By on July 3, 2012

Despite accounting for an incredibly small percentage of new car sales in America, the EV is all the rage in California. Rather than starting from scratch and designing an all-new car from the ground up (like Nissan), Honda chose the more economical route and electrified the second-generation Honda Fit. On the surface, the recipe sounds like a slam dunk, since the Fit is one of Honda’s most attractive and most fun to drive models now on sale. To prove to the masses that Honda has what it takes to go green, they flew me out to Pasadena to sample the all-new, all-blue Fit EV.

Before we begin, we should talk about the elephant in the room: California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliance. Some years ago California decided that by 2025 15.4% of all new cars sold in California would have to meet the “Zero Emissions Vehicle” (ZEV) standard. Like any government program, the loopholes, credits and credit trading allowed in the convoluted legislation allow OEMs to sell only a small number of the “required” EVs over the next decade. Strangely the legislation doesn’t require that the vehicle be actually “sold” to the consumer either. Enter the lease-only 2013 Honda Fit EV.

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Because the Fit EV was designed to be an incredibly low volume vehicle (only 1,100 will be made for the 2013 and 2014 model years combined), you can get your electric Fit in any color you want, as long as you want blue. Aside from the single shade of “EV blue”, a tweaked front grille and some EV stickers, nothing about the Fit screams “electric vehicle” the way the Leaf’s unique sheetmetal does. Some may want the world to know they are saving the planet, but I prefer Honda’s discreet approach. While the Fit EV may look just its gasoline cousin, the Fit EV has different bumpers, side sills, an increased ride height and a totally different floorpan to accommodate the batteries and improve aerodynamics.

Say what you will about the logic and politics involved with making a “compliance” EV, the 2013 Fit EV has one of Honda’s best economy car interiors. The EV’s interior is dominated by various shades of light beige plastic, a soft leather steering wheel and comfortable fabrics. Compared to the 2012 Civic, the interior is luxurious. Pitted against the gasoline Fit, the interior has been tweaked enough that Honda isn’t kidding when they say the Fit EV is the “perfect Fit.” To help conserve power, a single-zine climate control system and heated seats have been adapted to the Fit in addition to the usual bevy of EV-specific gauges. While this may seem counter-intuitive, climate control allows more efficient control over fan speed and A/C compressor usage while heated seats make the cabin feel warmer than it really is on cold days. All Fit EVs come with Honda’s usual touch-screen navigation system with EV-specific software to find charging stations and graphically display your battery range. We were not able to test the feature during our time with the Fit EV, but all models will be equipped with their new voice command system á la Ford’s SYNC.

In addition to being 14mm higher than the gasoline Fit, the addition of the battery pack required changes to the shape of the Fit’s body. This in turn means the rear seats are unique to the Fit EV riding 1.4 inches higher, 3.3 inches further back and reclined just over 4 degrees more than the regular gasoline Fit. While the extra legroom is welcome and the headroom is still sufficient for all but the tallest passengers, I found the seat back angle to be uncomfortably reclined. Fortunately the front seats remain excellent, providing decent bolstering and above average lumbar support. If you are a shorter driver, be sure to check out the seating position before you lease, as the driver’s seat is not adjustable for height.

Since Honda’s press event was boiled down to a 4 hour event, our time behind the wheel was limited to a collective 3 hours and some 80 miles. While the added weight of the battery pack and the low rolling resistance tires limit grip compared to the gasoline Fit, the battery positioning means the center of gravity is very low. The low-mounted mass and a unique independent rear suspension make the Fit EV more fun on the twisties than I expected. Honda had a collection of 2012 Nissan Leafs on hand for comparison and the back-to-back is less than shocking: the Fit handles well and the Leaf handles like a large, heavy hatchback on skinny low-rolling resistance tires. Much like the Leaf, the Fit EV’s top speed  is limited by the combination of the redline on the motor and the single-speed transaxle.

