Executive Wheels: A Penny For My Thoughts – And Not a Cent More

Car review of the 2018 Honda Fit for 5DR Sport

It’s my year for subcompact cars, I guess, in that I just finished driving the 2018 Honda Fit, and in June I drove the 2018 Kia Rio. My spin in the Rio review was to look at these types of cars as a family second car, a commuter car for one of the working adults where saving with higher gas mileage and versatility to park in tight spaces would be a premium. In case you missed it, I gave the Kia Rio 4 wheels out of 4, impressed as I was with low road noise, good – and fun to drive – handling, roominess, and overall appearance.

So I was looking forward to seeing the Honda Fit, for comparison purposes, and in doing some research I found a U.S. New & World Report ranking of the best subcompacts, and the magazine placed the Fit on the top of the list, followed closely by the Rio (in a tie with Chevy Sonic and Toyota Yaris iA).

U.S. News must have gotten a different Fit than I did. As I said, I very much liked the Kia Rio, but I very much disliked the Honda Fit. It displayed all of the things you expect in a subcompact, and not in a good way: very, very high levels of road noise, tinny doors, herky-jerky handling, particularly on the highway, and an engine that felt as though the gerbils were working overtime. To me, anyway, all of these things did not exist in the Kia Rio – it was quiet, not as tinny as I expected, handled beautifully, particularly on the highway, and the engine was smooth and zippy.

I have also driven the Yaris iA which, interestingly enough, isn’t the same as the Toyota Yaris. The iA is a re-badged Scion iA, late of the doomed Toyota subsidiary Scion that was targeted to young people for its 13-years of existence. It was, and I presume is, based on the Mazda2 platform, as all of these cars companies have an interesting web of entanglements in design and ownership. I thought naming it Yaris was the wrong move in that the regular Yaris was nothing like it (more like this Honda Fit), but the naming of car models has always been fraught with peril.

My Honda Fit, with a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, was equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission (you can get a CVT auto), but to be honest it really felt like a four speed. The reason for this was that once you were in 4th gear, and then shifted to 5th and then 6th, it was exactly the same. The RPMs stayed the same, the feel stayed the same, the sound stayed the same, the acceleration stayed the same. And if you downshifted from 6th to 5th to 4th there was no discernable downshift effect. The way I saw it was that these three gears were the same gear, and that shifting itself was just a cosmetic.


Okay, so before I go through the other stuff I noticed, I have to tell you about the one major thing that came up time and again throughout my Fit test drive. They sent me the Sport model in what I discovered is Helios Yellow Pearl paint, and every single person I encountered, even at least one stranger, made a disparaging remark about the color. Bright yellow. Hideous. Looks like a taxi. Did I spill mustard on it? The Fit comes in many colors, so you don’t have to go Helios, but after a while I just assumed they put this particular vehicle in the press pool because no dealer wanted it on their lot. By the way, the stranger I mentioned gave it the once over, had an unusual look on her face, and, with some discretion, simply said, “Interesting color.” Hmmm.

I’ve already clearly indicated that I don’t much care for the Fit. Here are my other problems: This Fit was surprisingly lightweight. I was on highway 85 waiting to take a left turn onto 124th Avenue, and the cars, and especially the trucks, coming by me buffeted the car so much that it rocked and swayed to a destressing degree. I noticed this on the highway too. The car just felt like a high fashion model with anorexia. I didn’t feel safe.

Here’s what I liked: Very roomy, especially foot room, in the rear seat. Very easy clutch. A nice radio, easy to operate (when you can hear it for the road noise). Easy to fold down 60/40 rear seats (which must be folded down to get in golf clubs). “Power” and USB ports in both the front of the console (with a storage space for a phone) and in the armrest cubby; great for tech. Decent air conditioner.

So the Fit comes in four trim levels, with the only differences coming in standard equipment versus add-ons (the engine is the same in all). The low end is the LX, with a base price of $16,190, then the Sport ($17,500), the EX ($18,160), and the EX-L ($20,520). Frankly, I don’t know what they did to my Sport model to justify the designation or the price, but it doesn’t matter: after the base model, putting more stuff in for more money is lipstick on a pig.

The only thing they added on in my test-drive model was destination charges, for a bottom line of $18,390. That’s $18,389.99 too much. The penny is for my thoughts.


Categories: Industry Trends, Transportation