The 2009 Honda Fit seems to be the right car at the right time. When the Fit first appeared in the U.S. midway through 2006, even Honda seemed unsure just how many examples could be sold in America, envisioning it more as a cool rival to the Scion xA than the super fuel-efficient people mover that had become a sales phenomenon as the Honda Jazz in Europe. But from the first, this small, frugal wagonette found an audience in America and Honda found itself ratcheting up the number of boats bringing the Fit across the water from Japan.
Soon after, Edmunds.com bought a 2007 Honda Fit Sport for a long-term road test. We loved it, but also thought the small car wasn't quite up to the demands of drivers built to the corn-fed scale of Americans. As our Dan Edmunds noted in the road test logbook: "When your knee whams the back of the steering wheel every time you let the clutch out, you tend to have a hard time liking a car. I feel like a praying mantis in this thing. A telescopic steering wheel is an absolute must."
Fortunately, Honda heard his plea. The 2009 Honda Fit Sport not only has a telescoping steering wheel, it also has a personality that suits our country of big spaces and wide-open roads. The 2009 Honda Fit Sport might look familiar, but this Fit is all-new, a car that has been designed from the ground up with American tastes in mind. Being Americans, we decided to call Honda's bluff, so a 2009 Honda Fit Sport has joined our long-term fleet. Let's see if it really is more 'Merican.
What We Bought
As is customary with Honda, there are no options as such for the 2009 Honda Fit. Instead the options are bundled together and sold as trim levels. The 2009 Fit lineup is comprised of the Fit, Fit Sport and Fit Sport with Navigation.
Central to the revised Fit is an upgraded 1.5-liter inline-4 that produces 117 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque compared to the 109 hp and 105 lb-ft for the previous-generation Fit. The new power comes at the price of a slight decrease in fuel economy, as it records an EPA-estimated 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, a 1 mpg loss compared to the previous car, which was also 63 pounds lighter.
Transmission options have not changed, as a five-speed automatic is available (with shift paddles on the Sport model) and a five-speed manual is standard.
What separates the 2009 Honda Fit and Fit Sport starts at the ground and works up. Wheels on the 2009 Fit Sport are 16s wrapped with 185/55R16 all-season Bridgestone Turanza EL470 tires. Non-Sport models are equipped with 15-inch wheels and skinnier tires. This represents a full 1-inch increase in diameter across the board from the prior Fit, making it more American both in appearance and in on-ramp cornering grip. The Fit Sport also benefits from a 17mm rear stabilizer bar to reduce understeer for livelier handling, while the base Fit predictably makes due without one at all. The Sport also has a kit of bodywork trim, foglights and a chrome exhaust tip.
Mechanically and visually, the Sport might not seem to add up to anything special, but there are a host of convenience and comfort features available on the Sport that tip the scale in its favor. The features include a security system with remote entry, power door locks, cruise control, map lights, a six-speaker stereo system with USB audio interface and an armrest. The Fit Sport also includes a steering wheel from the current Honda Civic, which includes stereo controls and a leather-wrapped rim.
Like the first generation, the new Fit has a "Magic Seat" feature that allows the rear seat to be configured in numerous ways. The seat can be folded flat with just the touch of a lever. The rear seat cushion also flips up to allow the Fit to accommodate tall cargo.
We chose the 2009 Honda Fit Sport with Navigation. Navigation is an option that is getting more common by the day but is still a treat in a sub-$20,000 car. When navigation is applied to a Fit Sport, stability control (Vehicle Stability Assist) and traction control are also added. It seems an odd pairing at first, but the reasoning is sound.
Why We Bought It
The 2009 Honda Fit Sport's iPod adapter, navigation system and stability control make it apparent that Honda has learned from the transition the first-generation Fit made when jumping across the pond, as this one has been designed to appease U.S. drivers.
What might not be as obvious are the demographics of Fit buyers. Take a look at the 2009 Fit's seat bottom (sounds thrilling, doesn't it?). It will look strangely familiar to those who have spent a lot of time in the Honda Accord because it is from the Honda Accord.
The Accord's seat bottom is wider and longer and thus more comfortable for larger and older drivers. Honda discovered that Fit buyers — much like a large percentage of Scion buyers — were not the kids looking for a cheap ride, even though this had been the target audience. Instead, Fit buyers have been older drivers who were trading down to something smaller, easier, greener and cheaper. These buyers expect more than a tin can that gets 30 mpg, and Honda's finally giving them what they wanted the first go-round.
In our full test of the 2009 Honda Fit Sport, Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton praises the '09 Fit for its "broader torque plateau; improved driving position for taller drivers; better ride quality." He concluded, "If only every sequel were so good. It's as if Honda used our long-term test blog about the 2007 Fit as a road map for the 2009 model's improvements."
It's check time again, Honda. Is the '09 just going to serve as a beta platform for the 2012 Fit, or will this prove as thoroughly engineered for the American road as we hope?
Follow along for the 12-month, 20,000-mile ride on our long-term road test blog.
Current Odometer: 1,052
Best Fuel Economy: 34.2 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 33.5 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 33.8 mpg
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.