Looking to go green? Feel like flipping the gas station the bird every single time you drive on by? If you’re even remotely interested in buying an electric car, I’m convinced that now’s the time to pull the trigger after driving the production version of the 2013 Honda Fit EV. And with an ever-widening palette of EVs to consider, from fashionable Fiat 500es to pint-sized smart EDs, it’s not difficult to find an electric car that fits your needs.
So what flavor is Honda’s EV entry? Hint: it’s not vanilla.
Unlike Tesla’s Model S and the Nissan Leaf, the 2013 Fit EV is not a clean-sheet design built from the ground up and destined from birth to harbor only electrons. Instead, the Fit EV is a battery-powered version of Honda’s existing five-door Fit hatchback.
About a year ago, Honda invited me to test out a pre-production version of the Fit EV and while I walked away impressed, I lamented my lack of seat time with the car.
Needless to say, I was a wee bit excited when the powers that be told me I would be getting another crack at the Fit EV. Only, instead of an afternoon’s worth of driving time, I would get a whole week.
Pass Go and skip the pump
What’s the most excited thing about an electric car? Not having to buy gas, of course. The 2013 Honda Fit EV divorces the dino-drinking 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that lives in the standard Fit and scandalously runs off into the sunset with an electric motor. For all five of you trivia lovers out there, this is the same electric motor found in Honda’s FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle.
Each of three driving modes offer vastly different experiences… in such a way that makes you want to switch between them frequently.
A 20kWh, air-cooled lithium-ion battery pack made by Toshiba adds 700 pounds to the vehicle’s weight and powers the electric motor, which pumps out 123 hp at 3,695 rpm and 189 lb-ft of torque right from 0 rpm. Compared to the standard Fit, which belts out 117 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm from its 1.5-liter engine, the Fit EV has its gasoline-swilling cousin beat when it comes to out and out performance numbers, but it also pays a weight penalty.
Laying siege to the Fit EV’s “gas pedal” provides an FDA-approved helping of torque that’s enough to put a smile on even the most fervent electric car detractors’ face. In downtown environments like Portland, Oregon, where I did a good deal of driving, the Fit EV jabbed in and out of spaces with aplomb. At stop lights, for example, the Fit’s torquey goodness made light work of even the most menacing V6s by beating them off the line and allowing me to overtake and move into lanes with minimal fuss.
By nature of their prodigious on-demand torque, electric cars are pretty spry and are able to quickly scramble and scamper around low-speed environments. The 2013 Fit EV is no different. And while It’s adept at tackling city and suburban driving, don’t mistake being quick with being fast. The car can accelerate from 0-60 mph in about nine seconds, but like virtually all other EVs, its top speed is limited. The Fit EV maxes out at 90 mph.
Of course, 90 mph is plenty fast for a car that will rarely need to reach such speeds, not to mention that faster speeds rapidly diminish battery juice.
At full charge, the Fit displays a range of 94 miles (here, I Instagrammed it), but in reality it’s more like 75 to 82 miles. EPA figures give it a 118 MPGe rating.
Of course, those numbers depend largely on how heavy your foot is, whether you have climate control blasting, where you’re driving (freeway driving sucks down the juice with more zeal than city driving), and what mode you’re in.
EVs are at their best when left to roam around a densely populated metropolis, but the Fit EV is confident enough to venture farther out of the city, albeit at the expense of a slightly more exhausted battery pack.
Fit for fun
To help mitigate battery loss and add some variation to the car’s performance, Honda outfitted the Fit EV with a 3-Mode Drive System (Sport, Normal, and Econ) adapted from the CR-Z Sport Hybrid.
Engaging Sport mode increases throttle response by upping the amount of electric power fed to the motor during acceleration. In Normal mode, power is limited to 75 kW, while Sport mode ups the ante to 92 kW of power. Nevertheless, an increase in power results in reduced range, which suffers a 10 percent drop when in Sport mode. Sport mode also adds some visual drama by turning the ambient color lighting in the instrument cluster from white or green (if in Normal or Econ mode, respectively) to a racy red.
B mode is a curious beast because it actually makes the Fit EV feel like a manual; and it’s perfect for controlling your speed down a hill.
