By on November 9, 2012

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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33 Comments on “Capsule Review: Honda Fit, Made In China Edition...”

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Perhaps the Fit gets a pass on the Interior Materials Quality because of its perceived status as a “cheap sub-compact.” But I totally agree that it retains more of it’s Honda DNA than the current Civic.

    Good recap Derek, thanks. Bring on the rest of the Chinese offerings.

    • 0 avatar

      The interior quality is intended to meet a price point and market segment. In other countries (like this one) the same vehicle is called the Jazz, and has a much nicer interior and more power.

      For those who don’t like the Fit, you’d probably like the Jazz.

  • avatar

    The Fit that we have here in Canada indeed comes from China ie the Peoples Republic, also Chevy uses a Engine from China for the SUV Equinox, I have not heard of any faults with it either, have you?
    Not everything Made in China is C—— is it?

    • 0 avatar

      Somehow there’s a stigma that will prevent Americans from buying a car “made in China” even though the rest of the world doesn’t care.

      Thank goodness all those tens of billions of dollars worth of toys and electronics we will buy between Black Friday and Christmas Eve are all American made.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      ‘Chevy uses a Engine from China for the SUV Equinox’

      That was true of the previous generation Equinox but it is not true with the current generation Equinox (so 2009 model year was the last year for the Shanghai GM engine in the Equinox)

    • 0 avatar

      actually my dads 2006 saturn vue had this engine replaced under warranty with 50000 km on it due to a rod knock.took 4 months for the engine to arrive……

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    One thing I find interesting is that real-world insurance loss data shows the Fit has lower than average losses (i.e. better performance) for personal injury, bodily injury, and medical payment. Although small cars are disadvantaged in crashes with larger vehicles, real-life data shows the Fit does much better than other small cars – and a lot of mid-size cars like the Ford Fusion. See [go to mini station wagons].

    This data is naturally impacted by driving habits (compare Grand Marquis vs Crown Victoria data), however, I would imagine the Fit has the same caliber of drivers as its B-segment competition.

    • 0 avatar

      Most volume with the least weight should have that effect (crash safety).

      I don’t know if psychology plays a factor. The Fit is not as joyful to drive as a Mazda2, but it’s a fair bit more fun than an Accent or Rio. If snoozable handling were a way of preventing accidents, the Accent would be the safest car on the road.

  • avatar

    I’m a huge fan of “huge, over-sized twisty knobs” that I can find by feel and twist with my gloves on. IMO, a mass of tiny buttons (as found in the 2012 Accord) are the mistake. Agreed, I’m not much for the visuals of how those knobs are laid out, but that’s a detail.

    (The Accord’s buttons repelled me the instant I saw them. When my dad happened to be at a dealer, and got in an Accord, he got out just a few seconds later and his first words were, “I don’t like all those buttons.” I hadn’t said a word about it.)

    Everyone knows about the Fit’s flexible interior, but other advantages include the tall doors, endless headroom, and the visibility that comes from the big greenhouse.

    Honda’s famous, suicidal sloth is still killing them, though. The time to do something about the Fit’s buzziness was years ago, and a sixth gear for improved quiet and highway mileage can’t come soon enough.

  • avatar

    I’m a big fan of Hyundai/Kia, and I’m excited that Chevy might have a decent car with the Sonic, but since all these cars play in a segment that really values total-cost-of-ownership you can’t ignore long-term reliability and resale value. Compared to most of its competitors, the Fit brings an almost unbeatable value to the table.

    The Fit has unbeatable residual value, and I’d much sooner bet on it lasting 20 years than any of the others you mentioned.

    • 0 avatar

      Another way to look at this is a domestic brands often have lower repair (parts) costs. If the difference in reliability is small (as Karesh often points out with modern cars), I’ll take the cheaper repairs.

      Also, if you keep the car for 20 years, resale value is going to be near scrap value at that point, regardless of the brand.

      So something like the Sonic probably costs less up front, is cheaper to repair, and resale is a moot point anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        I would believe reliability is similar over the first 5 years, but I’m not so convinced over the long haul. With the Hyundai/Kia twins you’re looking at fairly unproven direct-inject technology and the Chevy has a turbo.

        Good longevity and good resale value are really just two sides of the same coin; generally, the better a car ages the more it’s worth when it’s time to sell it. Buying a car that *could* last 20 years or more is a good bet even if you don’t plan on keeping it til it’s dead since you’ll get good money for it when you go to sell.

        Obviously no one knows how this is all going to pan out 10+ years from now. But I think the Fit is a far more proven platform, from a more proven maker, with more proven technology that should give a long, reliable serviceable life. The others *may* end up matching or exceeding it, but if cost-of-ownership were my top priority (which, I’d argue it is, for many buyers in this segment) I could hardly see taking a gamble on anything other than a Fit.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t think the lower repair costs for domestic brands are true at all. At least not anymore with global cars. Sometimes the domestics are even more expensive to work on than the asian makes, especially if you figure in labour. Go change the rear drums on a Focus and come back to me. Hondas/Toyotas are ridiculously easy to work on which is part of their durability secret. Not having to mess with more systems than necessary decreases the chances that your trusty tech might screw something up along the way. Ever have the pleasure of changing a fuel pressure regulator on a GM 4.3 Vortec? It sits inside the intake manifold and will eat up your whole afternoon. This sort of thing is all too common on domestic vehicles.

