Used 2013 Honda Fit EV Hatchback
Edmunds' Expert Review
The competent 2013 Honda Fit EV has a lot of things going for it. Unfortunately, widespread availability to the public is not one of them, as Honda offers the all-electric version of its useful hatchback in only a few states and only as a three-year lease.
The Honda Fit hatchback is already a great small car thanks to its space-efficient design and flexible interior configurations. The 2013 Honda Fit EV goes one better from a green standpoint, as this all-electric version allows you to whiz around town on electrons alone.
Honda's new Fit EV doesn't look much different from its gas-powered counterpart, but it's a different story under the hood. An electric motor rated at 123 horsepower provides the Fit EV with quick acceleration (quicker than the regular Fit, in fact). For power, the electric motor draws on a cargo-area-mounted lithium-ion battery pack.
The intrusion of the battery pack takes away some of the little car's utility: The rear seats still fold, but they no longer fold flat, much less fully upright (as in the regular Honda Fit), and you lose the flat load floor. But since it's a hatchback, the Fit EV is still pretty versatile.
Overall efficiency is also quite good, as the Fit EV has an MPGe combined fuel economy equivalency estimate from the EPA of 118 mpg, plus an estimated range of 82 miles on a full charge. Both are better than Ford's new Focus Electric. The Fit EV also boasts a quick recharge time; about three hours are required to recharge a depleted Fit EV using a 240-volt-compatible charger included with the vehicle. For comparison, the 2013 Nissan Leaf takes about four hours, even with its newly available high-capacity charger.
With the introduction of the 2013 Fit EV, Honda joins a small rank of manufacturers with a dedicated electric vehicle. The Fit's obvious competitors are the aforementioned 2013 Ford Focus Electric, 2013 Nissan Leaf and Fiat 500e. The Fit compares very well here, offering excellent range and power, two key aspects for an electric vehicle.
The only catch? You can only lease the Honda Fit EV, and only in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. This definitely limits the car's appeal. But if you live in one of these states and don't mind leasing, the 2013 Honda Fit EV is a solid choice for an electric vehicle.
2013 Honda Fit EV configurations
The 2013 Honda Fit EV is offered in only one loaded trim level. Standard features include a rear spoiler, LED taillights, 15-inch alloy wheels, a three-mode (Sport, Normal, Econ) drive system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, heated front seats, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a 60/40-split backseat. Electronic features include Bluetooth phone connectivity, voice controls, a navigation system, a rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Performance & mpg
A 92-kW electric motor (123 hp and 189 pound-feet of torque) along with a 20-kWh lithium-ion battery pack power the Fit EV. The EPA estimates the Fit EV can drive about 82 miles on a full charge. The EPA also gives the Fit EV an energy consumption estimate of 29 kWh used per 100 miles (the lower the kWh number here, the better). That translates into MPGe figures of 132 mpg city/105 mpg highway and 118 mpg combined, which is a bit better than the Ford Focus Electric (105 MPGe combined) and Leaf (115 MPGe).
It takes just three hours to recharge a depleted Fit EV using the standard 240-volt charger. But if you only have access to a 120-volt circuit, recharging can take as long as 15 hours.
Able to sprint to 60 mph in less than 9 seconds in Sport mode, the Fit EV ranks as one of the quicker electric subcompacts Edmunds has tested. To put it into perspective, that's slightly quicker than a turbocharged, gasoline-powered Chevrolet Sonic, about a half-second quicker than the electric Focus and more than a full second quicker than the Nissan Leaf.
The 2013 Honda Fit EV comes standard with antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active head restraints. A rearview camera is also standard on the EV.
In normal driving, the Fit EV's brakes feel fine. But in Edmunds panic-stop brake testing, this Honda took 140 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph. That's a poor showing, as it's 14 feet longer than the Leaf's best braking distance and more than 15 feet longer than the average subcompact's performance.
The 2013 Honda Fit EV is perfectly capable of merging and keeping up with typical highway traffic in its default Normal driving mode. Of course, the Sport mode provides the strongest performance, while the Econ mode can boost efficiency by a claimed 17 percent provided you're willing to sacrifice that snappy pickup and endure limited air-conditioning performance.
With all the instant torque an electric motor provides, the Fit EV proves adept at zipping through city traffic. It weighs 700 pounds more than the standard Fit, though, so it doesn't feel as light on its feet when driving around turns. However, it can still be fun during a daily commute thanks to its quick steering and planted demeanor. Push harder and you'll quickly be greeted by tire squeal, a side effect of the EV's small, fuel-economy-focused tires.
