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2018 Honda Fit: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Colin Ryan August 2017

Call the 2018 Honda Fit subcompact hatchback a perfect illustration of "you learn something new each day." Specifically, people race Fits. On tracks. There's a series for which this pleasant, small, family runaround is eligible (after a little preparation). This jolly weekend activity has given rise to some options developed by the Honda Factory Performance operation that may be installed on the 2018 Fit's new Sport trim level. These include aerodynamic additions, suspension parts and a titanium shift knob for the manual transmission.

The impetus behind the new trim level and special components is the obligatory midgeneration refreshment signaled by the 2018 model year. It also includes a slight redesign of both ends, a better infotainment system than before and a few other enhancements, which we'll go into.

Safety First

These are the features we hope to never need, so they usually get mentioned in reviews once all the adjectives have been applied to performance and handling. But one of the big stories regarding the Fit's midcycle refresh is the availability of advanced driver aids, a rarity in the mainstream subcompact hatchback scene.

Honda Sensing is the name of the package. It includes adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assistance and road-departure mitigation (these two features keep the car between the lines). It comes as standard in the highest trim levels but is optional even on the entry-level model. We also applaud Honda for giving every Fit a rearview camera as standard.

There's also Honda Lane Watch in the EX versions, which is a camera set into the door mirror on the passenger side that keeps watch on traffic coming up the inside. Push the turn signal to indicate right, and the center screen shows what the camera sees.

This generation of Fit (the third) has already been through crash-test programs carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), scoring well in both.

Cargo Cleverness

This is where the Fit becomes king of the subcompact hatchbacks, with its intelligent and versatile seating/hauling capabilities. Starting with the area behind the back seats, there's 16.6 cu ft. of cargo space. Incidentally, the trunk of a Honda Accord midsize sedan measures 15.8 cu ft., and that's generous for its class.

Fold the rear seats down (they also split 60/40) to form a flat load floor, and there's 52.7 cu ft. to throw stuff into (that's the same as the compact class-leading Volkswagen Golf). But it doesn't end there. The rear seats' bottom cushions flip up to accommodate something tall enough to, um, fit between the car's floor and its ceiling. And the back of the front passenger seat reclines right down, enabling the transportation of longer things such as cross-country skis and surfboards.

The Fit is also great for humans. There's plenty of legroom and headroom in both seating rows. Honda has been ingenious in the way it maximizes the car's interior space.

Engine Room

There's only one engine, a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder unit making 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. It's not going to break any land-speed records, but still does better than the 2017 Ford Fiesta (120 or 123 hp) and the 2017 Nissan Versa Note (109 hp), though not as well as the 2017 Kia Rio (138 hp).

Drive goes solely to the front wheels. A 6-speed manual transmission is the basic setup, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as the automatic alternative. However, engine output is slightly diminished when the CVT is in the picture: 128 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque.

For any 2018 Fit using a manual transmission, fuel consumption is estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 29 miles per gallon in the city, 36 mpg on highway and 31 mpg in combined driving.

CVT versions aren't quite so straightforward. The LX with a CVT achieves 33 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/36 mpg combined, while Sport and EX equivalents run to 31 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/33 mpg combined.

Fit for Purpose

As mentioned, the engine doesn't have a lot of muscle, but it is at least willing to be revved. Maximum thrust happens at 4,600 rpm. This model year's extra sound insulation makes it seem less like torture to push the accelerator even deeper. The only disappointment is a slight whirring from the CVT, a typical vice of these units. We've heard worse.

So the Fit keeps up with the general run of traffic and takes corners like a lot of small front-drive cars, with a safe and predictable amount of understeer. Back off the throttle a touch once the front tires start to chirp and normal service is resumed. Honda says it has improved ride quality and dynamics -- an upshot of strengthening the body -- but the new levels are more in line with the top models of the class rather than above and beyond. The same could be said of the refinement and the perfectly acceptable infotainment system (which, by the way, has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).

Down to Business

The 2018 Honda Fit comes in LX, Sport, EX, EX-L and EX-L with Navi trim levels. The manual transmission LX model starts at $17,065. Then it's $18,375 for the Sport. The EX trim is priced from $19,035.

The L in EX-L stands for leather upholstery, and this trim level also comes with satellite radio and heated side mirrors and front seats, plus the CVT automatic transmission as standard equipment. That all adds up to $21,395.

No one should be surprised to learn that EX-L with Navi means GPS navigation. They might be a little surprised at $22,395.

To put these prices into some kind of context, let's look at the 2017 Ford Fiesta range (in hatchback body style). The sparsely stocked S trim begins at $14,835, while the Titanium trim (which compares with the EX-L) comes in at $19,825.

It must be pointed out, though, that Honda invariably does well with resale values, and the Fit is projected to retain 55 percent of its worth over 3 years.

So while the 2018 Fit is not the bargain of the segment, it does enjoy all the positives listed above, along with the kind of build quality that has given Honda one of the best reputations in the business. This car absolutely deserves a spot on a buyer's shortlist.

 For access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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2018 Honda Fit: First Drive Review - Autotrader