So yeah, let’s face it, Honda may have some of the best selling cars in the world, but they have enough sex appeal as a 1980s toaster.
Not to say that they don’t build solid reliable cars, because they do, but their vehicles, especially on the lower end, lack the Euro-inspired flair of Ford, the fun-to-drive oomph of Mazda, or the “yo where did they just come from?” buzz of Korean makes Kia and Hyundai.
So color me skeptical when I was invited to test drive the 2015 Honda Fit in the rough streets of Manhattan. I was expecting a drab “people’s car” with no soul or charisma whatsoever. And honestly, who could blame me? The previous iteration of the Fit, which debuted here in 2006, came on the scene as a rather drab and utilitarian vehicle. Basically something to get you from point A to point B and nothing else.
With increasing competition in the small car segment and young America’s affinity for small cars waning (more on that in a bit), Honda had to step it’s game up, and I’m glad it did.
The kind people at Honda gave me the keys to a nice ruby red 6-speed manual to take on the mean streets of NYC prior to it’s debut at the New York Auto Show this week. Usually, most car demos happen on rolling highways and lovely straightaways, but this week’s trek had journalists navigating the narrow corridors of Manhattan, which proved to be a great test bed for this vehicle.
Usually driving a stick would be a fool’s errand in New York, but the transmission was sold, with a very responsive clutch (thanks Honda for finally addressing this!) and a buttery smooth shifter. The setup feels almost identical to the more upscale Acura ILX I drove back in 2012, and I’m sure it sources the same parts. Add to that a much stiffer suspension that previous models and handling around corners a dream, with a feeling that’s almost on par with the the gold standard Mini and better than the comparable Ford Fiesta.
The coolest “made for the city” option I like was the optional side view mirror camera that activates when you click on the right turn signal, which proved useful as I slowly weaved my Fit through traffic on 10th street.
Once I got onto New York’s West Side Highway, however, I was able to push the car through it’s paces. The revvy little 130-horsepower 1.5-liter engine paired with the manual was great, and acceleration was quick and crisp making the car feel faster than it was. Honestly I wish I had more time than the 2-3 miles of highway as I was having a bit too much fun toward the end.
Interior wise, Honda has upgraded materials and options to cater to the savvier smartphone-enabled demographic. Just like Chevrolet and other manufacturers, Honda enables pairing with your smartphone with HondaLink connectivity allowing users to run a suite of apps from their smartphone through the 7 inch display, as well as an upcoming API (Application Programmer Interface) so developers can build their own apps for the platform. The killer “app” functionality however is the HDMI interface allowing you to plug in anything (ie phone, Xbox, or DVD player) and watch on the center console in a nod to the “Pimp My Ride” days. You can even move the seats around to create a lounge chair in the back. Cool move. Is it enough to get young millennials back into cars? We shall see.
After a few hours with the Fit I was impressed. For a category of cars that would seem to be an afterthought, Honda added enough new features to make this car a competitor. It will be interesting to see how the competition responds.