A positive effect of the 2013 Honda Fit EV's extra mass is its more substantial feel behind the wheel. Compared to a gasoline-powered Honda Fit, the ride is noticeably smoother over pockmarked city streets and highway expansion joints.
The Fit EV features an enhanced key fob with more functionality than the regular Fit's. With it one can initiate charging, monitor progress and even turn on the air-conditioning from 100 feet away. The available Honda Link EV smartphone app can do all that, plus help you locate charging stations and set charging times that optimize utility rates.
The EV's cabin's design is similar to the standard Fit's, with large, clear gauges and simple, intuitive controls. The gauge cluster features EV-specific instruments that show information such as the battery pack's state of charge and remaining range. In keeping with the vehicle's green philosophy, the upholstery material is derived from sugar cane.
Honda had to reconfigure the interior a bit to accommodate the EV model's battery pack. Rear passengers sit slightly higher and 3.3 inches farther back, which actually improves rear legroom. Cargo space suffers, though, as you get just 12.0 cubic feet behind the backseat versus the standard Fit's 20.6 cubic feet. In addition, the regular Honda Fit's "Magic Seat" (which can fold flat or upright) didn't survive the transition. The 60/40-split rear seat still folds, opening up nearly 50 cubic feet (versus 57.3 in the standard hatch), but the load floor is no longer flat.
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One could argue that Honda's reputation is largely based on the various clean air and fuel economy technologies it has promoted over the years. From CVCC to HF to VTEC, NGV to IMA to FCEV, Honda can usually be found tinkering away at or near the top of the mpg charts.
Accordingly, the new 2013 Honda Fit EV looks mighty impressive in terms of EV efficiency. It beats the rival Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i and Nissan Leaf in every consumption and range metric found on a typical EV window sticker, from its low consumption rate of 29 kWh per 100 miles to its stellar combined rating of 118 MPGe to its class-leading range of 82 miles.
But one curious fact stops us in our tracks: You can't buy a 2013 Honda Fit EV. And you may never see one because, all told, Honda expects to produce just 1,100 Fit EVs over the next three years. By contrast, Nissan is close to selling that many Leaf EVs in a month.
What's more, the 2013 Honda Fit EV is a lease-only proposition ($389 per month for 36 months; the tax credit is baked in) that is confined to coastal Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Portland, Oregon. Next spring Honda plans to expand into Boston; New York; Hartford, Connecticut; Baltimore; and Washington, D.C.
A La Mode
The heart of the Fit EV is a permanent magnet electric motor that's rated at 92 kW (123 horsepower). It drives the front wheels through a coaxial single-speed gearbox, in which the differential is bolted directly to one end of the electric motor, not offset in the usual way with drive flanges positioned behind. This works because the motor's main shaft is hollow, allowing the driveshaft that feeds the opposite tire to run straight through the middle.
Full power is only available by pressing a dash-mounted Sport button. The Fit EV's rated efficiency and range comes in Normal mode, the start-up default that produces 75 kW (101 hp). Honda says Sport is 10 percent less efficient than Normal, but a third option, Econ mode, can boost efficiency by 17 percent if you're willing to tolerate 47 kW (63 hp), a deliberately recalcitrant throttle pedal and "optimized" air-conditioning performance.
From rest, Normal and Sport are equally proficient at chirping the Michelin Energy Saver low-rolling-resistance tires thanks to instant-on peak torque. Once under way, Normal feels entirely reasonable for everyday use, even up hills and onto freeway onramps. It's never lightning fast, but there's no problem keeping up.
As expected, the Sport button makes passing and merging easier, and in that mode the Fit EV's power-to-weight ratio is 19 percent better than the Leaf's. We figure 0-60-mph acceleration could register below 9.5 seconds — perhaps a half second better than the Nissan.
There are two shift positions as well: the familiar "D," and a "B" setting that simulates low gear engine braking through the regenerative system. Intended for downgrades, it adds a new dimension of fun in daily use (with no efficiency penalty) à la Mini E, although the effect is less pronounced.
As for the regular brakes, the EV's system of blending electric braking with conventional friction braking produces a firm and consistent pedal that comes across as notably more satisfying than the Leaf.
Electricity comes from an air-cooled 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that's 4 kWh smaller than that of a Leaf. Even so, the Fit EV's range bests the Nissan by 9 miles. Low comparative weight accounts for some of this, as the 3,252-pound Fit EV weighs 123 pounds less than the Nissan.
