Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge
Competitors
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Chevrolet Aveo5
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Kia Rio5
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Hyundai Accent hatchback
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Nissan Versa
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Pontiac Wave
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Suzuki +
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Toyota Yaris

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2008 Honda Fit

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Honda Canada was miffed last year when the subcompact Fit didn’t qualify for the Canadian government’s $1,000 ecoAUTO rebate for fuel efficient vehicles while its arch competitor, the Toyota Yaris hatchback, did. The problem was that the Fit equipped with standard side and curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes didn’t meet the required combined fuel consumption rating of 6.5 L/100 km (43.5 m.p.g.), while the lighter Yaris hatchback, with no standard side and curtain airbags and no ABS, did meet the standard. Honda felt that they were, in a sense, being penalized for providing important standard safety features.

Well, for 2008, Honda’s engineers managed to squeeze a little extra fuel economy out of the Fit equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission without having to remove the airbags or ABS, and it now qualifies for the $1,000 ecoAUTO rebate. It now averages 6.4 L/100 km (44.1 m.p.g.), just under the 6.5 L cutoff. Unfortunately, the Fit with the optional five-speed automatic transmission does not qualify as its combined fuel consumption is 6.7 L/100 km (42.2 m.p.g.).

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

The Fit was first introduced in 2001 in Japan, but due to safety compliance complications and marketing issues, it didn’t arrive in Canada until April, 2006 as a 2007 model. Later that same year, it was awarded the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s “Best New Small Car Under $18,000″, and placed second overall in the 2007 Canadian Car of the Year competition.

Compared to the half dozen or so other subcompact hatchbacks on the market, the primary appeal of the Fit is its incredibly clever seating and cargo arrangements and its surprisingly roomy cabin – in fact, the Fit’s cabin is only slightly smaller than a Civic sedan, and the Fit has more cargo space. While the comparably-priced Nissan Versa hatchback is roomier than the Fit, it’s also a larger vehicle, and not quite as nimble, manoeuvrable or ‘parkable’ as the Fit.

The Honda Fit is also, arguably, the most fun-to-drive of all the little hatches, and though not exactly a powerhouse, is quite a sporty machine.

Pricing and standard equipment

The base price of the 2008 Honda Fit DX remains the same as last year, $14,980, while the mid-level LX has gone up by $200 to $17,380, and the top-of-the-line Sport has gone up by $100 to $19,580. Various options can bring the price of a loaded Fit into the mid $20,000 range.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

Unlike the Yaris, which is available as a two- and four-door hatchback and a four-door sedan, the Fit is offered only as a four-door hatchback. For its base price of just under $15,000, the Fit DX features a 109-hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, electric power steering, 14-inch all-season tires, front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS; dual front, dual side and dual curtain airbags; 160-watt AM/FM/single CD stereo with auxiliary jack and two speakers; tachometer, tilt steering wheel, power windows with auto driver’s down feature, two-speed intermittent wipers, split 60/40 rear folding seatbacks and “Magic Seat”, flat reclining front seats, 12-volt power outlet, rear defroster, and rear wiper and washer.

One item that’s missing from the standard equipment list is a cargo privacy cover – it’s part of a $248 option package on DX and LX models. As well an engine block heater costs an extra $170.

The Fit LX, at $17,380, adds air conditioning, power mirrors, power door locks (optional keyless remote), cruise control with illuminated buttons on the steering wheel, and an extra couple of stereo speakers.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

The Fit Sport adds beefier 15-inch tires and alloy wheels, a rear roof spoiler, front and side body kit, fog lights, keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel, security system, and 200-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, equalizer, MP3/Windows Media audio playback capability and auxiliary input jack.

A five-speed automatic transmission is optional ($1,200) on the DX and LX models, and on Sport models, adds steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters ($1,300). Some features are not available in the Fit, including a sunroof, Bluetooth hands-free phone, premium audio system, and electronic stability control.

