Jodi Lai: The Honda Fit has a very special place in my heart -- it was the first car I ever tested as an automotive journalist. As a wee 19-year-old (that feels like ages ago), driving around in my first tester felt like freedom.
"Can I really drive cars and then write about them for a living?" I wondered. The Fit represented a physical manifestation of a dream come true. It didn't matter that the first-gen Fit was a tiny budget-mobile with a tiny engine. It represented my big dreams.
Nick Tragianis: Our first testers are quite different. The Golf R will always retain that special place in my heart, but I can see why you love the Fit. Finished in bright orange, it looks unique. Could you imagine an Accord or an Odyssey finished in that hue? Certainly not, as neither of those cars would look as adorable as the Fit.
Our particular model is the Sport, which wears slightly more aggressive bodywork front and back, a rear spoiler and a set of side skirts. It also rolls on 16-inch wheels, a welcome addition over the hubcaps which are standard on all other Fit models.
JL: It is quite adorable, but, after my nostalgia wore off, I began to realize that as I matured, so did my taste in cars. I noticed I want things like heated seats, sunroofs, touchscreens and automatic everything -- things the Fit doesn't offer. I feel that even though the Fit is a budget car, these are things people would be willing to pay extra for, but they're not available as options.
Still, once I thought about why I liked the Fit the first time around, the same still holds true: For a budget car, it makes a lot of sense.
For example, the Fit has something a lot of its competition doesn't: Incredible cargo capacity and storage options. When the Fit first came out, the big deal was its Magic Seats, which you can very easily move any which way into multiple configurations to, um, fit whatever you need in the back. If you have a subcompact budget but need to haul stuff around after trips to IKEA or for camping trips up north, the Fit is it.
NT: I will admit, the Fit does have some impressive cargo numbers. To be exact, 20 cubic feet with the seats folded up and an impressive 57 cu. ft. folded down. That doesn't seem like much, but the tall greenhouse certainly helps it trump almost every other subcompact, including one I recently spent a week with -- the Mazda2. In terms of raw power, you cannot expect too much from a car in this segment. The Fit pumps out 117 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque from its VTEC-infused 1.5 litre four-cylinder engine. Meanwhile, the Mazda2 is the slowpoke, putting out 100 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque from its 1.5L mill.
That said, the two cars couldn't feel any more different. The Mazda2 is much more lively -- the best way to describe the little guy is that it behaves like Scrat from Ice Age on his never-ending quest for acorns.
Both cars have a five-speed manual and fall flat past 4,000 rpm, but the Mazda2 is about 102 pounds lighter than the Fit. It doesn't seem like much, but that number makes a significant difference. The Mazda2 feels livelier and much more engaging to drive, and the other part of that has to do with the transmission. Although the clutch is light, the shifter is short and throws are surprisingly tight and chunky -- the good kind of chunky, where it lets you know which gear you're in.
The Fit, on the other hand, feels like each gear is a sponge, and the tall shifter has a fair bit of side-to-side travel in each cog. The numb clutch doesn't help, which takes a while to get used to. That being said, it still feels just as lively, peppy and acorn-loving as the Mazda2 rocketing from a standstill. Chalk that merit up to VTEC, yo.
JL: People don't buy subcompacts to go BMW-chasing, but they do buy them to save money on fuel. In my first few days with the Fit, the gas needle was unmoved, practically staying in full position. After my week, the fuel-consumption readout said the Fit was sipping a pretty impressive 8.2 L/100 km in a 70/30 mix of city/highway driving.
Keeping in mind I didn't drive the Fit like a granny going to church, this number could be much lower if my right foot was lighter and if I didn't rocket off the line at every chance possible. But that's what the Fit wants you to do: Have fun with it.
NT: You could say the same thing about the Mazda2. Both of these cars are acorn ... er, gas misers. The Mazda2 also returned an impressive average of 8.2 L/100 km, and I wasn't light on the throttle, either. It loves to scurry from Point A to B, proclaiming its love for acorns ... er, horsepower and driving. Natural Resources Canada rates the Mazda2 at 6.8 L/100 km in the city and 5.6 on the highway. The Fit chimes in with slightly thirstier numbers at 7.1 city and 5.7 highway.
No one can expect much from a subcompact as far as interior quality is concerned. The Honda Fit and Mazda2 are far from cheap, but they lack refinement. Power windows, door locks and cruise control are standard on both of these cars, as is AUX connectivity. The ride on both of these cars is loud -- wind, road and engine noise aplenty -- but you can't expect Mazda6 or Honda Accord levels of comfort. Although the Mazda2 seats were comfortable and supportive, I preferred the Fit in this department since the fabric Honda uses feels more durable than the Mazda2.
A touch I particularly liked is the fabric door inserts with the Fit, as it's a characteristic found on more expensive cars (and I use the term "expensive" loosely). However, the exposed screw heads behind the door pulls and in the centre console reek of oversight. That's not a problem with the Mazda2 -- in general, I feel it has a better looking layout, with round shapes, the Miata-like steering wheel and gloss-black and silver trim helping to break up the sea of flat black.
That said, the Fit's layout is logical and eye-catching. Simplicity is the strongest virtue of subcompacts like the Fit and the Mazda2, because no one wants to second-guess what a button or knob does.
JL: When you look at the Honda Fit for what it is -- a budget-based subcompact -- it's one of the best your hard-earned dollars can buy. And no matter how old I get, the Fit will always keep me grounded, reminding me of those big dreams I once had.
-- Postmedia News