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Honda Fit, Hatchback
#4664 of 4751 Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead
Jun 30, 2009 (8:49 am)
Well I liked my first generation, 2008 Fit quite a bit - the base model with a 5 speed. It got incredible gas mileage (I hit 39 mpg a couple of times and routinely got 37 mpg), and easily carried a six foot, 200 pound friend, me, and his girlfriend from Truckee to Reno - with no problem coming back up the hill from Reno at a good clip.
As a "sports car" the original Fit couldn't be beat - and for the average joe, a great handling "economy" car like this is probably the closest we'll get to a "sports" car when Nissan 350z's etc. have astronomical prices, and are hard to get with stick shifts to boot (I grew up in the '60's with Sunbeams and TR7's and the modern generation of small "economy" cars just blows them away in terms of sporty handling AND practicality AND safety).
And I loved the "magic" seats with the flat floor - I could carry 3 small kids in the back seat without crowding them (too much).
BUT the original Fit had 3 issues that I got tired of:
1. The freeway RPM hit 4,000 at 80 mph - not a very relaxed RPM. Due to the RPM and also due to the handling - not twitchy but "sharp" - the Fit was not a relaxing ride on long distance (more than 100 miles) trips.
2. Noisy. Consumer Guide calls it accurately when they rated the first gen Fit as a "3" on a scale of 10 vs. 4's for most of its competitors and 5's for a few of the quieter ones in this class.
3. Interior seemed cheap/gaudy. I think it is actually well made, but is dialed into Japanese/Asian tastes (towards the complicated and gaudy) rather than into more Euro/American tastes (simpler, cleaner). The Nissan Versa that I owned at the same time (I usually own 2 commuter cars and trade them off) had a much simpler, more tasteful, less confusing interior design.
Mind you, I'm hard to please, and there are many, many owners who are thrilled with the Fit.
Anyway when I read the Honda press releases and "buzz" about the second generation Fit it sounded terrific -
- it was supposed to handle "rock solid" even in the 80-100 mph zone;
- it was supposed to be "grown up" and more quiet.
- stretched out, no longer cramped into "B" car standards, more of a "super B" (nipping at the Civic market)
-it would handle better.
-and of course the interior was going to be upgraded
So when the second gen ('09) came out I was tempted to test drive it, but the salesman with who I worked at the time said it wasn't really much different from the first gen, still noisy. So I tabled it until I was really in the market to change cars.
Flash forward 9 months and I decide to shop the Cube and Fit. I had a Versa before, the Cube is "based" on it. I had the prior generation Fit and like a lot of things about it.
First I drove the Cube. Handled well, quiet, no engine roar accelerating, very little road noise. But I had misgivings since Nissan is "second tier" in my mind, in terms of engineering and quality control, behind Honda. So I decided to try the new generation Fit.
Whoa, what a disappointment! A GREAT car, if you are coming off a '90's econ car (trade in a lot less frequently than me) but NOT in the hunt compared to the current generation of econo cars. It should EXCEED other small cars, but it lags in terms of ordinary virtues like acceleration, ride, and noise.
First, there isn't any significant power at lower rpm. There is a real midrange and upper range "punch" but that calls for friskier driving than I like to to routinely. The old motor - engineered more for fuel economy and low end power than total power - was more driveable than the current version, which is a true VTEC design with variable valve timing (the old one just kept one valve shut until high rpm).
Second, there is a lot of perceived engine roar or noise when you accelerate, running the motor up to 4,000 rpm (which isn't that high).
Third, it doesn't cruise quietly on the freeway. There is road noise - tire thrum and general road noise - plus wind noise - plus motor noise (the least).
And it still turns over at 4,000 at 80, 3,000 at 60.
The Sport model handles MUCH better than the Base model (I drove both) due to the slightly firmer suspension and performance oriented tires. On the other hand the Sport model "thumped" a couple of places on road irregularities where the Base model road over them with no drama. As a daily driver, imho the Base model is much better, but for the sporty driver, the Sport model is a must have, especially since the difference in price is only $1500, which buys you cruise control, alloy wheels, sport tires, leather steering wheel, sport suspension, body colored mirrors, spoiler, air effects kit under front bumper and along body sides. In other words, about $3k worth of goodies for half price. And nicer seat fabric and slightly dolled up dash board.
