2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Honda Fit, by Greg Wilson

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2009 Honda Fit

North Vancouver, British Columbia – If there was an award for the “Cleverest car of 2009”, it would probably go to the redesigned 2009 Honda Fit. Not that the previous Fit wasn’t clever; it’s just that the 2009 Fit is, well, even cleverer.

For one thing, you can’t help but admire the way the Fit’s rear “Magic Seats” fold down in one motion to form a flat loading floor and create the roomiest cargo area (1622 litres/57.3 cu. ft.) of any subcompact, or even compact hatchback on the market. Nor can you help but be impressed by the rear seat cushions that fold up against the rear seatbacks providing an uncommonly tall space (1290 mm/51 in.) for objects like bikes, plants, tables, etc. that normally wouldn’t fit inside a subcompact.

2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

And when you lift the lightweight hatch and see how big the cargo opening is and how low the cargo floor loading height is – just two feet (61 cm) – you have to acknowledge Honda’s clever idea of putting the fuel tank under the front seats instead of under the cargo floor.

Lastly, with the right front seatback folded flat, you’ll be impressed that the tiny Fit will carry a 236-cm/7’9″ surfboard plus the driver and two passengers with the hatch closed.

It really is amazing that there is so much room in such a small car: with a length of 4105 mm, a width of 1695 mm, and height of 1525 mm, the Fit is smaller (but taller) than a Honda Civic yet has more combined passenger and cargo space.

The Fit’s design is clear evidence of why Japanese automakers are doing so well in North America.

Bailout? Who needs it?

Changes for 2009

Improvements to the 2009 Fit are mostly designed to address needed upgrades to the previous model, which was first introduced in Japan way back in 2001.

In particular, the 2009 Fit’s crashworthiness and pedestrian protection has been vastly improved. The new longer nose is designed to absorb more impact forces and accommodate collisions with different sized vehicles, as well as reduce injuries to pedestrians who may be thrown over the hood.

2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

The Fit’s re-engineered 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine provides a little more power across the rev band without sacrificing fuel economy. A new two-stage i-VTEC system varies intake valve timing and lift between low- and high-speed settings resulting in more power and torque: the 1.5-litre SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine now makes 117 hp at 6,600 r.p.m. (up 8 hp) and 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 r.p.m. (up 1 lb-ft).

As well, the standard five-speed manual transmission has a shorter shift stroke and lower gear ratios for better acceleration, while the optional five-speed automatic’s torque converter now locks up at lower vehicle speeds to improve fuel economy.

Current Energuide City/highway fuel consumption ratings are 7.2/5.7 L/100 km with the manual transmission and 7.1/5.5 L/100 km with the automatic – about the same as last year.

With a wheelbase that’s 50 mm (2.0 in) longer and a cabin that is 30 mm (1.2 in.) wider and 10 mm (0.4 in.) taller, the 2009 Fit is roomier than the previous model – occupants have more legroom, headroom and hiproom. As well, the rear doors now open wider (80 degrees) for easier entry.

New interior features include a redesigned instrument panel, larger front windshield and front quarter windows, improved seat comfort, driver’s seat folding armrest, driver’s footrest, active front head restraints to reduce whiplash, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, average and instant fuel consumption display, a new upper glove compartment on the passenger side, two new cupholders on the far left and right dash, one-motion folding rear seatbacks, and a storage bin under the rear passenger seat.

2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

Still, even with all these changes, the Fit’s basic concept and appeal hasn’t changed. You know it’s a Fit when you see it.

Pricing and equipment

Offered only in a four-door hatchback bodystyle, the 2009 Honda Fit is available in three trim levels: DX ($14,980), LX ($17,380) and Sport ($19,280). Prices haven’t changed from 2008, though the Sport is a bit cheaper.

Standard features on the Fit DX ($14,980) include five-speed manual transmission, electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers (up from 14-inch), 60/40 split second-row Magic Seats with flush head restraints, 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with two speakers and MP3/Windows Media audio playback capability, MP3/auxiliary input jack, two-speed intermittent windshield wipers, dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags, front side airbags with passenger-side occupant position detection system, side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, fuel consumption display, halogen headlights, power side mirrors, power windows with auto-up/down driver’s window, rear window defroster and wiper/washer, immobilizer, and tilt and telescopic steering column.

