Is the Fit a fit?
October 12, 2010 10:22 PM   Subscribe

From Element to...Fit? Help me make an informed car choice.

A little over a year ago, before the littlest Robot Head was born, we bought a Honda Element. I love this car. More than anything, perhaps, I love the idea of this car. It has a rapidly reconfigurable interior, respectable gas mileage for a car of its size, aux jack for my iPhone and XM radio. But I commute 500 miles a week. It's bit tall and heavy for that, and the gas mileage means I fill it up a lot in a month. Also, Mrs. Robot Head is small and has trouble putting the little one into the back seat, and feels sort of dwarfed by the Element in general.

Enter the Honda Fit. It has better gas mileage, retains the easily reconfigured interior, has nav and a plethora of ports and gadgets. Not to mention it's fun to drive.

Still I wonder if I'm making a good decision here. It bothers me that the only 5 door sport car in Honda's lineup is kind of a boy racer. Although the Fit does feel fairly upmarket, it's still aimed at the under 30 crowd (you could argue the under 24 crowd pretty successfully, too). I'm in my thirties and someone's dad, for gosh sakes. So my questions are thus:

1) If you own a Fit, what are the pros and cons? What's the real world gas mileage, the road feel/noise level on the highway, the long term ownership experience?

2) If you don't own one but maybe test drove one—and then bought something different in the same price range ($18-$19,500K) what did you get and why? We're moderately interested in Matrixes, Foresters and older Mazda Protege 5's to give you some context.

I'm really partial to Hondas, but I guess I could be convinced to go elsewhere if it makes sense. This is a very important question, so like any sensible person I'm turning it over to strangers on the internet. Thanks!
posted by littlerobothead to Shopping (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
2 years ago I test drove:
* Honda Fit
* Mazda 3 (wagon)
* Jeep Liberty
* Saturn... something
* Scion xB

Honda Fit felt too rickety (although, I know, it's a Honda, and I love Hondas)
VW felt too rigid (and the last German car I had cost me what felt like millions in repairs)
Mazda 3 was a really really nice car, but it was just a little out of my price range
Jeep Liberty needed a jump to get off the lot and had a really really stiff gearbox
Saturn... meh
--- give the Scion xB a look & a drive :)
posted by Lukenlogs at 10:33 PM on October 12, 2010

I really thought I wanted a Fit. My car was a 1989 Chevy Celebrity and I was damned tired of driving that boat around, trying to fit into parking spots, not being able to U-turn, getting crappy gas milage... etc, etc, etc. I was in love with the small Fit, it's no-nonses interior, and the excellent reviews it got.

So I confidently went to the Honda dealership and declared I wanted to test drive a Fit. First things first, I'm 6'2", which isn't tall-tall (my buddy is 6'10") but it's tall enough. I didn't quite fit in the Fit. Second, the test drive was a little rough. On the highway it got pushed around more than I was used to, and the road noise was louder (I did love, however, how open the cabin seemed -- windows everywhere). Third, I don't recall there being a right arm rest. Maybe not a big thing, but I drove from IL to CO and back in a Vibe that didn't have well placed arm rests (for me) and it bugged the fuck out of me all 2,000 miles.

I went with the Civic and haven't looked back. For me, it was a good choice. You might miss the reconfigurable interior though.
posted by sbutler at 10:35 PM on October 12, 2010

Drove the Fit, bought the Versa, for two reasons:

1: better safety ratings, significantly so. this may have changed now that the fit's been restyled, but I'm told they also restyled some of the fun right out of it.

2: much bigger back seat space for putting the twins in and getting them back out.

Oh, and because I am ornery and insist on a leather steering wheel and a sunroof, neither of which is (or was) available on the Fit.
posted by davejay at 10:40 PM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: sbutler:
Third, I don't recall there being a right arm rest.
Ooh, you're right. It doesn't have those. I think they can be installed, but that's another thing I love about the Element. Thanks for your answer!
posted by littlerobothead at 10:41 PM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: @Davejay I test drove the Versa but that CVT transmission is not for me. The safety concerns are very good points, though. Thanks!
posted by littlerobothead at 10:46 PM on October 12, 2010

CVT doesn't bug me, because I drive stickshift. Heh.