Econ mode is the polar opposite to Sport (surprise!). Here, only 47 kW of electrical power is available during acceleration. But beyond just being a simple numerical figure, it’s easy to feel difference. Econ mode polices the climate control system more heavily and reduces fan speed, while pressing down on the pedal is met with a great deal of derision. So forget about tackling hills with Econ mode activated unless you want to embarrass yourself and smash down on the accelerator needlessly. The experience is akin to working up the courage to asking that hot girl/guy out at the bar, only to be laughed at and promptly shooed away. It’s slightly traumatic to say the least.
Of course Normal mode serves as the bridge between the two, but despite being the “middle way,” I actually gravitated to Econ mode more often than not. Sport Mode is great for circumstances that demand it – freeway merging and uphill driving spring to mind – but it sucks battery juice with more verve than Bela Lugosi in a vampire flick. It’s also pretty depressing to see your range meter drop from 95 miles to 75 miles the second you hit the Sport button.
While Normal mode might be the default drive setting, I recommend going Econ to maximize range whenever you can. Unless you live in an area with a lot of hills, Econ mode works well in and around the city and after a while I didn’t even notice the diminished power output. I’d even go so far as to recommend keeping the Fit EV in Econ while driving on the freeway most of the time and switching over to normal if and when you need an extra dose of power to pass or climb a hill.
Each of three driving modes offers vastly different experiences and Honda deserves a lot of credit for engineering each in such a way that you actually want to switch between them frequently. Unfortunately, I never got used to the placement of the mode buttons, which live awkwardly behind and to the left of the steering wheel. Here’s hoping this gets sorted out and Honda moves the buttons to a much more comfortable position if and when the Fit EV is due for an update.
Other than the poor button placement for the different drive modes, it’s easy to monitor performance and battery levels in the Fit EV. The center cluster, which displays battery level and current speed, is flanked by a gauge on the right that shows your current battery level, and another on the left that shows current power and battery regeneration. Mashing on the pedal causes the needle to move upward, indicating that power is being siphoned out of the battery, while using the brakes shows that electrons are trickling back in.
A majority of the battery pack’s energy renewal is accomplished through the use of a regenerative braking system that captures energy whenever the brake pedal is pressed, turning the electric motor into a glorified generator.
On top of the regenerative braking system, the Fit EV employs a variable energy regenerative system that limits the need for drivers to physically step on the brake. By simply easing off the accelerator, the system kicks in and naturally slows the down the car, much like a regular car with an automatic transmission.
Honda has also added a “B” (Brake) mode that greatly enhances regenerative braking. And when I say greatly enhances regenerative braking, I mean it. With B mode selected, it’s possible to come to a complete stop without ever touching the brakes. The system is so strong that letting off of the accelerator on flat surfaces caused me to stop way ahead of my mark. With more practice, I imagine gauging the appropriate distance needed wouldn’t be too difficult, but newcomers will undergo a slight learning curve at first.
B mode is a curious beast because it actually makes the Fit EV feel like a manual and it’s perfect for controlling your speed down a hill.
But more than just fancy bells and whistles, the Fit EV is just good ol’ fashioned fun to drive. It’s surprisingly lively in Normal and Sport modes, and despite the added weight of the battery pack and slightly numb electro-mechanical power steering, the combination of low-slung mass and hard-working independent rear suspension make it a blast to drive, especially in the twisties. It blows away the Nissan Leaf and is right up there with the excellent Fiat 500e in terms of handling.
No matter how efficiently you drive the Fit, you’re going to have to charge it at some point. According to Honda, fully recharging the car’s battery will take less than 15 hours using a 120-volt AC power supply, also known as “plugging it in to a wall outlet.” However, the charging process can take as little as three hours on a 240-volt level 2 charger, which uses the same power supply connections as an electric dryer or other large household appliances.
At full charge, the Fit displays a range of 94 miles… but in reality it’s more like 75 to 82 miles.
For reference, the Nissan Leaf takes about seven hours to charge using a 240-volt Level 2 charger, nearly double the time it takes to fully charge the Fit EV. However, the Leaf still has a slight edge over the Fit, as Nissan has thrown its full support behind “CHΛdeMO” DC quick-charging, meaning the Leaf’s battery pack can achieve an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes The Fit EV does not support DC fast charging, and it doesn’t look like that is going to change any time soon.
Making the minutia of EV driving easier is the Honda Link EV smartphone app for iOS and Android, which lets you to take care of a number of tasks remotely such as scheduling charging and turning on climate controls before you get in the car. The app displays the current state of charge and even has a built-in charging station locator. The Fit EV also comes with an Empire State Building-sized key fob that allowed me to start up climate controls and initiate charging up to 100 feet away.