For the first time, the Base DX model is available with optional air conditioning. The Fit DX-A’s MSRP is $16,280.

The mid-level Fit LX ($17,380), this week’s test car, adds 15-inch alloy wheels, two extra speakers, air-filtration system, heated mirrors, rear roof spoiler, steering wheel-mounted cruise control, driver-side folding armrest, power door locks, and keyless remote.

The top-level Fit Sport ($19,280) adds 16-inch tires and alloys, chrome exhaust tip, 200-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers and five-mode equalizer, body-coloured underbody kit, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, security alarm, and USB audio jack.

2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge
Interior impressions

Though small, the Fit has a tall roof and big doors, so getting in and out is quite easy. The seats have high hip points with chair-like seating positions, but all four adult occupants still have lots of headroom and legroom. A middle rear passenger will feel squeezed though.

The new interior design takes some getting used to, but let me start with the good stuff first. I like the new front seats’ extra support, attractive design, and seat material quality – and the driver’s new folding armrest. In models with the manual transmission, this armrest can be folded up when changing gears, and folded down when cruising on the freeway. I also like the new small steering wheel which now tilts and telescopes, and the new driver’s footrest for the left foot.

Bright new gauges have illuminated blue pointers at 20 km/h intervals and a new digital information display with useful real-time fuel consumption and average fuel economy readouts.

The knobs for the heater are now arranged in a vertical curve closer to the driver’s right hand, with fan speed and temperature dials at the top and a larger ventilation dial at the bottom. Occasionally, I found myself looking around the steering wheel at the fan speed and temperature dials, but on the other hand, it’s now easy to adjust them without even looking at them. Increased heating and air conditioning capacity also means that the 2009 Fit warms up/cools down faster.

The Fit’s radio controls and buttons are now spaced wider apart with the large volume knob now in the middle rather than on the left side. With dash space at a premium, I’m not sure why the audio designers were so liberal with the real estate. In the mid-level Fit LX, the standard 160-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary jack includes four speakers and speed-sensitive volume.

I didn’t like the shiny plastic material used for the top of the dash. It looks cheaper than before, and can be scratched, as it was on my test car. The new longer dashtop is an invitation to place file folders and loose items while stopped, some of which might scratch it.

As well, the longer windscreen and longer dashtop leaves the driver feeling like they’re sitting way behind the windscreen – almost like they’re sitting in the rear seat. But you’ll have to judge for yourself.

The new Fit has more storage options – a new upper glovebox on the passenger side and new outboard cupholders on the dash – as well as a lower glovebox, large door pockets, an open bin on the lower centre console (with 12-volt powerpoint), and two cupholders behind the shift lever and one at the rear. It’s not quite as “storage-friendly” as the Yaris hatch, but it’s close.

As I mentioned, the Fit’s new rear 60/40 split “Magic seats” fold down in one motion by pulling up a lever without having to remove the rear head restraints (which now lie flush with the top of the seatback when lowered). To hide valuables, there is a new hidden storage compartment under the left rear seat cushion.

I placed a full-size suitcase in the trunk behind the rear seats, and estimate that you could fit two of these behind the seats. With one rear seatback folded down you could fit four large suitcases in the Fit plus three occupants; and with both rear seatbacks folded down, you could store six large suitcases and two occupants – and still have some visibility out the rear window. Noteworthy is the low liftover height into the trunk – lifting heavy objects into the trunk won’t pull a back muscle.

My test car had a space-saver spare tire under the cargo floor, but in 2009 Fits equipped with an automatic transmission, the tire is replaced by a tire inflation kit. Honda did this to reduce weight and keep the car’s average fuel economy below 6.5 L/100 km (44 mpg) (Energuide rating). But if you want an automatic transmission and a spare tire, Honda will sell you one.