One quick note: going from an Element to a smaller car, be prepared to whack your (or your child's) head on the roof here and there. I had a Sentra, and another reason I chose the Versa was the taller roofline without a gentle taper -- after several head-smackings (mine, not my kids, I'm 6'1") the roofline-head compatibility test became very important.
posted by davejay at 10:48 PM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: @davejay I smack my head already cause I'm a klutz (and because the Element has no B-pillar, and its door closure loop sticks out pretty far when both doors are open). There may be no helping me there. Very good thought though. The roofline on the Fit is really high (on the '10 anyway) so maybe I'll be spared?
posted by littlerobothead at 10:52 PM on October 12, 2010

Right arm rest -- In the latest incarnation, the arm rest is standard at the Sport trim level and optional at the Base level. Also, the Base level doesn't have cruise control.

Mileage -- I'm getting about 29.4 MPG in a about a 80/20 mix of city/highway driving. On pure highway driving, I've gotten between 35 and 38 MPG. But, as they say, your mileage may vary (literally).

Road noise -- My last car was a Ford Focus which had an unbelievable problem with highway noise. It sounded like a hurricane at speeds over 50 mph. The Fit is better than the Focus, but worse than, say, a Mazda 3.

1) Comfortable seats
2) Decent mileage
3) A lot of cargo space for a small car. And the rear seats are really easy to fold down.
4) No maintenance problems so far (coming up on two years).

1) While it's priced and positioned as a step above cars like the Ford Focus, I'm not sure the increase in quality is commensurate with the increase in price
2) Cargo cover is extra at all trim levels.
3) The in-dash MPG readout is perpetually 2 - 5 MPG optimistic

If you're also looking at used cars, keep in mind that there was a pretty noticeable re-design of the Fit between the 2008 and 2009 model years.

If I had to do it again, I probably would take a harder look at the Scion xD (although the xB would probably match your situation better) and the new Ford Fiesta hatchback.
posted by mhum at 11:49 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

We have a 2007 Fit and an 18 month old kid. We love the car and wouldn't dream of getting rid of it (we're currently expecting twins and will augment with a minivan, but we're still keeping the Fit). Rear seat room was a little bit of a problem when we switched from the infant bucket to a rear-facing convertible car seat, so watch out there. No problem with room when the seat is forward-facing, though. I believe the '09 models on up are a bit bigger, so that may not be as much of a concern.

BTW, I kind of like the incongruity of our boring little family zipping around town in a boy racer-looking car.
posted by zsazsa at 12:47 AM on October 13, 2010

We bought a Fit Sport about a year ago and LOVE it. We are in our early 30s, engineers with no kids.

We have the manual transmission and get about 40 to 45 mpg. Closer to 45 when I am driving it alone on the highway and not running the AC. (I made it one day the 150 mile drive round trip to work with ~50mpg---my husband was seriously impressed.)

The highway noise isn't bad, at least compared to other cars I've driven. Mr. chiefthe is 6'-3" and fits comfortably.

We had a Nissan Versa recently for a rental and were reassured with our choice (we had test driven the 6-speed when we were looking), as it was a bit noisier on the highway. Mr. chiefthe did all the driving in the rental and generally wasn't impressed with it.
posted by chiefthe at 4:17 AM on October 13, 2010

We bought a 2009 Fit four months ago, and have put about 4k miles on it. Averaging 34mpg with a combination of ridiculously short trips inside a small town, and a few longer trips (Cleveland-Detroit, Cleveland-Toledo, Cleveland-Columbus). Full-tank fuel economy has ranged between 30.79 and 37.91 mpg. Exceptional circumstances were the time we drove to Detroit and averaged 42 mpg for about 3 hours on the freeway, and once when we were on our way from our small town to the turnpike entrance, we averaged 50mpg for eight miles over flat ground, with no wind and no stops at 50mph). But I suppose that might be more than you wanted to know...

The car has a stiffer suspension and is noisier than I'm used to (it replaced a VW Jetta), but I don't think it's substantially different from the Element in that regard (friends own an Element, so I've ridden around in one but not driven it.) My wife, who is short and feels uncomfortable driving large vehicles, loves it.

