The debut of Honda's Fit comes as fuel prices top $3/gallon.
The subcompact, with its 31 (city)/37 (highway) mpg, joins an expanding array of " economobiles" that includes the Dodge Caliber, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris.
The Fit's 16-valve 1.5-liter VTEC engine cranks out 109 hp at 5,000 rpm while delivering 105 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. It has surprising climbing power, easily handling 6% grades while sticking firmly to the road around hairpins.
The five-speed automatic Sport version I tested comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting. This is not only a first for Honda, it's also a first for the segment.
Drivers looking for a sporty fuel-efficient car that doesn't feel like a small car will appreciate the Fit's 90 ft3 of passenger space and ample cargo room that result from an H-shaped torsion beam rear suspension. The layout lowers the rear floor for more cargo space. Coupled with an innovative 60/40-split rear Magic Seat, drivers now have many options for hauling gear. In the Utility mode, the rear seats dive into the floor leaving a cavernous 40 ft3 of room. A second Utility option drops the front passenger seat flush with the floor so that long (7-ft 10-in.) items store safely and securely with the rear hatch closed.
In what's called the Tall Mode, rear-seat bottoms flip up. This gives about 3 ft or so of "tall" space behind the front seats with access via the rear doors. This configuration would be handy for stowing child-sized bikes upright or letting Fido stretch his legs while still leaving ample storage behind the rear seats. My only complaint with so many storage options is that Honda doesn't offer easy-to-clean flooring as on its Element SUV. Easy access through rear doors will make it tempting to haul hard-to-lift but potentially messy items such as lawn mowers in the passenger cabin where the carpet is sure to be mussed.
Other nifty amenities include iPod connection to the Fit's 203-W, six-speaker audio system. And with the Sport package, Honda adds an underbody kit, rear roofline spoiler, fog lights, and aluminum-alloy wheels. The Sport also comes with a security system with keyless entry and cruise control. After a $550 destination and handling charge, the price of our tester was a hair under $16K.