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2011 Honda Fit ReviewThe Good
The 2011 Honda Fit offers the fuel economy expected in a subcompact, but will surprise with its spacious interior and multiple seating configurations that provide a wealth of cargo space.The Bad
The 2011 Fit’s air conditioning can’t quite keep up with the solar impact from its huge amount of glass, and when unleashed on the highway, the subcompact roars with road, engine and wind noise, struggling to stay on course in a strong wind.
The CarGurus View
The Fit offers a fun-to-drive subcompact with a peppy five-speed manual transmission combined with precise steering and a size that make it easy to maneuver and park almost anywhere. Although noise is an issue in the 2011 Honda, its fuel economy, spacious interior and cargo room are hard to beat. The price, however, may be beatable by some of the Fit’s competitors in the class.
At a Glance
Honda bills its 2011 Fit as being “built for the demands of errand-hopping city-dwellers.” The Fit’s two returning trims (Base and Sport) provide good fuel economy, sharp handling and impressively configurable cargo space, allowing those city-dwellers to run their errands with ease and fill the subcompact with friends or flat-packaged furniture.
New Base features for 2011 include cruise control, remote keyless entry, standard Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and a USB audio interface. The Sport adds VSA and standard carpeted floormats. In addition, four new color choices essentially rename previous color choices.
There are few differences between the Base and the Sport that aren’t aesthetic, since they share an engine, suspension and safety features. The Sport, however, adds a standard security system, rear spoiler, foglights, chrome exhaust finisher, bigger wheels and an underbody aero kit to the exterior. Inside, the Sport trim offers the ability to add Honda's satellite navigation system with voice recognition and steering-wheel-mounted controls, as well as standard leather-wrapped steering wheel, map lights and two extra speakers to the Base’s audio system.
The Fit uses a single engine for the Base and Sport trims: a 1.5-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder making 117 hp at 6,600 rpm and 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. The standard manual five-speed transmission delivers fuel economy ratings of 27 mpg city/33 highway, while the available 5-speed automatic does slightly better (28/35 for the Base and 27/33 for the Sport). The Fit Sport with automatic comes equipped with dual-mode paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel, allowing for manual gear shifting. When the Fit Sport is outfitted with the available navigation package, only the automatic transmission is available.
Ride & Handling
Both the Base and Sport trims use the same suspension - MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion beam rear suspension - although the Sport gets front and rear stabilizer bars. The Base rides on 15-inch wheels, while the Sport ups the ride to 16-inch alloy wheels. Both trims share Drive-by-Wire throttle technology, which eliminates the cable that traditionally connects the accelerator pedal to the throttle and increases engine responsiveness by electronically controlling the communication between the two. Even with this throttle technology, however, the manual transmission gives a more spirited ride with smooth and easy shifting.
The Fit’s acceleration gets mixed reviews, with the Base's 0-60 times ranging from 8.3 seconds (beating out competitors Ford Fiesta and Mazda2) to a lethargic 11 seconds. Stopping times, however, are universally disappointing, with subpar braking distances for the class.
The Sport’s handling and steering are particularly notable, however, with excellent stability in the turns and good steering response. The Base is no slouch either, and the Fit’s size makes it easy to maneuver into just about any tight parking space. The Fit struggles with the elements, however, so a strong wind can make it hard to keep the subcompact on course.
As in many vehicles in the “affordable” category, the Fit is also not strong on insulating passengers from noise, including engine noise during acceleration as well as wind and road noise at higher speeds.
Cabin & Comfort
The Honda Fit is like those cars at the circus – it looks minuscule from the outside, but you can pack a whole lot of clowns in there. The interior spaciousness of the Fit is one of its biggest upsides, and both the front and rear can accommodate actual adults (although the rear would be most comfortable for two during a long ride). In addition to passengers, the Fit easily holds all of their stuff. Honda’s Magic Seats fold a number of different ways to maximize an impressive amount of cargo storage, both long and tall.
