Test Drive: 2016 Honda Fit

The Honda Fit’s unique take on compact car styling, functionality and packaging hits you square in the face before you take your seat within its cheerful little body. The doors opens ultra-wide, and a massive aperture presents itself with room galore around the seat, which sits low in the cabin, with room to spare in every direction around it. The floor is surprisingly low in the Fit’s body, enhancing the door opening size, which itself also stretches high above the seat. And the door, and the sill into which it closes, are both relatively thin – again taking up less room and leaving more space for getting in and getting out.

Here’s a compact car that’s tremendously easy to see out of, easy to position, and one that makes it easy to keep aware of your surroundings.

So, from the very process of boarding the Fit with space galore, and hardly any need for even very tall passengers to duck, it feels a bit different for a compact car. Strange. Foreign. Like the stuff they play on the CBC at 4am.

From the driver’s seat, there’s more uniqueness related to the driving position on account of Honda’s interior packaging wizardry. Headroom is abundant, even for occupants well north of 6 feet tall. You sit up close to the Fit’s front, surrounded by tall glass, for great outward visibility. Here’s a compact car that’s tremendously easy to see out of, easy to position, and one that makes it easy to keep aware of your surroundings.

Add in the tight turning circle, and the Fit is a bit of a parking-lot sniper-attack ninja: ready to suddenly pounce into any space it likes. Sorry, Camry-lady! This space is mine! The wide-angle, high-definition back-up camera helps making reversing into or out of a space easy, too.

Honda’s clever design and interior packaging does even more for the Fit’s rear quarters – the flexibility and size of which arguably comprise one of the most compelling parts of the car. The cargo floor is low, and since the back half of the Fit is shaped like a box, every inch of the stretched-to-the-edges cargo hold is usable. Even taller items will fit with ease, and the seatbacks fold down, full-flat, lickety split. There’s room in abundance for a weekend worth of camping gear, a full load from Costco, or a trip to my favorite place in the whole wide universe, Ikea.

With rear seats folded down, you get a flat, wide open space like a miniature cargo van. One could sleep in back on a camping trip if one really wanted, because who likes setting up tents, dealing with dew, and encountering morning tent spiders?

The rear seat floor, just like up front, and in the cargo area, is low. This translates into very easy access and loading of gear, passengers of all sizes and ages and mobility levels, canines of virtually any size, and the like. An elderly dog or clumsy puppy can simply walk into the rear seat floor area with no step up, and mobility-challenged passengers will appreciate the wide door opening and low step-in height. There’s no rear-seat floor hump either, so foot space is maximized.

But Fit’s best trick is perhaps its ability to flip the rear seat bottoms up, which creates a lounge space for a canine or two, room for a bike, a flat-screen TV, a small piece of furniture, and the like. In all, here’s a machine that packs big space into a small package, and the flexibility to handle just about anything you toss its way, or toss inside. Compact cars don’t get any handier.

Up front, drivers are greeted by numerous at-hand storage cubbies, including a console bin, a covered centre console, and door-mounted pockets. Proper cupholders and numerous charge points and media hookups are nearby. The tested top-dog EX-L model got a low-resolution but effective-once-learned touchscreen navigation, communication and entertainment interface, as well as upscale features like a sunroof, heated leather, push-button start, and automatic climate control. Notably, Fit’s dash is clean, tidy, and largely free of buttons and knobs, instead using touch-tap surfaces and screens that lend themselves to a high-tech feel. None of the touchpad controls work if you’re wearing gloves though, a bummer if it’s cold.

Finally, though most interior plastics and materials won’t blow anyone’s trousers off, some stitching, layering and contrast gives the cabin a look that’s a bit on the rich and upscale side.

A 1.5L four-cylinder drives the front wheels of every Fit. The powerplant utilizes VTEC and is direct injected, for optimal power and mileage in all conditions. Output falls at a generous-for-its-displacement 130 hp, and as Honda engines do, this one likes to rev, posting a redline of nearly 7,000 rpm. The little powerplant performs well and sips fuel: measured-by-hand mileage on my watch landed at just 8.5 L/100 km, and that’s in the dead of winter, often at 30 below, and through two heavy snowfalls.

That’s the good news.

Thing is, though the engine is adequately quiet and smooth when driven gently, it’s louder than expected if pushed even slightly, and the sound you hear isn’t particularly pleasing. I’ll note, as a former long-time owner of an earlier Honda Fit (nicknamed Bubbles), that despite the far lower power output, earlier models had a more refined and pleasing-sounding engine. Not that anyone buys a Fit for experience of the pinnacle of engine refinement, but it’s worth a mention.

Transmission choices include a six-speed stick or a Continually Variable Transmission (CVT), the tester packing the latter. It works like an automatic, but without pre-set gears, it’s smoother, easier on fuel, and helps maximize performance, since it doesn’t need to pause to shift. Power is delivered on a smooth and endless, (albeit fairly noisy) wave when called upon, and driven gently, the CVT helps the Fit move along nicely with minimal throttle input and steady revs. With the added power of the new engine, and this slick CVT transmission maximizing it, there’s a definite performance advantage.

Ride quality falls largely at the mercy of the surface passing beneath – rough in-town roads complete with a vast array of potholes coax plenty of noise and some harshness from beneath the Fit, though smoother roads and highways see a ride that’s sporty, taut and comfortable overall.

In all, Fit excels as a city runabout with tremendous space and flexibility for its size, though it does fall a little short as a long-haul highway cruiser. After two separate road trips approaching five hours each, your writer found himself wishing for a quieter ride, as wind noise by 100 km/h begins slathering the cabin. Thank all that glass. Further, in situations like a highway hill climb at speed or passing maneuver, the underhood hum from the engine battles the wind noise for your attention. Finally, though Fit largely sips away at fuel in all conditions, the smallish fuel tank means that refueling stops may be more frequent than expected. Not long into a drive, you’ll wish for an armrest too, especially if you have arms, which, probably, you do.

Other notes? Even on snow and ice, handling feels stable and predictable, and both low and high-beam performance after dark are above-average for the segment in terms of reach and brightness of the forward illumination. Don’t attempt to back out through a deep snow-plow hump at the end of your driveway though – throttle management in reverse gear is frustratingly aggressive, and in reverse, virtually no wheelspin is allowed, traction control off, or otherwise.

Ultimately, shoppers coming out of a previous Fit or looking to downsize out of a larger model can expect the 2016 Fit to deliver a virtually unbeatable combination of space, utility, flexibility and mileage at its price. If those attributes are on your wish-list, the generous highway noise levels and smallish fuel tank should prove to be small compromises.

Warranty:
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Chevrolet Spark
Fiat 500
Ford Fiesta
Hyundai Accent
Kia Rio 5-Door
Mazda 2
Nissan Micra
Nissan Versa Note
Toyota Yaris Hatchback

2016 Honda Fit EX-L Navi
2016 Honda Fit EX-L Navi
Base Price $22,830
Optional Equipment None
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,695
Price as Tested $24,625
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.6
6 Exterior Styling
8 Performance
10 Interior
6 Comfort
8 Fuel Economy