For driving enthusiasts, manual transmission cars can be equipped with a $2,652 “Car Buff” package which includes 16-inch alloy wheels (but no tires), sport front grille, sport muffler, special shift knob, and unique silver interior trim. There are other appearance packages as well.

My test car was a Fit LX with the standard manual transmission. With a $1,295 Freight charge and $100 A/C tax, the as-tested price of my test car came to $18,775.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge
Interior impressions

With its tall roof, upright sides, big doors, and raised seats, the Fit is easy to get in and out of for both front and rear occupants, and once inside offers plenty of headroom for four adult passengers. The middle rear seat is confined by the Fit’s narrow body width, but there is a three-point seatbelt and head restraint for the centre rear passenger should you need to squeeze someone in.

The driver’s door can be unlocked with one turn of the key, while all the other doors and the trunk unlock with two turns, a nice security feature (a remote unlocking fob is available). Once inside, the driver sits tall in an upright seat which is very comfortable and supportive. The driver’s outward visibility is excellent, even though the driver’s seat is not height adjustable. Notable are the small triangular side windows near the windshield, the third side windows at the rear, and a large rear window with a defroster, wiper and washer.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

For an economy car, the quality of the dashboard plastics, faux silver trim, and two-tone seating materials is excellent. The Fit’s round instruments are backlit in an attractive blue and white colour and the small steering wheel is easy to grip – the tilt steering wheel has cruise buttons on the right spoke. In the centre stack, the radio display features large white numerals on a blue background and the dash projects outwards so it’s easy to reach. The large dials and buttons for the radio and heater are straightforward.

Front occupants have plenty of footroom up front but unfortunately there’s no driver’s dead pedal; my car had durable, black rubber floor mats which are waterproof and washable. On the front passenger side floor, there is a bulge which can interfere with the passenger’s feet: it’s there because the Fit’s fuel tank was moved under the seats in order to lower the rear cargo floor.

The lower centre console has some useful open storage compartments – a small box with a 12-volt outlet and auxiliary jack just ahead of two cupholders with handle slots. There’s also a slot beside the centre handbrake, a small bin behind the handbrake, a cupholder at the rear of the centre console, and bottle holders in the doors. On the dashboard to the left of the driver is an open storage bin for coins or garage door openers, and in front of the passenger is a slot for pens or coins. But aside from the glovebox, there are no covered storage areas. And since a rear privacy cover is optional, items in the trunk can be seen from the outside without it.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

The Fit’s so-called “Magic Seats” can be folded in one of four different ways: in the ‘Utility Mode’, the articulating 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks can be folded down flat to create a loading floor up to 168 cm (66 in.) long with 1186 litres (41.9 cu. ft.) of cargo space. By moving the front seats forwards a bit using a special lever on top the front seats, the rear seats can be folded flat without removing the rear head restraints.

In the ‘Tall Object mode’, objects up to 128 cm (50 in.) tall, such as bicycles, can be stored vertically behind the front seats. Simply pull up the rear seat cushions against the seat cushion to lock them in place. I didn’t try it, but I think you could get two bicycles in there.

In the ‘Long Object mode’, the right front seat can be folded flat. Combined with the right rear seatback folded flat, the Fit offers a load length of 240 cm (94.5 in.) on one side of the interior.

The ‘Refresh’ mode allows the right rear passenger to ‘put their feet up’. After removing the right front head restraint, the front passenger seatback is folded back 90 degrees, allowing the rear passenger to put their feet up and relax. This could be useful when taking a nap at a rest stop.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX; rear seats in “tall object mode.” Click image to enlarge

With the rear seats up, the cargo area behind them is still a generous 603 litres (21.3 cu. ft.), more than twice the capacity of the Yaris hatchback, and bigger than most of its competitors. The cargo floor and seatbacks is lined with carpet but the cargo walls are made of hard plastic which could be scratched. As I mentioned, a cargo cover is not standard equipment.