The ENORMOUS disservice Honda has done its customers is to chisel by not including stability control. Stability control, on a car already equipped with ABS brakes, typically adds about $230-$300 to the MSRP on a car. Yet despite this small difference in costs on a car that in typical Sport/Auto configuration pushes $18k, Honda ONLY includes stability control on the much more expensive navigation equipped version. It should be included, standard, on the Sport model (since owners are apt to drive more aggressively) and, ideally, even on the Base model (since it is an "entry level" car and attracts younger and newer drivers who are more likely to benefit from the anti-skid protection, in the rain or on the snow or just getting on an on ramp).
So I got the Cube, which has stability control, a 1.8 liter engine which has enough power to run more relaxed (and gets almost the same gas mileage, 30 vs. 33), and a CVT (which works great).
Yes, I still have a fond spot in my heart for the Fit, due its is amazing efficiency and (potentially) greater "real world" mileage with the stick shift - and above all because it is an affordable sports car.
BUT Honda needs to get its act together and add stability control and a smidge more sound proofing, neither of which are difficult to do as a "running change" or model year change. (I can live with the high motor RPM since the motor is actually very smooth and quiet.) Also Honda needs to get rid of the Dunlop SP31's on the Base model and put something decent on - the Conti's that came on the Versa, the Toyo's that came on the Cube, are MUCH better handling tires, and I'm sure they don't cost Nissan any more than the SP31's cost Honda. Honda is a "performance" car company and shouldn't spec a Japanese market tire (where they don't drive sporty like we do) on the Fit.
And if Honda REALLY wants to respect their customer base, they need to shift from 5 speed manual transmissions to 6 speeds like Nissan.
And yes I found such a good deal on an '09 Rabbit while shopping for small cars that I did a rare "double trade in" weekend. The Rabbit isn't as much fun as the Cube, but it IS one heck of a driver's
#4665 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [micweb]
Jun 30, 2009 (9:51 am)
Wow, micweb. That's a thorough post. Permit me to offer a counterpoint.
I drove both a Fit and a Civic yesterday, in prep for a possible "cash for clunkers" deal involving both my clunker ('94 Dodge truck) and my wife's somewhat tired '99 Civic EX five-speed. I am hoping to find a vehicle that will be as fun to drive and own as the '99 Civic has been, with comparable economy and reliability and the updated safety features that weren't yet offered when we bought that car new. The ultimate goal: a car we will be as happy with for the next ten years as we have been with that one for the previous ten.
First was the new Civic. The dealer had only one in stock with a manual trans, an EX-Navi, so that's the one I drove. Considering the fact that I expected to love it, I was distinctly disappointed. The controls seem to have been mired in tree sap, judging from the unpleasant, jerky/sticky feel of the clutch and shifter action. The throttle seemed to have very little connection to anything happening in the engine compartment. (Yes, I know both the Civic and the Fit are drive-by-wire, but the Civic's implementation of the system was notably poor.) There was sufficient acceleration, but the car felt lifeless. The control layout was attractive at first glance, but I found myself focusing on the speedometer and having to consciously seek out the tach. Bad sign. Overall, the Civic was a less involving car to drive than even a new Accord. Before I even pulled the Civic back onto the lot, I told the salesman it was time to look at the Fit instead.
The dealer had one Fit Sport 5MT on the lot (Milano Red, wouldn't you know it). Before I had driven even one block, I was infatuated with the car's feel. The Fit has the liveliness and joie de vivre of the best older Hondas I've driven (two Integras, a 4ws Prelude, and innumerable CRXs and Civics), but with the solidity of a modern car. The Fit probably isn't as quick 0-60 as the '09 Civic, but it felt much more eager and entertaining. I also like the fact that I can see out of it. Outward visibility used to be a hallmark of Honda design; nowadays only the Fit seems to carry that tradition forward.
