When I had finally rid myself of the Explodo-Wave, I needed a car to drive right away. I was looking for something that was fun to drive, offered good utility and was cheap to run. After looking at what was available at the time, the decision was easy: Honda Fit!
By the time the Fit made it to our shores in 2007, the car had been available in other markets, as the Honda Jazz, since 2001. After the Wave debacle, reliability was the most important factor in my buying decision. At the time I was car shopping the Fit had been in production for seven years, so I figured it would have good quality. I was proven right when every single circle in the Consumer Reports reliability ratings signified “much better than average,” the best I had ever seen. What Honda was doing with the Fit was pretty obvious–building a high-quality product and producing it for a long time–and thus could afford to use better materials and parts in the Fit and still make a profit.
In 2008, there was still an Eco-Rebate program in Canada that taxed gas-guzzlers and rewarded buyers of fuel efficient cars. This was a leftover from our previous government (which actually cared something about the environment) which was the opposite of the borrow-and-spend government we have now. This narrowed the choice down a lot, basically to the Yaris and the Fit. I drove a Yaris and found it as dull as dishwater. Then I drove the Fit, and just loved it. The main issue was only the manual of the Fit got the rebate, but the clutch and shifter were so good, I didn’t mind. In fact, I wanted a manual and it was the beginning of a love affair. The next problem was finding a DX model, which had been decontented for the Canadian market. The LX, the base model in the USA, cost $2500 more, and I was on a tight budget. After an afternoon of calling around, I found the car I wanted in the color I wanted. The transaction price was $16,000 plus tax, and I received a $1000 rebate because the car had a combined fuel economy rating of 7.5L/100km (31 mpg) or better.
My first impressions of the car were overwhelmingly good. Its fit and finish were impeccable. Anything that really mattered, like the steering wheel, shifter and seats, was made of top grade stuff. The steering on this generation of Fit is–get this–1.8 turns lock-to-lock. You could zip around tight corners with the flick of a wrist. The shifter was simply fantastic, snicking from gear to gear with perfection. The controls were simple and easy to reach. All the switch gear and the instrument panel were truly first class. Even the radio was pretty good. My only qualm involved the thin carpeting, but hey, this is a small and cheap car. You can’t have everything.
The engine…ahhh, that engine. Certainly not a powerhouse, but smooth, and it revved like crazy. At 4200 rpm, the VTEC system would change and it screamed to redline, making all kinds of boy racer sounds. No, it wasn’t really going very fast, but it felt fast, and at the same time returned excellent fuel economy. Although I flogged the living daylights out of that little car, fuel consumption was always the same: 8.0L/100km (29 mpg), an exceptional figure given Vancouver’s horribly clogged traffic. Curiously, it didn’t do much better on the highway. The short gearing and tall profile made the Fit mostly a city car; I got 7.5L/100km (31 mpg) the few times I drove it on the highway.
Where the Fit really excelled was utility. Its Magic Seat system is simply brilliant, and offers many interior configurations. My favorite feature is the completely flat load floor, which was made possible by locating the gasoline tank under the front seat. The Fit was perfect for somone in the process of starting a new business–I could take all the samples I needed with room to spare. Its small size, excellent steering and eager engine combined to make the car a blast to drive on Vancouver’s congested city streets. If you were willing to keep the revs up the car was actually very quick and the handling on a Fit of this generation is really surprising. The little car charges at bends and then screams out with all kinds of VTEC sounds. All very good, budget, fun, exactly what Honda cars are supposed to be about.
At the moment, it is fun to slag Honda for “losing its way,” but the Fit represented what has always been good about Honda cars. For not a lot of money, you can get an extremely well-engineered car that offers exceptional reliability. They are cheap to run and fun to drive. They really cost so little to run, leasing a Civic now costs like $300 a month. That is peanuts for reliable transportation that you won’t have to wrench on for like fifteen years. In my opinion, Honda still has some products that are great deals and all are well designed. In the three years I had my Fit, I changed the oil only five times and rotated the tires just three. That’s it. In addition, there were no warranty issues whatsoever.
There are downsides with any car, and the Fit did have a couple. For one, the handling was like that of a go-kart; It really cornered like crazy, especially after I replaced the poor 14” tires with 15-inchers, the same size as those on the Sport model. With this handling came a rough ride; in the city it was tolerable, but on longer trips it beat me up. Honda has always made its cars as light as possible, which means not adding a lot of sound deadening. Again, not an issue in the city, but on highway trips the car was not exactly quiet.
I loved my Fit, but things change and we have to change along with them. By 2011 my businesses were doing very well. That meant a huge amount of car time, often three to four hours a day. The Fit, while a good all-around car, is not really an all-day car. Mine had a manual transmission, which was okay for short days, but it made spending all day in stop-and-go traffic a pain. The worst part, however, was the hard ride, which combined with the rather confining driving position, caused serious back pain. In addition, I had remarried and now had another child in the brood, which made for tight accommodations in the Fit.
What I wanted to do was find a nice car for me and have my wife keep the Fit. It only had 40,000 km on it and was just out of warranty. Once I’d found my Acura TL and started driving it, we advertised my wife’s car. We had a few bites, but at the end of the day she didn’t like driving the Fit. I wanted to keep it around because it would last 20 years or more and offered such utility. However, I had to respect Annie’s wishes, so the Fit went up for sale–and that’s another story. It took me six weeks to sell the Fit because it was a manual-transmission DX stripper and the people I dealt with mostly wanted an automatic with A/C, which my Fit lacked. What’s more, for many people it isn’t easy to get a used-car loan for that kind of money. New car loans are easy and often times it is not a whole lot more expensive to buy a new Honda because the depreciation is so low.
If there’s one thing I can say about Hondas, it’s that they really do hold their value. I bought the car for $15,000 in 2008 and sold it for $11,000 in 2011. Three years of driving had cost me only $4000 in depreciation–a dirt-cheap $1333 per year. The new owner actually is an old classmate of mine and, in the little over a year he’s had the car, has had to give it nothing more than regular maintenance.
I still miss my Fit; I genuinely enjoyed driving it, and I looked forward to getting in it every time. Looking back, I wish I had not chosen the stripper; the LX would have been much easier live with and to sell. I wish I could have kept it, but there was no way I could justify three cars for two drivers. Thus did a great little car go to someone else who loves it. Were I in need of another urban car, I would still choose a Fit. In fact, my sister has a 2010 Fit–bought on my recommendation–and she loves it!