The Fit EV shares its 92kW (123HP) electric motor with the Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell car, but the single-speed transaxle is unique to the Fit. The unique gearbox seems to indicate that although the Fit EV is destined to be rarer than a Rolls Royce, Honda is willing to invest in new EV technology. In order to extend the range, the Fit provides three driving modes: Sport, Normal and Eco. Sport provides accelerator pedal mapping and motor output similar to a regular gasoline hatchback. Normal reduces engine power to around 75kW (101HP) under all but full-throttle situations and Eco reduced power further to 47kW (64HP). While some described the Eco mode as “aggravating,” the goal of an efficient city-car style EV isn’t to jet around at top speed. According to Honda, the combination of the most efficient EV drivetrain on the market, a 6.6kWh on-board charger and an 82-mile range makes the Fit EV the best electric vehicle in its class. In reality, it’s the way the Fit EV drives that makes it the best. While the steering is as numb as anything on the market with electro-mechanical power steering, the handling is light-years ahead of the Leaf in terms of both road feel and grip. It was faster too, hitting 60 MPH a full second before the Nissan Leaf (7.91 seconds).

The eternal problem with an EV is charging time. While a car with an 82 mile range would be livable for every driving occasion as long as fill-ups took only a few minutes, charging times for EVs is rated in hours. For reasons that were never officially explained, Honda decided not to equip the Fit EV with the “CHΛdeMO” DC quick-charge connector Nissan has put their weight behind. This means that while your neighbor’s Leaf may take twice as long (7 hours) to charge on your 220V home charger, they can get an 80% charge in half an hour by visiting a quick charge station.

While I’m unsure that California’s ZEV mandate is good politics, it’s obvious we can thank CARB for the existence of the Fit EV. Yet it’s the very nature of the way the Fit EV came into being that makes it both the perfect Fit and the most frustrating. For many Americans looking for a commuter car, $389 a month for the most economical car on the market including collision insurance is a fantastic deal. The flip side of course is that only 1,100 people will get to experience the low operating costs of what may be the best EV in America.

 

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad, if you liked us on FaceBook you’d have been able to ask the Honda engineers and minders your burning questions about the Fit EV.

Honda paid for a Southwest flight, one night’s stay in a hotel, a buffet lunch and all the electrons the Fit could consume.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.24 Seconds

0-60: 7.91 Seconds

 

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31 Comments on “Pre-Production Review: 2013 Honda Fit EV...”


  • avatar
    dejal1

    “3 hours 80 miles”

    Other than taking it home and/or recharging it, you were pretty close to its useful range anyways. You only had 2 more “sure thing” miles anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Thankfully they had a selection of identical vehicles since the journalists were flogging them all they rotated through the charging stations all day.

      • 0 avatar
        dejal1

        I read the 3 hours 80 miles thinking it was the same car.

        Unfortunate that you didn’t get a chance to drain the batteries to find how far it really could go.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    im not buyin an all electric car. I do not want to run out of charge, ever. Thats it. I wish it was ohterwise, i’d love to get away from petroleum for lots of reasons, but this is not the solution for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      Do you run out of gas often?

      • 0 avatar
        smokingclutch

        Faulty comparison:

        - There is no production car with a gas tank so small the car could only go 80 miles.
        - If I run out of gas, AAA can bring me a can of fuel to get me to a service station. AAA cannot currently bring me a can full of electrons. They’d need to tow the car.
        - Charging stations are few and far between. There likely are many places where the distance between charging stations is greater than the range of the car.
        - It takes 5 minutes to fill a gas tank. At best, you’re looking at 30 minutes to get 80% charge, and that’s not even offered on this car. In any case, my understanding is that quick charging reduces the life of your battery. A full charge requires a hotel stay – if you can find a hotel with a charging station.

        Electric cars make sense if you have a predictable set of places you go that are all somewhat close to each other, and close to your home. You’ll need a normal car if you want to travel very far from home.

        Electric cars are one solution to a problem but they’re never going to replace internal combustion engines until they can build a reasonably priced, reasonably packaged battery (or fuel cell) that can store approximately as much energy as a usual gas tank. That day may come but it’s still not here.

      • 0 avatar
        Lynchenstein

        Could be the reason they’re only offered in CA, where EV charge stations are (I assume) more plentiful?

    • 0 avatar
      Lynchenstein

      Honda sells a handy generator that will fit snugly behind the rear seats. Just pipe the exhaust out the window and you’re good to go! There’s little you can do about the exhaust note however…

  • avatar
    smithr

    I noticed a conventional radiator under the hood. Does the inverter require liquid cooling?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      It is my understanding that the AC/DC and DC/AC circuitry as well as the motor are liquid cooled. The battery packs are air cooled with a separate system tucked in the rear.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I’ve been reading up on the LEAF, which is a similar vehicle. (Think of it as the Nissan Versa EV).

