2018 Honda Fit first drive review

Now with volume knob! Honda's refreshed Fit fixes the little things

Honda’s affordable Fit continues to up the ante with updated looks, features, and handling, but we’re still left pining for a turbo.
Honda’s affordable Fit continues to up the ante with updated looks, features, and handling, but we’re still left pining for a turbo.
Honda’s affordable Fit continues to up the ante with updated looks, features, and handling, but we’re still left pining for a turbo.

Highs

  • Solid infotainment system
  • Full suite of active safety tech as standard
  • Optional performance package truly delivers

Lows

  • Diminutive motor lacks low end power

First landing on U.S. shores in 2007, the Honda Fit’s versatility, solid build quality, and overall value quickly made it a major player in the subcompact segment. “This is the most quintessentially “Honda” vehicle we make,” says Honda’s Sage Marie. “It’s the kind of product that established us in the United States in the first place.”

Attracting some the youngest buyers among the company’s portfolio of vehicles (i.e., millennials), Honda says that roughly 70 percent of Fit buyers are new to the brand. This makes the car especially important to the company, as it offers an early opportunity to create life-long customers. Indeed, when it comes to attracting new drivers, the Honda Fit has some healthy competition.

Finding a balance between versatility, features, and affordability has always been the core concept behind the Fit, and it’s a mission that continues on with the 2018 Honda Fit as the automaker looks to keep the car at the top of its game with a mid-cycle refresh.

What’s new

The third generation Fit originally debuted in North America in 2015 on an all-new platform that increased both cargo capacity and passenger volume while shortening the car’s overall length. After a few years on the market, Honda was looking to breathe new life in this subcompact and turned to customer feedback for direction, adding “more emotional appeal, both in styling and driving dynamics,” according to Brett Watanabe, Honda’s product planner for the Fit.

Bradley Iger/Digital Trends

Along with an updated exterior and reworked suspension, the latter of which includes revised damper tuning and additional chassis bracing throughout the vehicle for more rigidity, the 2018 Fit benefits from tech upgrades like an available seven-inch touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Also available for the first time in the Fit is the Honda Sensing suite, which includes lane keep assist, collision mitigation braking, and other active safety features. These components can be outfitted to any Fit model and are equipped as standard on EX and EX-L models.

Slotted between the LX and EX models is the new Sport trim level. As the name suggestions, the Sport trim adds a more aggressive look to the Fit with a more sculpted body kit at the front, sides and rear end of the vehicle, along with unique 16-inch black alloys, a three-strake rear diffuser, and other subtle visual tweaks. Inside, the Sport trim receives unique cross-hatched fabric for the seats and door trim and orange accent stitching, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Trim levels & features

The Fit doesn’t have an overabundance of tech features, but the infotainment system offers solid bang for the buck.

Regardless of which trim level is chosen, the Fit’s power plant remains unchanged from last year — a naturally aspirated and direct injected 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC motor that generates 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. The motor can be paired with either a CVT automatic (which includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on Sport models) or a six-speed manual gearbox.

LX models get LED tail lights, rear-view camera and Bluetooth functionality as standard. Moving up to the Sport trim adds the seven-inch touchscreen display with premium audio as well as the aforementioned styling tweaks.

Stepping up to the EX model adds all of the Honda Sensing features as well as a power moonroof, push-button start, and other convenience features. The top-spec EX-L model adds heated leather seating, and the EX-L Navi throws navigation and HD radio into the mix.

Technology overview

Being among the most affordable cars sold in the U.S., it’s understandable that the Fit doesn’t have an over-abundance of tech features on hand, but the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system offers solid bang for the buck.

Now sporting a much-needed volume knob (the 2017 models only offered a touch slider and steering wheel controls), the system boasts responsive internals and all the features we’ve come to expect in 2017, including support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will make the available navigation upgrade moot for most buyers. Below the center stack is a USB port as well as a 12-volt power port that can deliver up to 180 watts of power.

Bradley Iger/Digital Trends

One’s typical level of concentration behind the wheel will largely determine the value of most of the Honda Sensing tech. Features like lane departure warning and forward collision warning are nice to have, but are there more or less to save inattentive drivers from themselves. They may come in handy even for focused pilots if they happen to start to dose off behind the wheel, however.

Interior fit & finish

Although diminutive in stature, the Fit can seat five adults in reasonable comfort and offers 16.6 cubic feet of cargo volume with the seats up or 52.7 with the seats down.

While the Fit’s concept and design put utility over luxury as a general rule of thumb, the Fit’s cabin isn’t a penalty box either. Although there’s no shortage of hard plastics throughout, the large gauge cluster, brush aluminum-style accents, and pragmatic design overall feels uncluttered without flirting with austerity. Stepping up to EX-L trim adds features like heated seats and more leather (along with the power moonroof that’s standard on the EX model) for those who’re looking to elevate the luxury factor of this subcompact.

Driving performance & MPG

Though the 1.5-liter motor isn’t likely to help the Fit win any stoplight drags, the car’s quick response to steering inputs and light weight makes for a spritely vehicle nonetheless. Those willing to row their own gears will be treated to a light clutch with a satisfying shifter, as well as less buzz from the motor at speed versus their CVT-equipped counterparts.

2018 honda fit 2017 first drive 14104
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends

While the Sport trim level leaves the Fit’s mechanicals unchanged, the optional HFP (Honda Factory Performance) kit does not, adding a sport-tuned suspension to the titanium shift knob, sport pedals, and aesthetic tweaks that come with the package.

This suspension upgrade is highly recommended to any enthusiast buyers considering the Fit, as it improves the car’s composure substantially at speed, bolstering driver confidence without delivering a punishingly harsh ride. While it won’t make up for the fact that the car could really use another 50 pound-feet torque, it undoubtedly delivers a more entertaining experience behind the wheel for performance-minded drivers.

The EPA rates the Fit EX at 29 / 36 / 31 mpg in city, highway and combined driving respectively when equipped with the six-speed manual gearbox, or 31 / 36 / 33 when outfitted with the CVT automatic. Our spirited drive through the back roads in Santa Clarita likely delivered substantially lower numbers, as the low output of the motor equates to a lot of full throttle inputs to wake the engine up and maintain pace when hustling the car up steep inclines.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2018 Honda Fit a five-star overall rating, with five-star ratings across the board for front and side-impact testing, while the Fit received a four star rating in rollover resistance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn’t tested the 2018 model as of yet — which now offers the availability of the Honda Sensing active safety features — but rates the 2017 model as “Good” in moderate overlap, side impact, and roof strength testing.

Conclusion

With a freshened up look and a more extensive feature set on offer, the latest Fit fulfills Honda’s goal of keeping the car relevant within this highly competitive segment. Though a legitimate performance model still eludes us (a Fit with the Civic Si motor would be a riot), even enthusiasts have something to get excited about with the optional HFP upgrades on offer here, while the availability of Honda Sensing offers Fit buyers more safety features than ever before.

Though most of the revisions are incremental rather than game changing, Honda’s tweaks to the Fit for 2018 offer enough subtle enhancements throughout the car to yield a tangible improvement to the vehicle on the whole.

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