Capsule Review: Honda Fit, Made In China Edition

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
capsule review honda fit made in china edition

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?

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  • Probert Probert on Nov 17, 2012

    The fit really doesn't compete with the ford and kia - it's more an exercise in "how much space can you wrap in a small footprint and still have it vaguely look like a car". As others have noted it's airy and spacious. The plastics are solid and have endless storage shelves, bins and cupholders. With the rear sets folded the floor seems almost ground level. It drives as a small car should - firm and a sense of mechanical connection. It's nippy and agile. Being a Honda, it makes nice engine noises and loves being revved. I don't find it objectionably noisy at all - and when cruising it's pretty quiet. The interior seems nice to me - I don't know what people are used to but it looks good, it's solid and all the touch surfaces are pleasant. There's a driver side armrest in the right place and , because of the huge windows, the elbow on the sill position is perfect. The steering wheel has a large 3d honda emblem so if you're in a multi car pile up and the airbag deploys, they'll be able to trace you to the car by the tattoo on your forehead. Now that's thinking. There's nothing quite like it in America and i enjoy it a lot. It's nice to see other small cars around and the Kia and Ford are very pretty, but they have another niche. At the moment the Honda is a niche of 1.

  • Islander800 Islander800 on Jun 18, 2014

    I've owned a 2010 Fit (in Canada) since new, and it is a great urban hauler. These still came from Japan, so I'll take your word that the Chinese-made models are as good as their Japanese counterparts. Personally, I wouldn't have anything to do with autos imported from China, regardless of who's name is on it. Simply do not trust Chinese to honestly build the best product possible - have had enough experience with crap from there. That said, the Fit does have some shortcomings, as you point out. Yes, the interior looks like it came out of a K-Mart parts bin (hard plastic abounds, "carpeting" has about 10 loops of pile per square inch, and the seats are the least supportive I've experienced in any modern car. But it still is a hoot to drive (Sport model has - ooooh - an extra anti-sway bar)and the styling is still the best out there. Highway trips, on the other hand, are another matter. After 2 hours, those seats are murder. Just came back from a holiday in France and rented a new Peugeot 208 diesel 5-speed stick. It's about the length of a Fit, but closer to a Civic in width. What a revelation! I know Peugeot had a spotty reputation when sold here, but this car....the seats were super-supportive, the handling, with a Formula 1-size steering wheel and 17 inch 55 profile tires, was awesome, and the new clean diesel was actually a performance engine. Gobs of torque. The interior was much more upscale than the Fit, although it's still basically a sub-compact. To top it off, combination town and highway driving delivered about 55 mpg. They claim that at steady highway speeds (about 60mph), it gets about 75 mpg. Yes, you read that right. Please, Peugeot, come back to North America with models like this and you'll do well. Rumors are they're thinking of re-entering the market in about 4 - 5 years time. I can only hope, because I would buy one tomorrow! Now if they only let North Americans handle the dealer sales and service this time around....

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.