Despite the flexible interior, there's no getting around the fact that the fit is smaller inside, and carries less stuff than the Element. Either it's enough space for your purposes, or it isn't.
posted by jon1270 at 4:31 AM on October 13, 2010

BTW, wife and I are about 10 years past the oldest of the 'under 30 crowd.'
posted by jon1270 at 4:35 AM on October 13, 2010

I'm in the over 40 crowd and bought a 2008 Fit, with the manual transmission. I drive it easily 300-400 miles per week and absolutely love it. My previous cars were a VW Golf and a Mini Cooper, so I am drawn to the small boxy hatchback motif. While the Fit isn't my favorite among the three (the Mini stole my heart), there are some significant benefits:

1. The base model Fit that I bought was $15K, which was a good $8-10K savings over the VW or the Mini.

2. The mileage is terrific. I get 32-35, on average. If you want to see some real data on what people get, you should look at the distribution of MPGs for Honda Fits available, conveniently, on Fuelly.

3. Reconfigurable interior gives it a freakish amount of cargo capacity for its size.

4. It's peppy. It's not a Mini, and I'm not nearly as aggressive with it in turns, but it's still fun to drive.

5. It felt more solid to me than the Nissan. Again, not as solid as a VW or Mini, but more solid than I'd expect for $15,000.

Taken together, I'm pretty sure that I'd buy another one. Mine is coming up on 3 years of age and I have every intent of driving it until it collapses. If I end up being in the "over 50 crowd" and still driving an orange Honda Fit, I'll post an appropriate update here.
posted by scblackman at 6:22 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

It bothers me that the only 5 door sport car in Honda's lineup is kind of a boy racer.

That's just a cultural thing, based upon the relative paucity of five-door hatches (hot or otherwise) in the US market. The number of old people who bought the old ultra-boxy Scion xB ought to ease your mind on that one: there's a latent market for smaller cars, and they have to make do with the models available to them. (My dad used to drive a Citroën that had a boy racer following. He's in his sixties.)

As I mentioned in another thread, if you're buying new and prepared to be a bit of a guinea pig, then the new Fiesta might be worth at least a glance, though it's more of a 2+2 than a comfortable four-seater.
posted by holgate at 6:34 AM on October 13, 2010

I haven't driven a Fit, but I can address your demographics question with the anecdata that 3 of my mid-30's first-time-parents friends bought themselves Fits as the baby-ferry car. So, your interest sounds perfectly reasonable to me!
posted by aimedwander at 6:40 AM on October 13, 2010

We have a 2008 Fit and love it. The highway noise is a bit more than a larger car, but not unbearable, we drove it all around the western US w/o any problem as soon as we bought it. We got the sport model so we could get cruise and and a manual transmission. I love that I can always find a parallel parking place because I can take places other cars pass up, but I understand the newer models are about 6" longer. I can fit a ton of stuff in it if I don't have to fit a lot of people in it. We get about 36-37 mph on the highway. And we are definitely not in the under 30 crowd.
posted by Lost at 6:48 AM on October 13, 2010

I looked at the Fit, but ended up buying a 2010 Prius. Nice roomy hatchback, seats fold down to make a decent cargo area and I've never gotten less than 47 mpg, including plenty of city driving. I've hauled 2x4s, a full set of Jeep tires and a kayak in the back at various times(but not all at the same time), so it's plenty roomy.

The 5 year cost of ownership for the Prius ends up being about the same as the Fit though, so you may want to go with the Fit to avoid paying the premium up front.
posted by electroboy at 7:22 AM on October 13, 2010

I have a 2008 Fit and absolutely love it. I bought it sometime before I got married, knowing that the five year plan of life with mean that I would need a car that I could put a baby seat into. The Jeep Wrangler I owned for eight years previously wasn't going to cut it. Also, because of the Jeep driving for so many years, I don't even notice the noise in the Fit. I've never thought it was too much.

The biggest thing that I love about the Fit has been the versatility in what I can carry in it. The hatch area is roomy enough, but put down the rear seats and I can can carry nearly anything I need. On a few occasions, I have even put the passenger seat down and have been able to haul very large items (bought a new gazebo and was able to fit it in the car and was able to bring the old gazebo to the local recycling center; also bought seven feet of counter top at Ikea with no problem). I like that I can drive a car but still have the clearance (width + length + height) to carry many, many things that randomly come up.

