Small cars aren’t cool.
There, I said it. It’s out there. Don’t deny that you’ve thought the exact same thing – we all have. Used to be, you’d hear it all the time, back when the greenhouse effect was something associated with vegetables and gas was cheap enough that a dollar would buy you a gallon and a Snickers bar. People wanted cars with hoods you could launch P-51 Mustangs off of; rolling iron so heavy it disrupted the Earth’s magnetic field.
These days, however, small cars are in vogue. After all, this is the Era of Hope and Change! And with the receipts of $4.50-a-gallon gasoline seared into our wallets and new accounts every day popping up of how humanity has ass-fucked the Earth in Deliverance-worthy fashion, heavy metal is suddenly passé.
Or at least, that’s what the media wants you to believe. But we all know it’s not really true. Sure, it’s easy to make the financial case for a small car. Easy to make the social responsibility case, too. It’s even possible to say they’re more fun to drive sometimes – smaller means lighter, and lighter means faster. But cool? No. Never. We know that in our hearts.
Well, there’s a few automakers out there hoping to change your mind about that, and Honda’s at the top of the list with the Fit. Now, anyone familiar with Honda probably isn’t surprised by this – Honda’s been doing the small car game longer than most. (In fact, the original 1978 Honda Accord was less than four inches longer than Fit, and weighed about 350 pounds less.) The Fit, which arrived on our shores in first-generation guise in 2006, has been blazing a trail into levels of cool never before seen among small cars in the U.S. – for example, snagging a place on Car and Driver’s 10Best in 2007 and 2008. And that was with a car that was first put into production in 2001 for foreign markets.
For the second-generation model, Honda designed it with the American market in mind – that is to say, for fat-asses. Thankfully, Fit 2.0 didn’t balloon up nearly as much as many American-market cars do in comparison to their foreign counterparts (Honda actually sells one version of the Accord in the U.S. and Canada, and a separate, smaller version everywhere else.); weight is effectively unchanged, while the new cars is a little longer and wider than its older self.
The new Fit also applies this gentle revisionist philosophy to the car’s looks. It still maintains the same angular design cues and wedge-shaped profile, but the new Fit looks, well, more fit, with body panels that bulge out without looking flabby. And the revised looks don’t hurt the Fit’s versatility, either – with its magic rear seats flipped down to create a flat load floor, there’s 57.3 square feet of cargo room. You can even flip down the front passenger seat to make a space long enough for something 7’9″ long – convenient for carrying PVC piping or NBA centers. (Lay down, Ming!)
But what really edges the Fit towards coolness is its performance. Now, acceleration isn’t its speciality – all cars comes with a 1.5 liter inline four cylinder putting out 118 horsepower, and the 0-60 run takes about 8.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver. But in the curves, the Fit wins over a lot more friends – while only pulling about 0.8 g’s on the skidpad, it handles sweetly and easily, and eight-tenths of Earth’s gravity is plenty of force when you’re dealing with an econobox.
Only two trim levels are available, Fit and Fit Sport. In typical Honda fashion, individual options are slim – more prix fixé than a la carté. Base Fits come with a tire-pressure monitoring system, ABS, a 140-watt 4-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary jack, MP3 capability and speed-sensitive volume control, A/C, power windows/doors/locks, 15″ wheels, and a hilariously ludicrous number of cup holders (10). With a 5-speed manual, it’s $14,750; with a 5-speed automatic, you’ll need $15,550.
Fit Sports add on cruise control, a six-speaker 160-watt stereo with USB plug, 16″ alloy wheels, some decent-looking ground effects, keyless entry, and paddle shifters for the automatic. (“Wow, it’s like I’m driving the world’s cheapest Ferrari!”) Stick shifts start at $16,260, and autos go for $17,110. And in what seems like a somewhat odd move, a Sport model with a built-in nav system is also available; add the nav (and get free stability control!) and you’ll pay $18,110 for the manual and $18,960 for the auto. My advice? Buy a couple maps and save yourself around $1900.
So, in the end, is the Fit cool? That, like most things, depends on your particular point of view. From the traditional American perspective, it’s not. It’s tiny, rather slow, and unlikely to win you over many chicks. (Or dudes.) Even among the environmental set, there are far sexier choices out there. (Fits get between 27 and 28 miles per gallon city and 33 to 35 highway, according to the EPA.) But with a shitty economy, our love affair with oil rapidly escalating towards its inevitable, life-altering breakup, and the end of the world seemingly inching closer every day, it’s time to look for heroes in unexpected places. And for these times, few cars seem as ready to rise to the challenge as the Honda Fit.
Grades: Fit – A-, Fit Sport – A