Thanks to the 2009 Honda Fit, "affordable subcompact" no longer equals "chintzy penalty box."
On a weekly basis, we auto writer types in the office get weekly reports about what cars are most popular in terms of searches on our site. And for much of 2008, we were amused by reports for "Inside Line," our dedicated car enthusiast site. One phrase kept coming in as number one. It wasn't one of the expected ones like, "Nissan GT-R," "Bitchin' Camaro" or even "Danica Patrick." It was, believe it or not, "2009 Honda Fit."
Sure, we can understand why "normal" car shoppers would be interested in the Fit. This entry-level model, introduced just a couple years ago, quickly became a hit thanks to its high fuel mileage, innovative interior and nimble handling. But car junkies? Either the Fit has suddenly become cooler than a GT-R, or real-world, $4-dollar-a-gallon gas and everyday practicality have trumped supercar daydreams.
Either way, there's a lot of hype for the fully redesigned, second-generation 2009 Fit. Honda's plan for the car was to keep the original model's spunky spirit intact while making a few key improvements. The new car is 4.2 inches longer than the previous model. This might seem like cause for concern, but curb weight, at about 2,500 pounds, has pretty much stayed the same. Enhanced body rigidity and suspension updates provide better handling, and Honda says the new body structure benefits from the company's latest crash safety engineering efforts.
Inside, the extra length provides more room for rear passengers to stretch out. It also allows owners to fold down the rear seat without having to first remove the rear headrests. As before, you can do a lot of trick things with that rear seat, including flipping the cushions up (like in a crew-cab pickup) to create a tall cargo area. In terms of features, a telescoping steering wheel is a welcome addition. You can even get a factory navigation system and stability control for the first time.
Under the hood of this four-door hatchback, you'll find a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the same as last year. It's been revised with a number of changes, including an improved version of i-VTEC variable valve timing. Some might be disappointed that this hasn't led to dramatically higher horsepower or better EPA fuel economy estimates (they're both about the same as last year). But the overall drivability of the new Fit is noticeably better thanks to a wider spread of power.
Overall, we're very impressed with the redesigned 2009 Honda Fit. Considering that we liked last year's version more than competitors like the Chevrolet Aveo, Nissan Versa and Scion xD, it would seem that the Fit has extended its superiority even further. The only hold-up will likely be price. Given the interest in this car, actual sales transaction pricing will no doubt stay close to MSRP, and that MSRP is already higher than some of its competitors'. But for the small hatchback shopper, or even car enthusiast daydreamers who need something to get to work, Honda's Fit is the best pick out there.