I don't pay close attention to the mileage but I get upwards of 35 when I do highway driving but probably around or just under 30 because I mostly do local, suburban driving (lots of traffic lights).
posted by tommccabe at 7:32 AM on October 13, 2010

This spring I traded in my 6 month old Lexus 450H (hybrid SUV) for a Fit. I love it. I have 2 kids. My kids LOVE it. I have the orange one and it's name is Nemo. (Nemo in the movie had a broken fin and the Fit has a tiny right windshield wiper aka fin.) Nemo is also very easy to find in parking lots.

Noise: Non-issue. I don't really notice much noise (and that is after driving Lexuses for 8 years which are very quiet.)

Gas Mileage: I'm only getting 27 mpg and I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm a lead foot. I had hoped for better.

I'm mostly city and tollway driving, never go more than 50 miles from home in it. Basically I chauffeur my kids around. I liked Hondas too and liked the Element, but wanted a smaller car.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:47 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also you can fit a whole bunch of hipsters (SYTL) into a Fit. :)
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:50 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @acheekymonkey I can assure you that other than me, no hipsters will be allowed into my Fit -- unless they're carrying PBR or Joyce novels that I cannot otherwise see :)
posted by littlerobothead at 8:38 AM on October 13, 2010

My husband and I recently bought a 2007 Fit. We both love it, for different reasons.
Surprising amount of cargo room. The seats have a bunch of different configurations. I got 16 8' long 2x4s in there last week. The rear seats fold down to make a flat surface continuous with the trunk area. We call it the Honda TARDIS, because it is bright blue and bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. And also because we are geeks like that.
Good gas mileage. Mid 30's is normal for us. Got 40 once.
The stereo gets louder as you go faster, to compensate for road noise. This is a tiny detail that I take amazing delight in. It also comes with an aux jack for your ipod.
It is easy to park, and has a good turning radius.
We also test drove Matrixes (Matrices?) and a Scion hatchback, and found that the Fit has better visibility than either of them, due to large side mirrors and a larger rear window.

The driver's seat doesn't go back quite far enough for my husband's ideal position.
It does not have quite as much acceleration as our old car (Mazda Protege). This doesn't bother me, but my husband finds it a little disappointing.
I think it has a little bit too much road noise.
posted by Adridne at 8:47 AM on October 13, 2010

I have a 2007 Fit. I haven't kept track of mileage in a while.

Pros: Zippy (compared to my '90 Civic, my previous car). Easy to park, turn. Versatile cargo space (though I don't use it as much as I thought I would). And my 6'8" husband fits just fine in it. Perhaps his standards for comfort are lower than others. But he does fit - no slouching or anything needed.

Cons: The curtain airbags (the ones built into the frame on either side of the front windshield) means that the frame of the car is a bit wider than I'm used to and I occasionally have visibility issues, esp when driving on a curvy road (which is part of getting to my house). I find myself moving my head around in order to see potential pedestrians, cats, etc in the road. That's annoying.
posted by kirst27 at 9:36 AM on October 13, 2010

BTW, if you want to assuage your fears of not looking "grown up" enough while driving the Fit, in the UK it (known as the Jazz there) has a reputation as a practical old ladies' car.
posted by zsazsa at 9:44 AM on October 13, 2010

I bought the 2009 Fit right after they came out. 2009 Honda Fit, Sport trim, automatic w/ paddles. I've had it for over 2 years and about 10,000 miles now, and I lovelovelove it.

Pros: Responsive (I did think it was jerky/slow at first but it seemed to really "break in" after the first 100 or so miles), GREAT gas mileage, super versatile interiors. I'm 5'10" and find it comfy to drive. Fantastic low maintenance and oil life--I only have to change it once a year due to the synthetics and the way I drive. Good handling, smooth to drive, love the cargo capacity.

My husband is in a wheelchair and I love the fact that we can toss his chair in the back and STILL fit two rowdy dogs and a huge load of luggage with plenty of room.

Cons: Like most small cars not great in snow/ice, more street noise than higher priced cars. Really, those are my only complaints.