The Fit’s standard safety features are impressive for a car that starts under $15,000: dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags; front side airbags with passenger-side occupant position detection system; side curtain airbags, five head restraints, five three-point safety belts, childproof rear door locks, and Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) for child seats. In a small car like this, side and curtain airbags in particular, have been shown to offer increased protection in side impacts.

However, while the NHTSA gave the Fit five stars for the driver and front passenger in frontal crash tests, and five stars for the front passenger in side crash tests, the rear seat passenger got only three stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Fit a “Good” rating in frontal and side crash tests, but a “Poor” rating in rear crash tests. See www.safercar.gov, www.hwysafety.org for more details.

Driving impressions

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

The Fit’s 1.5-litre, 16-valve, SOHC, four-cylinder with VTEC variable valve timing puts out 109 horsepower at 5800 r.p.m. and 105 lb-ft of torque at 4800 r.p.m. Though it’s not a powerful car, the Fit LX weighs only 1108 kg (2442 lbs), and its 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.4 seconds is comparable with the Yaris hatchback and better than most of its competitors, according to independent acceleration tests conducted by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (www.ajac.ca)

The engine can be a bit noisy at high revs, but cruising down the freeway at 100 km/h in fifth gear, the engine turns over a fairly relaxed 2,500 r.p.m. and becomes a distant buzz.

Official fuel consumption figures are 7.1 L/100 km City; 5.7 L/100 km Highway but unfortunately my attempts to calculate my own fuel consumption were frustrated by an optimistic fuel gauge. Though the tank read “Full” when I picked it up, it had already been driven an unknown number of kilometres – the fuel gauge needle continued to show “Full” for another 40 kilometres before it moved. I don’t know if this is a problem with other Fits.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

The standard five-speed manual transmission has an easy-to-reach shift lever, short, easy throws and clutch pedal effort is light. However, I noticed some clutch chatter when engaging the clutch at low revs in first gear.

The Fit’s electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering (EPS) is one of the best things about the Fit – it’s light, quick, accurate and fun. However, the Fit’s 10.5 metre (34.4 ft.) turning diameter is a bit wide for a car with a 2450 mm (96.4 in.) wheelbase. The Yaris hatchback’s turning diameter, for example, is 9.4 metres (30.8 ft.).

Perhaps the most irritating thing about the Fit DX and LX are its skinny P175/65R14-inch tires, in my case Dunlop SP 37 all-seasons. When cornering, the Fit feels “undertired” with not enough rubber gripping the road – plus, they look really small on the car. Unfortunately, the P195/55R15-inch tires that are standard on the Sport model are not offered as options on the LX.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda Fit five speed manual car test drives honda
2008 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

The Fit’s standard front disc/rear drum brakes with anti-lock and electronic brake force distribution provide plenty of stopping power: AJAC braking tests show a 100 km/h to zero distance of 43.5 metres (143 ft.) just slightly more than the Yaris.

As I mentioned, visibility is very good but I should point out that the rear wiper doesn’t have an intermittent wipe setting, so the wiper needs to be turned on and off in light rain or snow.

Verdict

Fun-to-drive with great fuel economy and a roomy, cleverly-designed cabin and cargo area, the Honda Fit is one of the more enjoyable small cars on the market.

Pricing: 2008 Honda Fit LX
  • Base price: $17,380
  • Options: none
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $ 1,295
  • Price as tested: $18,775
    Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
    Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Honda Fit
    Related Articles on Autos
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  • CarTalkCanada First Drive: 2007 Honda Fit, by James Bergeron
  • Test Drive: 2007 Honda Fit Sport, by Greg Wilson
  • Test Drive: 2007 Honda Fit LX automatic, by Greg Wilson
  • CarTalkCanada Review: 2007 Honda Fit LX, by James Bergeron
    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Chevrolet Aveo5
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Kia Rio5
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Hyundai Accent hatchback
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Nissan Versa
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Pontiac Wave
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Suzuki +
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Toyota Yaris
    Manufacturer’s web site
  • Honda Canada
    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)



  • About Greg Wilson

    Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).