We took a 1,000-mile road trip in the Fit to see how it survives outside the city.
I've tested some pretty damn cool cars this past year, including the Tesla Model S and McLaren 650S Spider. But I was especially looking forward to driving the Honda Fit, a car I have long admired for bringing some much needed energy to the subcompact segment. It’s sharply designed, has excellent interior space and is actually fun to drive when equipped with a six-speed manual, or so I've heard. My tester had a CVT.
My original plan was to see if the Fit was the city car of my dreams, but that idea was quickly canned in favor of a last-minute round trip from San Francisco to San Diego. Just that trip alone is about 1,000+ miles and about 20 hours of highway driving.
Needless to say I spent a lot more time in the Fit than originally planned. But it all worked out in the end as my goal was to see how Honda’s budget hatchback did as a complete car. Yes, the Fit thrives in big cities where space is at a premium but the reality is that people who live in big cities like to venture out on the weekends. When it comes to tiny cars like this everyone knows they'll do just fine in the concrete jungle, but what about on the open road? Depending on the car I'm reviewing I sometimes dread city driving. Piloting a car like the Toyota 4Runner through clogged city streets can sometimes feel like trying to get an aircraft carrier through the Panama Canal.
But the Fit was able to effortlessly squeeze into any parking space or sudden opening in traffic. Despite its compact size the hatchback is incredibly roomy on the inside, this thanks to smart ideas like putting the gas tank under the front seats. A person standing six-fee-tall won’t feel cramped in any seat and visibility is excellent, although the driver's side B-pillar does occasionally get in the way during lane changes. With the rear seats up there’s 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space and with them folded that balloons to an incredible 52.7 cubic feet. My tester was the top-tier EX-L with navigation and stickered at $21,885 on the road.
While I enjoyed the 7-inch touchscreen's size, I hated that it was touch-only (no knobs or buttons), found the navigation to be quite useless and wasn’t particularly taken with the leather-trimmed seats or leather-wrapped steering wheel. The interior overall can best be described as “meh.” I did enjoy the moonroof, though. If it were my money, I'd go a few trims down. When it comes to cars like the Fit, buyers are looking for the best bang for their buck, not heated front seats. No matter the trim every Fit has a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. When equipped with a CVT the FWD hatch is very dull to drive and incredibly noisy.
I actually didn’t mind the CVT in the 2016 Honda Civic Sedan, but here I was longing for a six-speed manual, if only to liven things up and make getting up to speed (any speed, really) easier. That’s another reason to save money and buy a lower-tier Fit, as the most expensive EX trims don’t offer manuals. While the engine is a bore it does return nice fuel economy in city driving, with constant stops and starts knocking my average down to about 31 mpg. Effortlessly darting through the city is what the Fit excels at, but I spent much of my time on the highway. The greatest thing about this car on the highway is that it returns great gas mileage. With cruise control and the air conditioning on I averaged 43 mpg over one 40-mile stretch of road.
Filling up the 10.6 gallon gas tank only cost about $30 a pop. The other great thing about highway driving is...well that’s about it. I found the driver’s seat uncomfortable after a few hours and the cabin was noisy overall. The underpowered engine made passing at freeways speeds a tough task. The driver of the Fit will have a rough time on longer journeys. The chassis and suspension are well-suited for cutting through city streets but on the open road the only thing you’ll notice is the drone of the engine and a dull pain in your back. Yes, driving the Fit for hours on end felt more like a punishment than a privilege but overall I still saw the glass as half full. That's because when it comes to the 2016 Honda Fit, less really is more.
The base LX model with a six-speed manual starts at $15,890. That’s not a bad buy for a car that offers great interior room, storage space and fuel economy; the official split on my tester was 32/28/35. There’s also something to be said for the design of the Fit. Design in the subcompact segment, especially the subcompact hatchback segment, has improved greatly in recent years. But the Fit is still one of the best looking cars in its class, at least to me. I actually prefer the older and boxier Fits but the new rounder design is full of sharp lines that give the hatchback a look that’s subtly striking, at least for its segment anyways. Opt for the manual, try and avoid marathon driving sessions and this will be money well spent.