        In any case, domestic cars have always offered more for the money. This is nothing new. Like it has been mentioned, the whole point for people buying cars in this segment is minimal cost of ownership. While the Fiesta might have a better interior and the Sonic a Turbo engine, the Fit stands a much better chance of being valuable transportation for the next 15 years.

  • avatar

    The Hyundai Accent may have a higher EPA gas mileage number, but in the real world, the Fit beats it. Just look on or and see for yourself what real world gas mileage owners are reporting.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    My ’09 Fit routinely exceeds its EPA estimate by getting 34.5-35mpg every week on my commute (55-75mph interstate plus stop-go surface streets). If I try, I can easily get it up to 37-38mpg. Friends with other small cars find EPA estimates the best they can do.

  • avatar

    Does the Chinese model offer the following accessories:
    * Dash board mounted liquid air freshener.
    * Adjoining dash board mounted Chinese flag
    * Red tasseled rear view mirror adornments
    * Pull over head rest dog-bone pillows
    * beaded seat covers
    * Rear seat pillows
    * hide-a-way rear seat belts
    * Stuffed toys for the rear window
    * window shades
    * performance product stickers for well…the performance model

  • avatar

    “…huge, over-sized twisty knobs put in place via a drunken round of pin the tail on the donkey.”

    LMFAO (:

    • 0 avatar

      If you’ve ever sat in one of these, it’s easy to see what he meant. The dash is – well, it’s right out of the “oh boy, oh boy it’s a Remco toy” school of design.

      But as drivers have discovered, that apparent “scatter” makes the various knobs and buttons easy to find once you’re accustomed to it.

    • 0 avatar

      The only thing on the dash is the hvac and radio – not sure what the problem here is. If you want endless scatter look in an Audi – make a wrong selection and you’ll never figure out how to go back.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Also, expect to have a full size bumper sticker, in Mandarin of course:

    This may be a Japanese brand, but built in the People’s Republic by skilled Chinese workers!
    The Diaoyu Islands are Chinese sovereign territory!
    Don’t forget the Rape of Nanking!

  • avatar

    Before anyone gets too excited about the Chevy Sonic, keep in mind that it has terrible reliability according to the early returns at Truedelta. It really is a shame considering how well the Sonic drives, especially when compared to the Fit.

  • avatar

    As suspected, the Chinese Fit’s shortcomings are identical to the non-Chinese Fit’s shortcomings. A redesign is needed.

    I for one wouldn’t mind if they also brought over the N-One to do battle against the Fiat 500/Mini Cooper as well as the iQ/ForTwo/Spark microsegment.

  • avatar

    Not meant rhetorically, but who cares where a car is built today?
    Aren’t the robots and the processes much the same wherever a major manufacturer operates?

  • avatar

    when test driving cars earlier this year, the wife refused to even sit in the fit. Too ugly she said.

    Alas, the one fit at the dealer was an automatic, so I let it go.

    Why hasn’t honda seen fit to update the door handles to the more convenient to use configuration that every other new car on the planet has in 2012?

  • avatar

    I’ve driven all the competition, the fit, the accent, the rio, the fiesta. The fit is still my favourite among the pile. The new accent is absolute garbage with a wallowy ride, the rio has no character, the fiesta has a revvy little engine that goes nowhere slow…lots of noise and a throttle needle that goes north of 5 grand with no payoff. The fit is a car you want to drive. however, the seats are absolutely horrible and there could be more legroom. That said I went with a MK4 Golf City.

    • 0 avatar

      I can appreciate what you are saying Dwight, but I think price point is a better competitor metric than class. Is the Fit Sport better than a Focus SE hatch which costs less after rebates? No. As good as the Fit is, it just can’t compete with other cars at the same price point, though it is great compared to other cars in the same class.

      • 0 avatar

        You need to test drive the various competitors to understand. The Ford Focus is a nice little hatchback that rides smoothly and drives numbly. If all you want is to point and shoot, it’d do the job.

        The Fit / Jazz are much more responsive. If what you’re after is the “fun” of driving, then the Honda is a far better choice. If you want a zippy little corner carver, then this will do the job.

        The Korean offerings are attractive at first, but their long term durability is not so good. If you want something that will go 10 years without major repairs, then your choice is either the Ford or the Honda offerings.

        And if you’re planning to do lots of expressway driving, you probably should be looking at something bigger; these are great in the city and not so bad on the highway. Flogging one down the freeway at 80+ isn’t what they’re designed for.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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….

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