Larry Printz: The 2018 Honda Fit a great fit for those who ‘settle’ on less than their dream car

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

January 1, 2018

You can’t always get what you want. Instead, you settle for something else.

You may want to live in an oceanfront villa or mountain cabin; your bank balance assigns you to residing in a townhouse, one of 340 identical units. Feeling hungry? No doubt you’d love up to make reservations at a restaurant with artisanal cuisine and a killer bar scene. Too bad your wallet opted for Applebee’s. And getting there required driving a fabulous sports car or lavish SUV. But reality dictates that you arrive in a 2018 Honda Fit. And while opting for Applebee’s may have some questioning your taste, arriving in a Honda Fit will reassure them of your sensible nature.

The Fit has never been a glamour queen; it’s a pocket-sized, athletic workhorse with astonishing space efficiency that precludes any possibility of sexiness. But the Fit’s practicality is its sex appeal. For 2018, the Fit gets a modest facelift with a revised front and rear appearance, along with a new two-piece chrome and piano black grille, along with revised wheels. Left unchanged are its best attributes.

Offered in ascending LX, Sport, EX and EX-L trims, its diminutive exterior belies its bountiful interior. There’s room for 16.6 cubic feet of family supplies and, if you don’t need the rear seats, an additional 36.1 cubic feet of space. That’s quite astonishing given that the Fit is a very small car. At 161.4 inches long, it’s more than 30 inches shorter than a Honda Accord. Yet it has nearly as much cargo space and can carry five corn-fed Americans — if they’re friendly — while returning north of 30 mpg. There’s adequate head and legroom, although the seats aren’t comfortable enough to encourage long-distance drives and taller drivers will find the driving position cramped.

All Fits come with a rearview camera, tailgate spoiler, auto on-off headlights, LED brake lights, Bluetooth, intermittent wipers, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power windows/locks/mirrors, 12-volt power outlets, air-conditioning a center storage console with armrest, and a redesigned instrument cluster. The test car, a top-of-the-line EX-L, was opulently equipped with push button start, one-touch locking/unlocking doors, power moonroof, leather-trimmed heated seats, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and navigation, which is part of Honda’s 7-inch touchscreen interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It worked most of the time, although its lack of buttons and cumbersome interface proved as frustrating as ever. However, the 180-watt six-speaker audio system delivered decent sound.

All Fits come with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission. Horsepower is now rated at 130 with the six-speed manual and 128 horsepower with the automatic. Unfortunately, the CVT transmission robs this car’s energetic feel even as it generates noise. Shifting manually changes this car’s persona noticeably. That said, select the CVT if you prefer fuel economy more than driving dynamics. The EPA rates the Fit LX with a manual transmission at 29 mpg city, 36 highway. Adding the CVT increases that to 33 city, 40 highway. Other models return 31 city, 36 highway with the CVT; 29 city, 36 highway with the manual. All Fits use regular unleaded fuel.

Handling remains one of this car’s strong points, with quick, direct steering, a nimble feel and a very firm ride. Engine and road noise are noticeable, especially with the CVT transmission, although that’s not unusual for the class. Uniquely for any car these days, the view is good in all directions.

For those concerned about safety, Honda provides the expected technology, including anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, front airbags, side curtain airbag, stability control, traction control and a rearview camera. More importantly, the Honda Sensing suite of drive assistance features, including adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation brake braking system, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist system and road departure mitigation with lane departure warning, is standard on EX and EX-L trim levels and optional on lower trim levels with the CVT transmission.

While the 2018 Honda Fit isn’t the perfect gem it once was, it remains a small wonder, a nimble Lilliputian with an astonishing amount of space, two attributes that make it ideal for city dwellers, or those for whom the price is right.

And even though you had to settle for a 2018 Honda Fit, you’ll come to appreciate its abilities, even as you really wanted an Acura NSX. And who could blame you?

Stats

Base prices: $16,190-$21,520

Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder

Horsepower: 128

Torque: 113 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 31/36 mpg

Wheelbase: 99.6 inches

Length: 161.4 inches

Cargo capacity: 16.6-52.7 cubic feet

Curb weight: 2,522-2,648 pounds

NHTSA safety rating: 5 stars