Sure, it might be rather fatiguing on an all-day road trip. But so are most cars. I think that's inherent in the concept of the all-day road trip.
I drive briskly, but not recklessly, and I like a car that will communicate with me and provide some entertainment value. Most of my driving is either (a) the daily eleven-mile slog across town to the office, or (b) a couple of hours spent on nearby country roads. For the all-day drive to Houston, St. Louis or DC, we have the Accord.
Am I sold on the Fit? Maybe. I still want to look at a couple of other options--the Soul and the Elantra Touring, among others. But yesterday's test drive vaulted the Fit from "not very likely" to "probable first choice."
#4666 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [stephen987]
Jun 30, 2009 (10:11 am)
A 5 speed Fit Sport in Milano Red was what I came very close to buying.
I think you would be very happy with it...if you didn't find the Civic a lot quieter (it gets a "6" from Consumer Guide in its noise rating) then you aren't as sensitive to the noise issue as I have become.
In all other ways, as you noted, I think the Fit beats the Civic - just plain a lot more fun.
I DO stand by my complaint that Honda should have included stability control (although you sound like you don't need it) and I think they should add about 125 pounds of soundproofing...though I don't think they will.
Let us know which vehicle you select. I still like the Fit a lot, I'm just pretty irked that Honda didn't deliver on all the promises they were making back in '08.
The way the rear seats fold forward and flat is, however, VERY slick.
And if I ever owned one - I'd take out the spare tire (but replace it with a compact inflation kit, maybe just a can of inflator/sealer) and use that to stow my backpack or gym bag, keeping the the top area "open" for Trader Joes and Costco runs (when I used a cargo cover, it reduced the capacity too much and got in the way).
If you buy one, be sure to get the factory floor mats and have the dealer install them - they have to cut the factory felt mat to install hooks to hold the mats in place, it would drive you nuts to do it yourself. Without the minor surgery on the factory floor, the mats slide around. I thought for sure on this generation Honda would ship the car with the hooks to hold the mats preinstalled, like on ALL their other cars.
#4667 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [micweb]
Jun 30, 2009 (10:34 am)
I felt as though the Fit's noise level was comparable to our old Civic, or maybe slightly lower. I didn't find it objectionable, but the drive wasn't that long. I didn't have a chance to get past about 60 mph, but I did accelerate pretty aggressively, so at least I have a sense of how the engine would sound at high rpm. Wind noise is another matter, and until I can get it out on the freeway I won't know how bad it is.
The new Civic was a bit quieter, yes, but in combination with the other factors it came off not as "refined" but as "isolated"--in a negative way, at least for me. I had hoped that the Civic would combine the fun and economy of the Fit with some of the refinement and comfort of the Accord, but for me it did the opposite, the weakest features of the larger and smaller cars with none of the redeeming qualities. It may well be that the new Civic is more at home with an automatic than with a manual.
If I buy a Honda, it will almost certainly be a Fit Sport 5MT. My favorite color is the Blackberry Pearl, followed closely by Milano Red but my wife will probably insist on Blue Sensation instead. Frankly I'd settle for any color but black, which would be impractical thanks to the combination of the Fit's large windshield, Georgia summers and somewhat unimpressive air conditioning.
I hope you enjoy your new Cube. Most of the reviews I've seen make it seem like the Cube would be a bit too soft for my tastes--then again, I haven't driven either the Cube or the Versa yet. More hunting to do! Versa, Cube, Soul, Elantra Touring, maybe even the Scion xD.
#4668 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [micweb]
Jun 30, 2009 (12:42 pm)
"I felt as though the Fit's noise level was comparable to our old Civic, or maybe slightly lower."
Ha ha. That's kind of what I suspected in my original "tirade." That if you are coming off a 90's econo car, the Fit will seem fine (most likely better, in terms of noise, vibration, harshness) but compared to some other current cars in its niche, it's on the bottom of the scale - based on my test drives and ratings from Consumer Reports & Consumer Guide (Consumer Guide is available online, free).
Yes the Civic is a dull car. Only the hatchback Si broke that mold.
