Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
Back in the 1970s, steep gas prices caused by the energy crisis had a seismic impact on the kinds of cars folks wanted to buy. The fuel-slurping land barges that had previously ruled the highways were out, replaced by efficient compact hatchbacks.
These days, stratospheric gas prices have made hatchbacks heroes once again, and you'd be hard-pressed to find one more heroic than the 2009 Honda Fit. The Fit was likable enough when it was introduced in 2007, but a redesign for 2009 has endowed it with upgrades that make it an even more appealing sidekick.
Today's Fit is slightly larger than before, with a friendlier cabin, snazzier sheet metal, useful new features and more pleasant driving dynamics. Strengths like its versatile interior remain, while blemishes such as its tendency to get the shakes on uneven road surfaces have been addressed.
There's one shortcoming to consider: Though Fits equipped with manual transmissions feel adequately powered, those with automatic transmissions (like the Fit Sport that's the subject of this test) tend to feel sluggish off the line. If you're looking for a more energetic automatic-equipped hatchback, consider the eager Pontiac Vibe GT. And though the Fit's handling is superb for the economy-car class, it still trails that of the Mazda Mazda3, which is the segment's true athlete.
But in the end, this Honda — which, it should be said, is more fuel-efficient than both the Vibe GT and the Mazda3 — offers an overall mix of virtues that should hit the spot with many buyers. The 2009 Honda Fit Sport manages to be frugal, functional and fun. It's a must-see if you're shopping for an economical hatchback.
A new engine gives the 2009 Fit more power than its predecessor. Under the hood is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine good for 117 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque, up from the previous version's 109 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque. Nevertheless, acceleration in our automatic-equipped Fit was average at best. Off-the-line acceleration felt languid around town, and steep roads were a challenge. At the track, the Fit went from zero to 60 mph in a leisurely 11 seconds. For this reason, those who don't mind shifting their own gears may want to consider a manual-equipped Fit. We recently tested one such model, and it was noticeably more spirited, completing the 0-60 race in 10.2 seconds. If maximum power is important to you and you want a hatchback equipped with an automatic transmission, take a look at the 2009 Pontiac Vibe GT.
Braking performance was adequate, as our Fit Sport screeched to a halt from 60 mph in 134 feet; the Mazda3, by way of comparison, pulled this off in just 119 feet. Pedal feel was also on the soft side. The Fit felt reasonably adroit in slalom testing, thanks in large part to its quick steering response. This athleticism was also evident in city and highway driving, where the Fit's sharp reflexes made it a pleasure to pilot. Relative to its predecessor, the new Fit feels notably more composed over rough pavement, an improvement attributable to its freshly tweaked suspension and slightly lengthened wheelbase.
The estimated fuel mileage for the 2009 Honda Fit Sport stands at 27 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 30 combined. This makes it a leader among compact hatchbacks, though we expected better fuel economy given the Fit's low curb weight and diminutive 1.5-liter engine. Oddly, the base (non-Sport) Fit with the automatic transmission is rated at a more impressive 28 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined.
Happily, the 2009 Honda Fit surpasses its predecessor in the area of driver comfort. While the old Fit's steering wheel was tilt-only, the new one telescopes as well, which helped our test car accommodate both taller and shorter drivers. This year's Fit also offers more rear headroom and legroom than the outgoing model. Front seats are welcoming and pleasantly contoured, and our slimmer editors deemed them an amenable fit. However, those of greater girth might find the prominently bolstered seatbacks a tight squeeze. Rear seats are reasonably comfy, though we noticed that the seat cushions seem flimsy and aren't especially supportive. Our test car exhibited a fair amount of road and wind noise, but nothing exceptionally irksome relative to others in this class.
The 2009 Fit's stereo controls are clustered around the display in a fairly generic manner, but there's some flair in the Fit's climate controls, which are gathered in a charming semicircle on the driver side of the center console. We found this layout attractive, and the positioning of these controls also makes them easy to access.
A navigation system was previously unavailable on the Fit, but it's standard on the new Fit Sport with Navigation. The system was easy to use — we were able to get directions without having to crack the owner's manual.
One of the most appealing things about the 2009 Honda Fit is the versatility of its cabin. The rear seats fold flat to allow for a whopping 57 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity. That's substantially more than the previous generation's 42 cubes, and it establishes the Fit as a segment leader when it comes to cargo volume. The Vibe, for example, offers 49 cubic feet, and the Scion xD is even more space-challenged, with just 36 cubes. Relative to the first-generation model, the current Fit has a lower tailgate, making it easier to load and unload items.
Our test car's rear-seat bottoms did something nifty: They folded up, which served to get them out of the way so we could transport taller items. This also creates a nook where pets can travel without getting fur on the seats.
There were lots of storage crannies in our test car. Our favorites were the thoughtfully designed bins on the front doors. These receptacles were quite deep, but we never had to waste time digging around for smaller items, since the bins feature accommodating side-panel cutouts for easy access. We wish that the same thoughtfulness had gone into the placement of the Fit's dash-mounted cupholders, which are awkwardly located right in front of the air-conditioning/heating vents.
Rear pillars on this Fit are slender — more so than on the previous model. This both enhanced visibility and lent a pleasant airiness to the interior.
Design/Fit and Finish
Honda's 2009 Fit looks a lot like last year's model, but we think the car has benefited from its modest styling updates, such as a more sculptural hood, refashioned headlights and more glass all around. Our Fit's cabin was economy-car plain for sure, but thoughtful touches like the previously mentioned climate control button layout are appreciated. We did, however, take issue with the dark fabric that was used to sheathe part of our test car's front doors. This design cue looked great when the car first arrived, but after just a couple of days, it proved to be a dust and dirt magnet. To Honda's credit, fit and finish on our test car was superb throughout.
Who should consider this vehicle
Most people these days are looking for cars that are practical and thrifty, which means that most people will be satisfied with the 2009 Honda Fit. Its above-average fuel economy and exceptionally flexible interior make it a smart choice. Best of all, its agreeable driving dynamics make it an enjoyable choice, too.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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