Except for the lack of electronic stability control, the 2009 Fit is equipped with generous standard safety equipment, including dual-stage front airbags, front side airbags (with a passenger-side occupant position detection system), side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, five height-adjustable head restraints, five three-point seatbelts with front pretensioners, child-proof rear door locks, and the LATCH system for child seats.

Driving impressions

Fuel economy is on everybody’s minds these days, so let’s start with that. The Canadian government’s Energuide fuel consumption figures for the 2009 Honda Fit with manual transmission are 7.2 L/100 km city (39 mpg Imperial) and 5.7 L/100 km hwy (50 mpg Imperial) while the U.S. government’s more realistic EPA figures, which now take into account real-world driving conditions, are 8.7 L/100 km city (33 mpg Imperial) and 7.1 L/100 km hwy (40 mpg Imperial). (To convert to U.S. mpg, click here.)

2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX
2009 Honda Fit LX. Click image to enlarge

In a week of mostly urban driving, I averaged 8.9 L/100 km (32 mpg Imperial) even though my onboard average fuel consumption readout indicated 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg Imperial). It’s a discrepancy I can’t explain, but I suspect the electronic readout is optimistic. In city driving which involves frequent idling at traffic lights, accelerating from one traffic light to another, and shorter drives, fuel consumption is noticeably higher. I noticed for example, that the Fit’s real-time fuel consumption graph shows upwards of 20 L/100 km while accelerating.

However, while coasting downhill, the instant fuel consumption display reads “0 L/100 km”, indicating that the fuel supply has been cut off. So if you can coast downhill both ways, you’ll get great fuel economy…

At freeway speeds, the engine revs about 3,000 r.p.m. at 100 km/h in fifth gear, the same as last year – that’s a bit high. The good news is that the revised i-VTEC system gives the Fit a surprising amount of torque – sufficient to climb a long grade in fifth gear. The hard working 1.5-litre engine is a bit noisy when accelerating, and strains on steep hills, but for typical commuting it has adequate power. In tests by AJAC, a 2009 Fit with an automatic transmission posted a 0 to 100 km/h time of 10.5 seconds.

The Fit uses Regular gasoline, but as before the fuel filler door is not lockable. The 2009 fuel door looks like it’s lockable, but push it in and it pops out to reveal the tethered gas cap.

While the manual shifter has easy throws and clutch pedal effort is light, I found that engagement from 1st to 2nd can be jerky. As well, I accidentally struck the large ventilation knob with my right hand three times when reaching for the shift lever.

The Fit’s electric power assisted steering is well weighted for city and highway driving, and turn-in response is quick. In fact, it might be a bit sensitive for some drivers. The Fit’s turning diameter of 10.5 metres (34.4 ft.) remains tight enough to do quick u-turns and easy parking lot manoeuvres.

In AJAC braking tests, the Fit exhibited a 100 km/h to 0 braking distance of just 42 metres (138 ft.). All 2009 Fits have front disc/rear drum brakes with standard ABS, brake assist and electronic brake distribution

An independent front suspension and semi-independent torsion beam rear suspension plus larger standard tires, now 175/65R15-inch, provides stable handling and a comfortable ride, but while the Fit’s longer wheelbase has improved the ride, it has made it slightly less nimble.

The driver has excellent visibility all around, aided by the larger windscreen and bigger front quarter windows, lower rear head restraints, and standard rear intermittent wiper. With a large rear window and no trunk to speak of, the Fit can be backed into a parking space very easily. The front of the car is invisible from the driver’s seat, but the driver knows that the hood is very short. My only concern is the thick windshield pillars on the driver’s side which tend to obscure the view through the driver’s side quarter window.

Verdict

A cleverly designed subcompact, the 2009 Honda Fit offers a surprising amount of passenger and cargo room for such a small car, plus adequate performance and decent fuel economy. But its popularity and limited supply in Canada means that dealers are not likely to negotiate on the price which is higher than some of its competitors.

Pricing: 2009 Honda Fit LX

Base price: $17,380
Options: None

A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,310
Price as tested: $18,790
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Honda Fit

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