For audio sources, the stereo lets you choose from radio, CD, or auxiliary input using a nicely designed set of buttons radiating around the volume knob. The single-CD player can handle MP3 and WMA tracks, and will show artist, album, and song name from the track's tags. The auxiliary input is placed at the front of the console, with a convenient compartment for your MP3 player, but it is a long reach down to program in music. There is no iPod-integration option or satellite radio.
We found it most deplorable that this audio system is not aftermarket friendly. The face plate and control arrangement doesn't conform to a standard single or double DIN-sized opening. If you want to upgrade the Fit with one of the many stereos offering advanced tech features, such as Bluetooth or navigation, you will need to get a special kit with a replacement cover for the stack. For a car in this price range, Honda should have made the stereo more easily swappable.
Under the hood
On its face, the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine sounds like a good idea for a city and suburban car. An engine of this size should offer excellent mileage and low emissions, but the Honda Fit falls a little short. Its EPA numbers are 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, exactly the same as the 1.8-liter Nissan Versa. Likewise, the Fit's emissions rating is LEV II, the minimum required for California and the other states that follow California Air Resources Board standards. We would expect better from such a small engine.
The 109 horsepower from this engine doesn't move the car very fast. During our acceleration testing, it moved well to about 35 mph, but above that it crawled. Similarly, we found its passing acceleration lacking, as we couldn't get much oomph out of it when we were already traveling at 55 mph.
We noted that our car had paddle shifters for manual gear selection. This feature is an attribute of the Sport model, and pretty much unnecessary. First, they are mounted on the steering wheel, making them useless when you turn the wheel. And although they do let you hold gears pretty close to redline, the engine just isn't powerful enough to justify them. We weren't all that impressed with the transmission. It only has five speeds. Beyond normal Drive mode and manual gear selection, it also has a Sport mode, which only seems to lock out fourth and fifth gears, without affecting the shift points.
The steering in the Fit seemed responsive, letting us maneuver in traffic easily, but the height of the car made it feel top-heavy. We also expected a better turning radius because of the size of the car, yet on a few wide, suburban streets, we had to make a three-point turn where we thought we could get away with a U-turn.
We tested a 2008 Honda Fit Sport with the automatic transmission option, which comes in at $16,070. Honda offers a few accessories, but no significant options. You can get the five-speed manual version for $15,270, and the non-Sport, base level Fit with manual transmission for $13,950.
Although we recognize that cars in this segment don't offer much tech, the Fit was more devoid than most. We weren't impressed with the lack of cabin tech or the quality of what was present. Likewise, the powertrain tech doesn't offer much. If we're getting a small engine with low power, we at least want to brag about its environmental merits, but the Fit doesn't make up for its weaknesses with any real strengths. We do like the design, and give it points for the amount of interior space, the usability of its stereo, and the nice exterior look.