        The LEAF uses water cooling for the inverter and the motor.

        The service schedule for the LEAF is here:
        http://www.nissanusa.com/content/dam/nissan/pdf/techpubs/leaf/2012/2012-leaf-service-maintenance-guide.pdf

        The maintenance schedule omits everything that a conventional car needs in terms of fuel, engine, and exhaust/emissions. Other than that, it’s pretty much like every other car, and the brakes, gearbox, coolant, and the cabin air filter require pretty typical service. Scheduling this stuff is quite different, though, since it isn’t built around getting an engine oil change every 5000-10000 miles.

        I imagine that the Fit EV would be pretty similar.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I like what they’ve done with the climate controls and gauges, but still prefer the chunky oversized knobs of the regular Fit… seems to be more in keeping with the practical nature of the car.

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    The rear seats look like the same latch as my 2010 Fit.. Did you check that they’re not in recline mode? There’s two settings on the regular fits, one is when you push it back and it latches in.. you pull the latch and push it back another 2 inches or so. Unless you read the manual or your sales person is smarter than usual, you’ll probably never find this out.

    The fact that this one doesn’t have fold flat seats makes it a deal killer for me, and loss of the magic seats as well.. I can put one of those 21 foot folding ladders in the back of my Fit and still have room for everything else.. I’ve carried 46″ TV’s and still had room for 3 people + 1 small child.. but this one isn’t going to work.

    Price would be nice though, I pay $287 a month on my 48 month lease (with $3800 down up front thanks to a credit card rebate, so really about $360 a month.. Oh wait, I’m in Canada where leases are considerably more expensive than the US.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Is “single-zine climate control system” a new term I’m not familiar with or is “zine” supposed to be “zone”? I didn’t even know what dubs were until about a week ago, so I’m never sure If I’m seeing a typo or the latest urban slang.

    Too bad they shunned the quick-charge connector, standards sure make consumers’ lives easier.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I thought “zine” was a contraction of “magazine”. But that slang is probably about 10 years old, so I’m probably revealing that I’m not in my 20s anymore.

      Yeah, the author must have meant “zone”. Don’t know why you’d advertise single-zone climate control. Yes, minivans, luxury cars, and other large/ostentatious vehicles often have multi-zone climate control systems, but I don’t see what it would get you in a car the size of the Fit. Unless you consider “defrost” to be a “zone”, I guess.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I test drive a Nissan LEAF recently, and loved it. Yes, the car has limitations and it’s expensive — but I found the car to be irrationally charming. It really is a happy little commuter car in every sense of the word, and it would make an excellent daily driver for me.

    I’d love to drive a Honda Fit EV for comparison.

    A couple of interesting tidbits:
    1. Our carseat fit in it.
    2. The inverter is positioned in the engine compartment so that it really looks like a valve-cover. My 2-year-old son thought it was an engine and started making growling/revving noises, and I had to explain to him that “this car doesn’t do that”. :-)
    3. The car has a lot of low-end power, and just enough power to keep up on with the 4-cylinder traffic on the Interstate. I didn’t take it much over 75, but I’m pretty sure that it would be downright anemic at high speed. But, if your life involves spending hours on the Interstate at 80-90mph, then you wouldn’t have given this car a second look — because it’s quite obviously the wrong tool for the job. However, my commute to work is a 0-30 stopsign gauntlet, and the LEAF’s low-end power can probably take my 200hp Escape V6 in a race through this landscape. And, even if it can’t, who cares — the LEAF is much smoother and more pleasant to drive in this environment.

    Overall, the LEAF hits the mark as a happy little commuter car — the electric drivetrain gets most of the attention, but Nissan did a really nice job designing the rest of the car to be a comfortable and practical compact commuter car. If you aren’t looking for a happy little commuter car, then you wouldn’t be interested in the LEAF or the Fit EV regardless of what’s under the hood — so there’s no need to ramble about how you’re not comfortable with technology and its limitations. If you’re looking for a happy little commuter car, though, the LEAF is hard to beat, but its limitations are real. It ca’t be your only car, but it sure could get you to work without using gas.

    Anyway, I loved the LEAF. Yes, there’s an early-adopter premium built into the price. Yes, there are some real limitations to what it can do. Yes, it’s the happiest little commuter car I’ve ever driven, and yes I might just have to buy one for the 300+ days a year when I don’t use my well-worn old Escape to its full potential.

