Sequels are tricky. With few exceptions they are worse than the originals. Empire Strikes Back and Godfather II are the only examples I can think of where the follow up exceeds the original. Rumor has it that Weekend at Bernie’s II is better than the first film, but I couldn’t tell you. And sometimes you have a part deux that misses the point. Like Terminator II. You know the one where the 12-year-old boy tells the ruthless cyborg from the future not to kill anyone. Hey look, as movie T2 is perfectly pleasant (though it does feature George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone”), but it’s nowhere as lean, mean, terrifying or fascinating as the original. I think you know where this is going.
From the outside the new for 2009 Honda Fit looks, erm, bigger. In fairness, the nose is a bit more pinched (a la Civic). So it looks more sporty when coming at you. But from the side? Just bigger. Yeah sure, there’s an extra crease here and a kinked sill there. But the Fit still looks like a cute, shrunken minivan. And that’s OK.
I’m not a fan of what’s inside. Unlike the first Fit– which featured both Acura-grade instrumentation and an earnest, honest feel– this guy is a mess. Some buttons are straight out of the HUMMER catalog: huge, over-sized twisty knobs put in place via a drunken round of pin the tail on the donkey. In other words, me no like. I did enjoy the seemingly endless number of cubby holes found essentially everywhere– like cup holders directly in front of the vents. Smart. Unless you have a cold drink and it’s cold out… At least the “magic seat” still folds flatter than Kansas macadam. Moving on…
When I drove the first Fit back in April of 2006 I was impressed by its power to weight ratio. That Fit only had 109 hp, meaning it didn’t weigh anything. This new Fit weighs exactly 10 kilograms more than the old Fit. That’s 22 pounds to us Yanks, and some of us ate nearly that much on Thanksgiving. Seeing as how the 2009 Fit’s 1.5-liter now makes 118 hp (and two additional pound-foots of torque for a total of 107 lb-ft) I should be even more smitten with the new version. But I’m not. Why? The new Fit drives like a Hummingbird.
As soon as your left foot releases some clutch it’s “BZZZZZZZZ!!!” and torque steer. If there were four or five more torques you’d be smoking the tires at every take off. Try as I might– and I tried– I just couldn’t launch the thing smoothly. How about once you’re up to speed? Well, define speed. Because at 80 mph you’re buzzing along over 4,000 rpm. There’s just never a dull moment, which isn’t what you want in a high-mileage grocery hauler.
Some of you might be thinking that 27/33 doesn’t sound that bad. And you’d be right. I’ve also heard that the paddle-shifted automatic versions of the new Fit aren’t quite so herky-jerky. So here’s the part where I’m supposed to actually recommend a slushbox over a row your own. But a funny thing happened on the way to see my mother.
Mom lives in the nation’s first “master planned community:” Thousand Oaks, CA. This means lots of wide four-lane roads with 55 mph limits and not many stop signs. On one particular stretch I found myself not exactly racing but definitely going at it with a Range Rover. I could bore you to death with details of my heroic exploits, but the moral isn’t that I outran the Landy (of course I did), but rather how impressively the Fit behaved when push came to shove. To reiterate, I was shoving. And that’s what I liked most about the old Fit: mid level performance at an entry level price.
Let’s recap. For a thousand bucks more than the previous car, Honda will sell you a bigger Fit Sport with more power and a negligible weight penalty. It’s raw butt pain around town as smooth launches are impossible. Due to wind resistance and lack (still) of a sixth gear, it’s no picnic on the freeway either. However, get the 2009 Fit alone on a twisty road and you’re reminded why driving is such rewarding fun.