The Honda Fit is popular within the subcompact segment, placing fifth out of 15 competitors last year, but over the first five months of 2016 it’s gained yet more sales traction and now places fourth overall.
Considering that the third-place car is actually two models, a hatchback and a sedan, the second-place model is a tiny city car that starts below $10,000, and the current bestseller is a Korean-made subcompact that’s also available in sedan and hatchback and priced lower than the Fit, Honda is doing very well with its smallest North American offering, which incidentally is only available as a 5-door model and starts at $14,790 plus freight and dealer fees.
Magic Seat FTW
Separating the Honda Fit from mere mortal subcompacts is the revolutionary “Magic Seat” system in back that not only folds flat for hauling gear in the usual 60/40 configuration (with a total of 1,492 litres available it’s much more capacious than any competitor), but you can also flip the lower cushions upward. This is especially useful for loading taller items such as bicycles or large plants you don’t want to get crushed. With the rear seats like this you still get 470 litres of luggage space behind the seatbacks, which of course remains the same if you’re filling up said rear seats with friends, kids, parents, grandparents, dogs, or whoever else you want to strap in.
While the Fit was redesigned for the 2015 model year, the Magic Seat system isn’t new, although a slightly larger car has allowed for a bit more room inside, the numbers being 139 litres of additional interior volume including 122 mm more rear legroom. Of note, if you’d like even more space and prefer an SUV’s ride height and styling, Honda offers this same seating system in its new HR-V, but we’ve already covered that model multiple times so we’ll leave it for now.
If this was all the 2016 Honda Fit did well and the rest of the car was merely average, I’d still recommend it, but such is far from the case. Sitting in the wonderfully comfortable driver’s seat, there’s nothing but black, lifeless screens ahead ― that is until you press the bright red start button and all those digital panels come alive in sharp contrast, full colour, and high resolution. The primary gauges include a speedometer at centre, tachometer to the left and a fuel gauge along with other readouts and a trip computer to the right, the latter controllable via steering wheel switchgear that also redundantly operates audio, phone, voice-activation, multi-information display, and cruise functions.
Over on the centre stack is a large infotainment display up top, mine upgraded with navigation plus a multi-angle backup camera with active guidelines, the usual audio, phone and vehicle settings, plus loads of included and downloadable apps. Below that you’ll find a purely touch-sensitive, dual-zone automatic HVAC system that’s so far above anything else in the mainstream subcompact class it’s shocking.
As you may have guessed, the 2016 Honda Fit I was driving wasn’t the base, considerably more down to earth DX model quoted previously. The version tested here is the $21,590 top-line EX-L Navi upgraded to $22,890 thanks to an optional CVT ― a car vying for premium status other than a near complete lack of soft-touch surfaces or other traditional luxury trappings such as cloth pillars, genuine wood or metal accents, etcetera. We can leave such niceties to the much more expensive MINI 5 Door and the like.
Still, the Fit EX-L Navi gets a lot of satin-silver faux metal to brighten up the cabin, plus some exclusive features like leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped shift knob to go along with the leather-clad steering wheel pulled up from the lesser EX, the automatic climate control system, voice recognition and navigation-infused infotainment system, plus the push-button ignition system noted earlier, combined with proximity sensing access. The infotainment system also includes satellite and HD radio, and the car’s mirror housings are upgraded with a set of LED turn signals.
Other highlights grandfathered up from lesser trims include machine-finished 16” alloy wheels, auto on/off multi-reflector halogen headlights, fog lamps, body-coloured mirrors, door handles and rear spoiler, LED brake lights, heated power side mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering, one-touch turn signals, heated front seats, Bluetooth with audio streaming, a 6-speaker, 180W AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA stereo, an aux plug and two USB ports, Siri Eyes Free, text and email capability, Honda’s class-exclusive and utterly brilliant LaneWatch display that projects the car’s passenger-side blindspot onto the infotainment screen when clicking the right turn signal, a power moonroof, a cargo cover, HondaLink Next Generation telematics, an engine immobilizer, hill start assist, as well as all the usual active and passive safety equipment.
Speaking of safety, the brand’s rigid ACE body structure helped the 2016 Honda Fit achieve a 5-star crash test rating from the NHTSA and a best possible “Good” rating in four of five IIHS categories, its small overlap front test getting a second-best “Acceptable” rating, which is as good as it gets for mainstream subcompacts.
All Fit trims also come standard with Honda’s direct-injected, 1.5L 4-cylinder i-VTEC engine and a 6-speed manual gearbox, although as noted earlier mine was upgraded to include its optional continuously variable transmission featuring paddle shifters no less.
Normally, paddles get me somewhat excited when an automatic is the only option, and to be fair they came in handy when downshifting during a couple of sporty test runs, but they don’t do more than offer a placebo effect when upshifting; the CVT is best left to its own very smooth and capable devices when trying to gain speed. The engine accelerates well with a considerable 130 horsepower and more than reasonable 114 lb-ft of torque. Keep in mind the 2016 Honda Fit weighs just 1,201 kilos (2,648 lbs) as tested or 1,177 kg (2,595 lbs) with the manual.
When pushed hard, its MacPherson front and torsion-beam rear suspension setup proves quite dynamic, helped somewhat by my tester’s larger wheels and tires, although its tall yet stubby profile and narrow stance means that body roll makes itself uncomfortably known as soon as the first turn begins to bend. While a bit unnerving to those uninitiated, the Fit holds its line admirably, causing slightly more speed through the next corner and so on, its road-holding surprisingly capable. Still, I doubt most buyers will ever find out, likely more concerned with fuel economy than sporty handling.
As you might expect, the Honda Fit is a light drinker: 7.3L/100km city and 6.1L/100km highway in top-line CVT trim. On the other hand, it only manages 8.1L/100km city and 6.4L/100km highway with the manual gearbox.
Fit for a small king
As for styling the updated Fit is a lot more appealing than its predecessor, with sharper edges that include an F1-inspired, wing-like lower front fascia and cool black mesh faux vents front and rear. My tester even included some glitzy chrome at each end. I often see Fits new and old fixed up by their owners, meaning it has a certain sporting cachet that most others in the class don’t. This, along with Honda’s good name, helps keep its resale value higher than average.
Ultimately, the 2016 Honda Fit may not hold the top sales spot in its segment yet, but it’s the subcompact model I recommend most often. It does everything that’s required of a small car, plus it provides best-in-class electronics and what is by far the most versatile rear seat/cargo setup in the industry.