In a lot of ways the Fit is like a mild reincarnation of the Si hatchback - except it has four doors and a much better rear seat.
After all, the Fit now has more horsepower than my 2003 Civic had - it only had 115hp, the Fit has 118 - and the Fit is closer in weight to the mid 2000's Si.
The only thing I would note, is that you probably should take all these cars you are test driving out on the freeway and try them at 65, 70, 80 (if the salesman doesn't object). With the stereo off, the fan turned on low, and no conversation with the salesman. Conversations and stereos are big masks for "ambient noise levels."
I am not saying the Fit is bad. I drove the prior generation to LA. But on that drive I did notice I kept my speed down to 75, whereas on other vehicles I am blipping up to or beyond 80 mph (not good, I know, but actually slower than prevailing traffic). The Fit felt fine at 75, but not as comfortable at 80. The new generation Fit is COMPLETELY redesigned with a longer wheel base, it's wider, has bigger wheels and tires, so I suspect - but can't confirm - that now it's probably an able 80 mph freeway flyer.
I kinda hope you get the Fit so you can talk me into one too....
#4669 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [micweb]
Jun 30, 2009 (3:30 pm)
Right now I'm on the fence. On the one hand, the Fit is really an intoxicating drive. On the other hand, there are a number of quieter, more refined cars in this price range (the Elantra I drove last fall comes to mind) that might serve better as a "primary car." Then again, that role will probably continue to belong to our '02 Accord for another 3 years or so.
I've often said the US market needed an updated version of the wonderfully efficient, eager and entertaining mid-eighties Civic Wagon.
I think the Fit fits that description well.
#4670 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [stephen987]
Jun 30, 2009 (3:47 pm)
I almost bought that older style Civic Wagon. It was VERY cool for that time period. Unfortunately people weren't as open to odd-ball cars back then.
And yes I think the Fit is the modern incarnation of the Civic Wagon. Better in SO many ways - I would just like to see Honda hit "perfection" with one more gear on the manual transmission, a little more sounproofing, and better tires on the base model. And of course stability control.
BTW I checked Consumer Reports. On their 150 mile simulated road trip (mostly freeway, not stop and go) the manual transmission Fit Sport they drove returned 41 mpg - awesome mileage. So although the Fit this year is rated lower for gas mileage, in reality it is capable of some amazing tricks (their city mileage was 24, highway 37, so don't ask me why the blended long drive did so much better - unless the higher percentage of time spent "warming up" the car on the city and highway tests they run impacts gas mileage that much).
#4671 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [stephen987]
Jul 01, 2009 (10:36 am)
Actually Honda replaced that with the CR-V, it even kept the Real Time 4WD logo. They figured people would pay more for the SUV styling, and the CR-V has been a cash cow for them ever since.
micweb: how's the shifter on that Nissan? On paper I think a 6 speed in this class is a great idea, but I've heard complaints about the clutch and shifter on the Versa. Haven't tried it yet myself.
My Miata has a 6 speed and I'm not 100% convinced that's better than a 5 speed, most of the time it's overkill and I just skip 5th gear anyway.
#4672 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [ateixeira]
Jul 01, 2009 (3:59 pm)
On the Versa the 6 speed was excellent. I have the CVT on the Cube. The 6 speed requires a little finesse to access 5 and 6, but you quickly get used to it. Only negative is that it is a close ratio 6 speed and hence useless if you are thinking in terms of an "overdrive." The rpm are much higher (900 rpm) than on the CVT on the Cube even in 6th gear.
#4673 of 4751 Re: Test Drove '09 Fit, Bought Cube & Rabbit Instead [micweb]
Jul 02, 2009 (11:55 am)
I don't necessarily agree with the floor mats comment.
I balked at the Honda OEM floormat price and cost of installation. Instead, I bought the top quality heavy carpet choice at Wal-Mart for $20. I then used two 2" by 3" strips of velcro glued to the bottom of the driver floor mat, and to the vinal section behind the pedals. No more problem with slipping and a much heavier quality carpet material. The mats have stayed perfectly in place for several months without problems--although they don't fit perfectly around the "dead pedal" without cutting.