The Magic Seats can be configured in four different modes. Even in People Mode (with all seats upright), the Fit can transport 5 while offering 20.6 cubic feet of storage—an admirable feat for a subcompact. Switching to Utility Mode folds the seats flat, upping storage to a vast 57.3 cubic feet. Long Mode folds the front passenger seat flat, allowing for transportation of objects up to 7'9" long. Tall Mode flips the rear seat cushions up, revealing a hidden storage compartment on the bottom of the cushion, as well as allowing transportation of items over 4 feet tall.
Despite the seats’ acrobatics, there is little that can be done to adjust the seats for driver or passenger comfort, and some wish for additional cushioning in the seats (although the standard tilt-and-telescoping steering column can help the driver’s comfort). The gauges and controls are positioned for easy viewing and access and are labeled for ease of use. However, only the Sport trim has a fold-down armrest in the front for the driver, and the feature may be missed by passengers (and driver in the Base).
The Base and Sport share many other standard interior features, including cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls and power windows and locks. The air conditioning in both trims is problematic, however. While the large windshield and side windows create a panoramic view, the downside of that amount of glass is the amount of interior heat the sun will generate, and the air conditioning has a hard time keeping its cool. Sun visors are not large enough or positioned correctly to block much of that heat or light, either.
The Fit and Fit Sport also share an audio system: a 160-watt AM/FM CD Player with an MP3 auxiliary jack and a standard USB interface in the glovebox. The Base comes equipped with 4 speakers, while the Sport adds 2 more. The Sport, however, is the only trim offering the Honda satellite-linked navigation system that comes equipped with voice recognition and an 8GB DVD database of maps and points of interest.
The 2011 Honda Fit includes numerous safety features, adding standard Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control to both trims. Six airbags protect passengers, and the front side airbags include a passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (which can deactivate the front passenger seat airbag for a smaller person), side curtain airbags and front airbags, which have the ability to inflate at different rates based on factors such as the seriousness of the crash and seatbelt usage.
Given the Fit’s small stature, Honda’s exclusive Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) helps insulate passengers in a crash. ACE creates a body structure designed to distribute the force of a crash more evenly throughout the front of the car (as well as transferring it to the other vehicle involved) with the goal of protecting the cabin from the crash's force.
Other standard safety features in the Fit include tire pressure monitoring and antilock brakes (front disc and rear drum) with electronic brake distribution.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration created new 2011 standards of safety but has rated the 2011 Fit only for rollovers using its new standards. The Fit earned 4 out of 5 stars and a 12.4% risk of a rollover. Under the old system, however, the 2010 Fit received a perfect score for front driver and passenger crash tests and side driver tests, and 4 out of 5 stars for the side passenger crash test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2011 Fit high marks for safety, with its highest rating of Good for front, side and rear crashes, but a one step lower Acceptable for the rollover test, which actually measures the roof strength of the vehicle in a rollover.
What Owners Think
Owners of the 2011 Honda Fit (and similar 2010 model) seem to chant a similar mantra: “It’s a subcompact, stupid!” For some, this is not a bad thing, and they praise its excellent fuel economy, handling and surprisingly roomy interior. Enthusiastic owners concur that the Sport manual makes for the most fun-to-drive option. Owners also consistently commend the Fit’s safety, with tales of drivers miraculously walking away from incredible crashes, proving that the Honda safety features did their job.
Other owners find fault with the Fit, particularly its sluggish acceleration, noise level (particularly at highway speeds) and handling in a strong wind. The seats, available only in black cloth, are difficult to keep clean, and some owners find them very uncomfortable, suggesting that additional adjustments (height or lumbar, for example) might help to remediate the discomfort, especially for the driver’s seat. Other complaints include the heat factor—with air conditioning that just can’t stand up to the number of windows, small sun visors and black cloth upholstery. But while some regret their choice and can’t wait to trade in their Fit, most seem to accept that the noise and small engine are part and parcel of what you get in a small car.
by Jessica McCombe
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