    I’m really excited to drive cars like the Honda Fit EV. After forming such a positive impression of the Fit’s most direct competitor, I’d really like to take the Fit for a spin.

    These cars aren’t for everybody, but it’s looking like it’s the right kind of daily driver for me. It’s probably not controversial to say that fire-breathing V8′s are for moving heavy objects and weekend joyriding, while happy little commuter cars are for getting back and forth to the office. After driving the LEAF, though, I’m beginning to think that a lot of the happy little commuter cars that are owned by multi-car families really should be electric.

  • avatar
    twblalock

    I’d like to see the light-colored interior and the auto climate control as options on the regular Fit.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    I would LOVE to buy an electric car, and I am the “perfect” buyer: I commute 20 miles to work; I own my home (so charging isn’t a problem); my local city is electric-friendly, with charging outlets located in the parking structures. But, I will not buy an electric Fit or a Leaf because, let’s face it: both cars are INSANELY EXPENSIVE when judged against other, non-electric commuter vehicles… sorry, folks, but why buy a Leaf for $35,000, when I can buy a new Kia Rio or petrol Honda Fit for half the price? Or a used Mini for a third the price of an electric? And being retired, it’s not like I have an extra $15 or $20,000 that I can just throw away! So, our next vehicle will be a used Mini Cooper or Fiat 500!

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      Gimme a $3000 Civrolla with OUT collision ins. Repair bills under $1.5k / yr.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      EVs are a niche vehicle for now. It sounds like you’ll be in the niche in a few years, after some other people pay the early adopter premium. Nothing wrong with that.

      It is worth mentioning that even though LEAF costs $37K, there’s a $7.5K instant-rebate on it in the USA, courtesy of the federal government. So, your out-the-door expense for the thing is closer to $30k. In addition, some states offer additional incentives for the purchase of an EV. For instance, my state offers about $4k on top of the $7.5k incentive, bringing the total tax incentive package to about $10.5k. I recognize that some people may be opposed to this kind of tax break — but it’s part of the deal at this time, so it’s worth mentioning.

      Also, the 2013 LEAF, and its batteries, will be made in Tennessee by American labor. I’m not sure if this will bring the cost down immediately, but it will help to build the economies of scale that will bring the cost of these cars down in the long run.

      The tax incentives for purchasing the LEAF should be the same as they are for the Fit EV. I really liked the LEAF, and I hope to really like the Fit EV, as well.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    “Aside from the single shade of “EV blue”, a tweaked front grille and some EV stickers, nothing about the Fit screams “electric vehicle” the way the Leaf’s unique sheetmetal does.”

    That’s because the regular Fit is already one of the nerdiest-looking vehicles on the road. Even if it is the most “Honda-like” Honda currently available, I still wouldn’t be caught dead in one, much less one with a goofy aero kit and dinky tires.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “For many Americans looking for a commuter car, $389 a month for the most economical car on the market including collision insurance is a fantastic deal.”

    I could lease a Volt for less than that w/o the lcollision insurance of course. But then I’ve got a sharp looking premium EV w/o the range worries versus this homely little cracker box.

  • avatar
    B Buckner

    Perhaps the good deal lease rate and the low production rate reflect the fact that Honda is loosing many dollars on each sale. This is a joke. Honda is doing the minimum to comply with the CA regs, nothing more.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      The Fit EV is very odd, Honda did a very good job (from other reviews) and spent the bucks when they built it, yet they are restricting the numbers and lease only. Ford Focus EV on the other hand farmed the whole thing to Magna.

      I think they are serious about it but intend to test it for a year or two before they mass produce it and sell it. The Toshiba Sicb battery they use is the best in the world right now. Extreme long life, cold and heat tolerant and capable of 5 minute charges.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Tesla must give their shills the 4th of July off. I can’t believe they allowed a favorable article about another EV to be published without drowning it in complaints about how the author ignored that the Model S is actually superior. Incidentally, giving the shills a holiday is a rookie mistake, obviously one GM doesn’t make.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      gratuitous no?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Not at all. The other day I was reading a news item on another site about the Audi e-tron R8 running around the Nurburgring. The Tesla shills joined the site and pumped out the indignation about the Model S not being mentioned in an article about a lap record run at a track where the Model S doesn’t seem to have run. They’re transparent and Tesla should be mocked for using shills. As for the GM comment, does CF post that BS for free?


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