In many families, graduation season prompts deep conversations about first cars.
For the past decade, those conversations have had to include Honda’s Fit subcompact hatchback.
The 2018 Fit ($16,190) checks all the starter-car boxes (and second-car and last-car boxes, too).
It’s safe, affordable and economical. It’s a Honda, so it’s likely to provide years of low-maintenance transportation.
Fit’s 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine is strong enough to handle moving-day and garden-center chores — but not strong enough to cause anxious parents undue worry.
Nimble, solid, responsive
Fit is nimble in traffic and, with its modest footprint, short overhangs and standard rearview camera, it slips deftly into tight parking spaces. Four adults ride comfortably in an open and airy cabin, though taller rear-seat passengers may run short of headroom.
On the road, Fit feels solid and responsive. At speed, it has the presence and stability of its larger Civic siblings. Steering responses are precise, but the system is lightly weighted and provides scant feedback. It’s no sports car, but Fit handles quick corners and transitions without drama.
The Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technologies is available on all models and standard on higher trims. Fit is the only car in the segment with such comprehensive driver-assist features.
Swiss Army knife utility
Fit’s Swiss Army Knife utility stands alone in the segment, if not the industry. Tipping up the rear seats’ bottom cushions creates a well behind the front seats deep and wide enough to hold a bicycle, a pair of tall plants or a flat screen TV. Tipping down the 6/40-split seatbacks yields a low and flat cargo-area floor.
Fit arrived in the U.S. in 2006. In 2015, a third-generation makeover in 2015 planted it on a stiff and lightweight new chassis. This year, a batch of updates boost comfort, safety and handling.
The suspension is retuned for quicker responses, improved steering feel and better ride quality. Freshly added body bracing contributes to the vault-like rigidity of its unibody.
Thicker window glass and other sound-deadening measures reduce cabin noise.
For 2018, Honda Sensing grows to include adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning and intervention. Fit’s infotainment system now supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.
New midlevel Sport trim
All 2018 Fits include a rearview camera, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto on-off headlights, LED brake lights, Bluetooth connectivity and an armrest/center storage console.
The driver information panel is redesigned this year, with a large analog speedometer and digital tachometer.
A new midlevel Sport trim ($17,500) come aboard this year.
The Sport adds aerodynamic body work, integrated fog lights and a front splitter sprayed orange. Its 16-inch wheels receive an exclusive gloss-black finish. Out back, there’s a three-strake diffuser with a bright orange trim line, a chrome exhaust finisher and a Sport badge.
Inside, orange contrast stitching details the seats, center console and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. All else, including the cross-hatch fabric covering the seats and door panels, are black.
Engine willing but noisy
A 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine powers all Fits. A six-speed manual is standard and a CVT is optional.
With the manual, the engine produces 130 horsepower. CVT-equipped models drop 2 hp.
Peak horsepower doesn’t hit until 6,600 rpm and the little engine doesn’t mind being pushed, even if it raises a racket in the process. With the manual, the Fit accelerates from 0-60 in 8.2 seconds, with the CVT half a second behind.
EPA estimates for the CVT are 36 mpg combined/33 city/40 highway, with the manual rated at
I always enjoy a good manual transmission, and our winding two-lane allowed me to make good use of its short throws and crisp gates, but the CVT’s efficiency is its own best argument. And this is one of the good ones, lapsing into drone mode only under hard acceleration, when merging with freeway traffic, for instance, or passing on a two-lane road.
Finally, anxious parents need to know that the Fit gestalt is not about performance. This little package nods heavily toward utility, economy and temperate behavior. The perfect first-car formula.
Contact Don at email@example.com.
2018 Honda Fit Sport
Vehicle base price: $16,190
Trim level base price: $17,500 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Our Fit Sport test vehicle came without options.
EPA rating: 31 combined/29 city/36 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified