By KBB.com Editors
Cars match their cultures. In many places where space is at a premium and gas is pricey, smaller is better. That's why the roads of Europe and Asia are populated by little cars with small appetites. But in America, land of super highways and sun-blocking sport utility vehicles, bigger is usually better, and our cars follow suit. For years, Honda's smallest stateside car has been the Civic. However, the Civic has grown in size and price over the years; so much so that, as the Civic moved upstream, a gap began to appear at the entry level. Korean manufacturers have, quite happily, been working to fill the void, but now Honda rejoins the battle for subcompact supremacy, with the neat, nifty and efficient 2008 Honda Fit.You'll Like This Car If...
Fuel economy and a flexible floor plan are this Honda's hallmarks. Those who like their small cars big on the inside will find the Fit a good fit. Adult-sized room front and rear, plus usable cargo space, is rare in a subcompact. Rare, too, are trips to the gas station in the Fit, with an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway.You May Not Like This Car If...
The Fit's "park it anywhere" dimensions are easy to live with and especially prized in the cozy confines of city driving. However, if jousting with trucks and sport utility vehicles on the highway in a small subcompact makes you uncomfortable, you might be happier in a larger car.What's New for 2008
For 2008, the Fit receives a standard tire-pressure monitoring system.Driving It Driving Impressions
The Fit's subcompact size and good acceleration make it well-suited for skating through traffic. As with most small-engine cars, the 2008 Honda Fit responds best with a manual transmission. Passing takes planning, but highway travel is unstressed. The shifter has a snappy action and the suspension has a notably polished feel for a small economy car. Ride and handling rival anything in the subcompact class. The electric power steering has a comfortable heft and sight lines for the driver are good. It's rare to find this much head and leg room for four people in a vehicle this size. Outdoor types will appreciate the ability to pack a mountain bike with its wheels on in back, or flop down the front seat and slide surfboards, skis or snowboards inside for the ride.Favorite Features
Flexible Floor Plan
The Fit's most endearing trait is its flexible floor plan. Clever design allows the seats to be easily and intuitively configured in many usable layouts. This small car is deceptively large inside, and its ability to handle people or parcels in any combination is unusual in any segment, and especially among subcompacts.
With a stick-shift and a bit of twisty road, the Fit is surprisingly entertaining to drive. The suspension comes in for most of the praise here, as the chassis has a level of refinement in ride and handling that belies its price point.
The 2008 Honda Fit's cabin impresses with its design and utility. It's surprisingly big inside for a small car, with room for six-footers in both rows -- something that can't be said about many subcompacts. Cargo space ranges from 21.3 cubic feet to 41.9 cubic feet, depending upon how you configure the split rear seats. The Fit has a low floor and the seats fold flush to maximize room. Rear seatbacks can be flipped up, so that you can store items up to 50 inches tall inside. The front passenger seat folds forward to accommodate long items, be they surfboards or step ladders. Finally, both front and rear seats recline, turning the Fit's cabin into a chaise lounge on wheels. The versatile seats transition easily to the desired floor plan, thanks to intuitive controls. Dashboard switchgear is easy to reach and simple to use. Sport-level seats are well-bolstered for support, though they lack an inside arm rest for your elbow. The combination of a low floor and tall roofline make for enough headroom to withstand a stovepipe hat revival.Exterior
Some cars look better in the metal, plastic and glass than they do in pictures. So it is with the 2008 Honda Fit. The sharp-sloping nose and slash-cut headlamps give it a fresh, modern face, but the degree of drop-off at that nose also means that the driver will never see the front end of the car from inside. Compared to the Civic, the Fit is 3.5 inches taller, 19.2 inches shorter and 2.8 inches narrower. The side view shows Fit's small-but-tall design, hinting at the utility inside. The rear section ends abruptly, with little overhang. Overall, the lines suggest function more than fashion.Notable Standard Equipment
Honda's latest entry features a high level of standard safety gear, including anti-lock brakes and dual front, front-side and side-curtain airbags. An AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers is included, as are air conditioning and power assists for windows, mirrors, door locks and steering.Notable Optional Equipment
The Fit is offered in two trim levels. The step-up, "Sport" version adds both dress-up items for the body and upgrades for the cabin. Among the former are a rear roofline spoiler and rocker-panel flares, fog lamps and 15-inch alloy rims. Counted among the Sport interior features are an upgrade to the audio system (200 watts, six speakers, MP3/WMA playback capability with an auxiliary input jack), cruise control, a security system with keyless remote entry and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter controls (on vehicles equipped with automatic transmission). Owners can choose from over 30 dealer-installed accessories to personalize their purchases. Selections include interior and exterior trim items, 16-inch wheels and an Apple iPod Music Link.Under the Hood
Honda offers one engine and two transmission choices in the Fit. Though small in size, the 1.5-liter engine has enough power to feel lively around town and it cruises comfortably at highway speeds. Buyers who choose the five-speed automatic transmission in Sport models have the option of using paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Paddles are a novelty in this segment, but, if you like to shift it yourself, you're advised to try the five-speed manual; the shifter has a short throw and a fun feel, and the engine is more responsive with the stick. The engine gets a little loud in its upper registers under harder acceleration, something that is more noticeable in automatic-equipped models.
1.5-liter in-line 4
109 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
105 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/34 (manual), 27/34 (automatic), 27/33 (Sport automatic)
The 2008 Honda Fit has Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP) starting around $14,500 with the manual transmission and just over $15,000 with an automatic. The MSRP for Sport models starts around $16,000. However, with Honda's arm's-length list of dealer-installed options, a higher price point is definitely possible. By comparison, the Toyota Yaris four-door sedan starts around $12,000 and the sportier "S" Yaris sedan has an MSRP of around $14,000. The resale values of the entry-level Honda and Toyota sedans are likely to be similar. The Yaris has the edge on gas mileage, while the Fit has a larger interior and sportier handling. Other vehicles in this category include the Nissan Versa, Kia Rio and Chevrolet Aveo.