An app might not seem like a big deal at first, but when you have to rely on charging stations that are across town or even parked outside your office during the day, it’s really helpful being able to monitor all that from the comfort of your phone. All I had to do was launch the app, refresh the screen, and my current charge level, along with an ETA for when charging would be completed, was right there.
Navigation comes standard in the Fit EV and while it provides a number of useful EV-centric features like points of (charging) interests that differentiate between 120 and 240 volt chargers, it’s nothing new or special to the Fit EV, where it looks clunky and dated compared to the high tech profile of the car.
Other standard features include a rearview camera, CD player, iPod/USB interface, and a six-speaker stereo system that performs decently enough but – much like the navigation system – is nothing worth writing home about.
For all the cool tech under the hood, the 2013 Honda Fit EVs’ interior is pretty stale. In keeping with the car’s “green” mantra, the seats are comprised of a bio-fabric called Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) made from a sugar-cane sourced ethanol, which feels decent to the touch – if not a bit slippery. Though, it’s odd to see such an eco-conscious material mixed with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. However, material quality for the dash felt and looked a little cheap. Granted this is no Tesla, but the Fit’s interior could be a lot sharper.
Aesthetics aside, Honda has at least made clever use of the space inside the cabin. What appear to be cup holders flank each side of the front section, although they could just as easily cradle any number of smaller smartphones. A little cubby cut-out above the glove box is also pretty handy for holding keys or other small items.
A driver’s side armrest can be pulled down for added comfort, although given its narrow width it felt geared towards the Japanese market. I found my elbow slipping off from time to time and for broader drivers (like me) this can and does get annoying.
Despite its small stature, though, the Fit EV is surprisingly spacious. Honda has reconfigured the interior to accommodate the Fit EV’s battery pack. Second row passengers sit 3.3-inches farther back and slightly elevated, allowing for more rear legroom and providing a sort of stadium seating affect.
Sadly, the all-electric setup causes cargo space to suffer. While a standard fit nets about 20.6 cubic feet, the Fit EV affords only 12.0. A 60/40-split rear seat folds down and causes cargo space to balloon to 50 cubic feet but you do lose one or two seats.
The devil is in the details
There isn’t much that separates the look of a standard Fit from the Fit EV apart from a few subtle design tweaks, with the most notable difference being the electric Fit’s revised front end. Here, a new chromed-out front bumper sweeps across the front of the car. Honda also included a newly designed strake beneath the front fascia that diverts air outwards, while added inlets help shoot air to the radiator in order to cool the electric motor.
But if the copious amounts of EV badging and the lack of a tailpipe don’t alert you right away, the easiest way to spot a Fit EV in the wild is merely by its paint job. The Fit EV only comes in one color: Reflective Blue Pearl.
Overall, the Fit benefits a lot from its EV makeover, with the little tweaks appeasing the eye more so than it’s gasoline counterpart.
The Honda Fit is already a very capable car and the Fit EV is made infinitely better by its electron-powered makeover. In addition to being incredibly efficient, it’s just plain fun to drive, and drivers will surely get a thrill shuffling through the various drive modes on a daily basis. I sure did.
… the Fit EV is made infinitely better by its electron-powered makeover.
Some interior hiccups sully the experience a little, but not so much that it would cause you to think twice about leasing one.
But that lease is the problem. For as competent and silky smooth as the Fit EV is, the car isn’t widely available – at least not yet. While MSRP for the 2013 Fit EV stands at $36,625, Honda is currently only leasing the car in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Rhode Island.
Granted, the lease deal is a pretty attractive one: A 36 month lease at $259 a month with $259 due at singing, unlimited mileage, scheduled maintenance, collision coverage, and a free 240 volt charger (to clarify: the charger itself is free but you have to pay for installation). But potential customers will surely be concerned with what happens after 36 months.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that offers them and you don’t mind leasing and not owning the car outright, the 2013 Fit EV is some of the most fun you’ll have in an all-electric – even if that fun is seemingly on borrowed time.
- EV range is admirable
- Honda EV App makes managing everyday EV charging a breeze
- Spacious backseat with excellent visibility facing forward
- Various driving modes offer diversity and fun to the entire experience
- Limited Availability
- Lease-only option
- Interior quality is a little bland