inexpensive, there's nothing low-budget about the audio system. Honda clearly knows what Fit customers want and it delivers. With good sound quality, excellent flexibility and intuitive controls, the audio system that comes standard on this Fit is easily the class leader. — Brian Moody, Road Test Editor
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