TTAC’s fascination with all things Chinese mandates that we get our hands on the first Chinese car to be sold on North American shores, lest we betray our mandate. That first example happened to come from Honda – and the Made In China Fit you see here might be the one vehicle most true to the company’s roots.
Small, practical, fuel efficient and underpowered. These are the traits of Hondas past, and they all live on in the Fit. The Fit was a jolt to the moribund subcompact segment when it debuted in 2006, winning universal acclaim from the automotive press. Ex-TTAC scribe Jonny Lieberman was effusive in his praise of the first-gen car, wishy-washy on the second-gen example.
The interior was a point of contention for Lieberman, while it’s not any worse than say, a Chevrolet Sonic’s interior, it is undeniably dated, with what Jonny called “…huge, over-sized twisty knobs put in place via a drunken round of pin the tail on the donkey.” The plastics on this car have somehow escaped the criticism that the 2012 Civic took in spades, though they seem to stand out more on the Fit. Certain surfaces wouldn’t be out of place on a Kozy Koupe, and little details, like the cover for the auxiliary cable input, were embarrassingly flimsy.
The Fit’s drivetrain was equally uninspiring. The 1.5L 4-cylinder engine’s 115 horsepower made for Miata-like acceleration without any of the sensation of speed. Drivetrain noise was prominent, and the tall, rubbery shifter was hardly a joy to row. On the plus side, fuel economy, at 26 mpg in heavy urban driving, was just off the EPA’ 27 mpg rating, and the Fit was hardly subjected to test-cycle-like driving conditions. I didn’t spend too much time on the highway, but when I did, the engine produced a mighty racket, while wind noise was ever present.
On the plus side, the Fit’s legendary practicality remains intact. The Magic Seat turns a B-segment hatchback into a Cotsco hauler; groceries and a surround sound system fit easily, with the groceries in the back and the seat cushions flipped up. And the build quality isn’t a problem either. Honda has been sending Chinese Fits to Europe for years, and while some of the materials may be sub-par inside, things like panel gaps, paint quality and other little details are all up to the same standards as any other Honda – including the Japanese built Fits I’ve seen.
The biggest problem with the Fit is that it’s now outclassed after having been on the market for this long. The Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio are the superior choice for the average consumer (and get better fuel economy than the Fit, ha ha ha), while the Ford Fiesta offers a better drive and a better interior (albeit with a much more fragile automatic gearbox). My own favorite in this segment is the Chevrolet Sonic with the 1.4T engine and 6-speed manual, which is a budget Mini Cooper S rather than a grocery-getter. The Japanese may have pioneered the well-built small car, but there’s no doubt that the Fiesta and Sonic are the superior choices compared to the Versa, Yaris, Mazda2 and yes, the Fit. How ironic. Then again, who ever thought that the one of the last true Hondas would be come from China?