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

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2009 Honda Fit

Ottawa, Ontario – Who says you need a big motor to have big fun? Many drivers would have you believe that power is everything, but that’s just ego talking, if you ask me. Put away your pride and downsize your expectations and you’ll find that it’s quite easy to have a good time behind the wheel of a little car with little power.

Take the Honda Fit. Its significant digits – 1.5-litres, 117 horsepower – are not the kinds of numbers that spawn automotive lust. But the truth is that in a little car fitted with a manual transmission, this is all the power you need for a little fun in the hum-drum of the daily commute.

See that guy next to you in the M3? He’s probably quite comfortable with his heated seats and fairly pleased about the 400-plus horsepower under the hood, but when the light turns green and traffic begins to surge forward, you know he’s wishing he were somewhere – anywhere – he could really let that car rip.

Meanwhile, that’s exactly what you’re doing! Sure, you have to in order to keep up with traffic (which moves pretty quickly, even in rush hour) but you’re revving your little motor to 4,500 rpm in first and second gears and loving every minute of it! And best part is that no one else – including the cop waiting at the red light – can tell! Try driving an M3 that way in traffic and watch for how many people give you the stink-eye.

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

The Fit’s 117 horsepower doesn’t look like much if you’re in the go-equals-show camp, but it does make this one of the more powerful cars in the subcompact field, and it’s an increase of eight ponies over the first-gen Fit.

Matched with the five-speed manual transmission (a class-exclusive five-speed auto is an option), the Fit is far from fast. But it’s a well-matched drivetrain. Short gearing ensures snappy acceleration, though you’ll wish for a sixth gear on the highway, where the motor sings along at 3,000 revs at 100 clicks in fifth. The automatic tranny would make for a better highway runner, given a combination of both a taller top gear and final drive ratio (so sayeth Honda USA’s website), but at the detriment of around-town performance.

For that reason, the Fit doesn’t come across as much of a long-distance cruiser. If you want a marathoner, get an Accord; for squirting in and out of around-town traffic, though, the Fit is terrific. Despite the manual transmission’s short gearing, the Fit is as thrifty as ever. Transport Canada estimates promise fuel consumption of 7.2/5.7 L/100 km (city/higway) with the stick. During a week of around-town driving (including a few cross-town freeway jaunts), I averaged 6.7 L/100 km, according to the car’s trip computer.

The Sport model comes dressed up with 16-inch wheels (upgraded from the basic 15s) and body bits that certainly convey the “sport” aspect of its personality. What doesn’t come through until you get underway is that to Honda, “sporty” also means “really harsh ride.” While the new Fit’s longer wheelbase (up 50 mm to 2,500) contributes to a more dignified ride, the Sport model’s firm suspension tuning takes that dignity away, as you bump and crash over poorly-maintained city streets. A better example of a well-tuned subcompact suspension is the one in the Hyundai Accent GL Sport hatch, which offers a big improvement over the base Accent’s floppy ride without punishing those riding inside.

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