Since its introduction to the U.S. market in 2007, the Honda Fit has endeared itself to small car lovers with its economical engine and flexible interior. The car received an update for 2009, gaining size and an optional navigation system. Those updates came just in time, as the 2010 Honda Fit has more competition to deal with. The Scion xB has always been an option in the sub-$20,000 market, but upstarts such as the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube are dividing up the pie further. The Kia Soul in particular has the advantage of being a completely new car, yet the 2010 Fit still holds its own, offering a few compelling arguments in its favor.
Not quite funky
The 2010 Honda Fit's appearance is a good approximation of its overall character--it's different without being idiosyncratic, accurately preparing you for what's inside. With only minor tweaks, such as a rounder snout and some side body crease lines, the styling has become aggressive where the previous generation was awkward, and the longer wheelbase wears the updated skin well.
The Sport trim level adds rocker moldings, front and rear lower body bits, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a roof spoiler that accentuates the Fit's squat, forward-leaning stance. The result is much less polarizing than the quirky-or-die Scion xB or the aforementioned Cube and Soul, and Honda's reputation for no-nonsense quality is well conveyed.
Inside, austerity is the watchword. Seat cushions are firm and feel as though they'll last. Plastics are generally hard but don't look cheap. As in the interiors of other Hondas we've seen, useful, simple touches speak to thoughtful design.
The carrying capacity of the Fit seems like more than should be available in this small car.
Honda's Magic Seat in the back is quite appreciated, although we witnessed no actual sorcery while effortlessly folding it into its various configurations: split 60/40, full and truly flat, or with the seat bottoms folded up to accommodate the odd floor lamp or Ficus. With the rear seats in people-holding mode, there's still over 20 cubic feet of space accessible through the rear hatch.
There's a narrow plastic cubby under the left rear seat for stashing a small laptop or other flattish valuables out of sight and an excessive 10 cup holders scattered throughout the cabin, two per possible passenger. A driver's seat fold-down armrest, part of the Sport trim, is very welcome given the lack of any center console. Covered storage consists of a split upper and lower glovebox.
Cabin tech in the Fit consists of a combined audio-navigation system, a welcome option as not many cars in this price range offer navigation. However, this system is very dated, still DVD-based and with blocky fonts and shapes on its input screens and maps. Saving graces are the extensive POI entries, and a useful voice control system, but we look forward to an update based on a hard drive system that can pull in traffic data.
Voice command is one of the few advanced features on this navigation system.
The sound comes from six speakers with 160 watts behind them, which neither impresses nor disappoints. A single CD slot resides behind the tilt-down 6.5-inch touch screen, along with a PC card slot, a legacy that points to this system's age more than anything. MP3 and WMA discs will play, although we only saw track information displayed for our MP3s. There's a standard auxiliary audio input on the lower dash, and the upper glovebox contains a USB input that handles iPods and thumb drives, displaying track info for both on the LCD.
The most glaring omission on the Fit's tech option list is a factory-integrated Bluetooth phone setup. It is offered as a $400-plus dealer-installed option, not including the actual dealer installation. But especially in states where non-hands-free phone use is illegal, Bluetooth should really be available as a reasonably priced a la carte option. Other Hondas integrate Bluetooth smoothly into the voice-nav-audio continuum and we'd complain a lot less about the system's age in the Fit if Bluetooth were part of it.
Not quite fast
OK, the Fit's not even close to fast, but that doesn't mean you can't have some fun behind the wheel. One choice that goes a long way in this regard is that of the base, manual, five-speed transmission. We praised this transmission in the 2009 Honda Fit we tested for its smooth-shifting style. Our 2010 example was optioned up to the five-speed automatic, which takes a level of engagement out of the driving and drops the fun level down a notch. The run from rest to 60 mph takes an extra two seconds with the automatic and the presence of paddle shifters with this transmission seems like a cruel joke.
Paddle shifters come with the Sport trim when also equipped with the automatic transmission.
We have to digress briefly and note that if one wants the more-fun-to-drive Fit, the one with the five-speed manual, then one must sacrifice the more-fun-inside Fit, with navigation and touch- screen. And don't get us started on the stability and traction control system only being included with the navigation system, and therefore the auto tranny.
A USB input is thankfully available on the non-navi Sport, but that's the only concession to combined tech and driving. Making this Hobson's choice worse, if you want to upgrade your stick-shifting car's audio system with nav and Bluetooth, you're going to need a new center dash panel to accommodate an aftermarket single- or double-DIN head unit. OK, we feel a little better just having talked it out.
Even with the slushbox's sluggish efforts off the line, our Fit Sport tackled the urban landscape with some aplomb, at least while the pavement played nice. Over rougher surfaces, the Fit can skitter and clunk at times, but not nearly to the extent of the less stiff first-generation model. Turn-in with the unobtrusive electric power steering was very confidence-inspiring, to the extent that for slower turns with no one around, we just stopped using the relatively weak brakes at all and scrubbed our way through.
At 1.5 liters, the Fit's engine could only be described as scrawny.
The engine hasn't grown from 1.5 liters since the Fit's introduction, but the second generation mill made welcome the somewhat nominal horsepower and torque gains, up to 117 and 106 respectively, while also upping its eco-status with an emission-ratings bump from LEV II to ULEV II. The EPA rates the fuel consumption at 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. During this test, the onboard gauge hovered in the 30-31 mpg range. Honda has said that a hybrid Fit is now in the works, to be available by late 2010, hopefully with some new in-dash hardware to complement the tech-forward drivetrain.
While we are impressed that Honda makes navigation available in the 2010 Honda Fit, the quality of the system suggests forgoing the option and relying on a portable navigation device. The lack of a phone system means you will have to bring in your own Bluetooth earpiece or speakerphone. iPod integration is the real high point of the Fit's cabin tech. As for the power train, Honda's i-VTEC valve control makes the tiny 1.5-liter engine usable on U.S. roads, but otherwise it is fairly unremarkable, as are the transmission choices. But electric power steering is a nice feature of the running gear. The versatile design of the Fit is its real selling point, as you can load it with a surprising amount of gear.
|Model||2010 Honda Fit|
|Trim||Sport with Navigation|
|Powe rtrain||1.5-liter four cylinder engine|
|EPA fuel economy||27 mpg city/33 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||31 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||None|
|Disc player||Single CD with MP3/WMA compatibility|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||6 speaker, 160 watts|
|Price as tested||$19,820|