But the chemistry of the Fit EV's Toshiba-made SCiB (super-charge ion battery) battery modules has more to do with it. Typical lithium-ion battery cells feature a carbon anode, but SCiB cells employ a Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) anode instead that can charge and discharge more quickly, allowing the Fit's battery to gobble up and recover energy more readily under braking.
This trait is a boon to plug-in charging, too, and the Fit EV's charging system runs at 6.6 kilowatts instead of the 3.3-kilowatt charge rate of the Leaf. And so it takes 3 hours — less than dinner and a movie — to fully recharge a depleted Fit EV using a standard 240-volt charger. A 7-hour commitment is needed to fill an empty Leaf at the same charging station.
Similar battery technology is found in the 2012 Focus Electric, which can also charge at 6.6 kW. But 372 pounds more Ford leads to a larger 23 kWh battery and 4 hours of 240-volt charge time.
Recharging on 120 volts is less impressive because the typical home garage circuit is the limiting factor. Still, 15 hours is far better than the 21 hours it takes to refill an empty Leaf — different enough to make the need for a 240-volt home charger far less certain.
Significant alterations were needed to slip a battery pack underneath the middle of a Fit. The driver still sits in the same spot, but a recontoured floor positions rear occupants 1.4 inches higher and 3.3 inches farther back. Rear headroom is down, but 37.3 inches of the stuff still feels like a goodly amount. However, fans of the Fit's magic seat will be saddened to learn that it did not survive the reconstructive surgery.
Still more room was needed to keep the battery case from dragging on speed bumps, so the entire body was raised 1.6 inches on its suspension. Taller springs and a new aluminum subframe do the trick up front, but the battery intrudes into space claimed by the Fit's standard-issue twist-beam rear axle. Oh, and there are 675 more pounds to cart around.
As a result, the Honda Fit EV has sprouted a far more sophisticated multilink rear suspension.
The end result is a Fit EV that rides with significantly more smoothness — and quietness — on the broken concrete surfaces and jointed freeways we're driving today. We're talking Accord levels of refinement here.
And the Fit EV is stable when barreling into corners, too, thanks to revised spring and roll stiffness tuning to handle the extra mass. Helping greatly in this regard is a center of gravity that is actually lower because much of the added weight sits below floor level.
Access to cargo is still good despite the raised body; 25.4 inches of liftover height is still an enviable number. But the rear-shifted seat shrinks rear cargo space from 20.6 to 12 cubic feet. There are 49.4 cubic feet available with the new 60/40 seat folded, but the load floor is no longer flat.
Rear doors that open 80 degrees are still present and they're even more appreciated with the new rear-set seat. The height-adjustable front seat and telescoping wheel still accommodate a wide range of drivers.
A navigation system and back-up camera are standard (there are zero options), and the instrument panel has been reconfigured to provide various types of coaching feedback to help get the most out of each kilowatt-hour of electricity.
A remote on the key fob can initiate a charge, check charge progress, verify cabin temperature and turn on the air-conditioning from 100 feet away. The available HondaLink EV smartphone app does all that and more. It can display available driving range, program an overnight charging session to catch low overnight rates or search for EV charging stations along a route.
The 2013 Honda Fit EV looks class-leading on paper and performs well in person, but that just makes its lease-only status all the more perplexing, even if $389 per month for 36 months seems like a competitive deal. A bit more digging reveals a couple of potential reasons.
Honda says that if it sold the Fit EV it would have to charge $37,415 for it — $2,580 less than a Focus Electric but $1,365 more than a Nissan Leaf. Put it that way and it seems like a ton of dough for a Fit near the end of its life cycle.
As a lease-only proposition with no buyout, Honda's Fit EV battery warranty lasts for "the duration of the lease of the vehicle," which is 3 years or 36,000 miles. Makers of for-sale EVs have to stand behind their batteries far longer, so in theory they can't push them to the max. One wonders if an 8-year/100,000-mile Fit EV battery would perform as well. It seems so, but outside of Honda there's no way of knowing.
Still, if a 3-year lease sounds good to you and you happen to live in one of the designated areas, the 2013 Honda Fit EV is a solid electrified choice. It rides, it handles, it charges quickly and it goes farther on less juice than any of its rivals. Interested? Find out more at Honda's official Fit EV Web site.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2013 Honda Fit EV Hatchback Overview
The Used 2013 Honda Fit EV Hatchback is offered in the following styles: 4dr Hatchback (electric DD).
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Should I lease or buy a 2013 Honda Fit EV?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.