The snow/ice performance is a pain in our snowy state, but when the roads are clear, my Fit handles like a pro. Overall, super happy and glad I went with it.
posted by ninjakins at 9:54 AM on October 13, 2010

Test drove a 2010 Fit. Liked the interior, thought it drove like a skateboard with a dome on it. Loud, rough, etc. Got a 2010 Honda Civic instead.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:32 AM on October 13, 2010

I'm 6' 3" and the girlfriend has a Honda Fit. I don't like the lack of leg room. I drive a 2003 Mini Cooper and if I put the seat all the way back, I have to stretch to reach the pedals. (This does mean however, that the person in the back seat literally cannot have legs.) Moral of the story? If you're not worried about people sitting behind you, get a car that lets the front seats go way back. That's how me and other tall people fit into tiny cars.

My RSX (I love it and cannot wait to get rid of this car, I'll probably get another RSX, used this time since they don't make them any more) similarly had tons of leg room in the front.

Others the same height as me seem to fit, so it might be because my legs are quite long. Sit in one and figure it out yourself.

I'd get a Civic over a Fit any day of the week, I cannot stand the Fit's handling, feels like I'm driving a soccer mom's station wagon, I feel like there's tons of car behind me that is holding me back.
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2010

My wife and I recently bought a 2007 Fit. We both love it, for different reasons.
Shocking amount of cargo room. The back of the trunk to the back of the seats is around five feet, and there's a ton of vertical space.
Good gas mileage. Mid 30's is normal for us. Got 40 once.
It is easy to park, and has a good turning radius.
It is a lot of fun to drive. It's not quite as zippy as our old car (a 2003 Mazda Protege), but it has better road grip and turning radius. It also has better visibility.

The driver's seat doesn't go back quite far enough for my ideal driving position. If you are tall and like to sit way back, it will be irritating. If you like to sit up while driving or are <> There's a lot of road noise, especially on the highway. Not very much engine noise, which is nice, but lots of tire and air noise.
Apparently they get stolen a lot?
posted by contrarian at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2010

I do not have a Fit but my friends do. They are in their thirties with a young kid, and it works for them as far as being grown up. It is an extremely comfortable and roomy car, and as far as I know they have no complaints after 2 years. They are not tall.
posted by purpletangerine at 6:24 PM on October 13, 2010

We were looking at cars in the same category (good mileage) and were thinking about the Fit (our 30-something friends have them) but its safety ratings were markedly poorer than the Civic's in the model year we were looking at. We got a used Civic hybrid and have been happy with it, and get around 45 mpg, though it doesn't have anything like the cargo space of the Fit.

After we bought, I found a set of data from the IIHS that I wish I had found earlier. Oversimplified background: The normal crash ratings IIHS releases, and the normal government crash tests, pit cars against objects of the same mass as they are. This means small cars crash against small masses, big against big. Even on those tests, which should be easier for the small cars to pass since they're only crashing against smaller masses, the Fit did only fair rather than good. (That is my recollection about the model year we were looking at - could be remembering this wrong, so you should look up the details).

But the set of data I wish I had seen was this -- the IIHS did some tests where they crashed a small car against a mid-size sedan from the same manufacturer (text summary of results) -- and the small cars were just crushed. IIHS crash video, Honda Fit vs Honda Accord.

IIHS insurance payouts for property damage and bodily injury, for the '06-'08 model years, broken down by type of car. I don't see the Fit on this list but click around and see how much more red (high payout) there is on the chart for the small and mini cars from the mid-size car.

Not saying this is reason enough to nix the Fit but it's stuff I didn't really think through before we got our car. (I took the normal crash ratings of "good" as if they were absolute, but they are only relative to other vehicles in same class.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:09 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

LobsterMitten: that IIHS report is terrific. Thanks.

Since I got my Fit, I no longer drive at the speed limit on highways. I drive 55 mph/90kmh or less and this is for safety reasons rather than fuel economy. I'm surrounded by SUVs and pickup trucks on the road.

I even felt I had to explain to those stuck behind me why I am driving so safely. So I had a bumper sticker made that says: "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
posted by acheekymonkey at 4:33 AM on October 16, 2010

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