BY CHRISTIAN WARDLAW, OCTOBER 18, 2017
Intending to enhance its emotional appeal and driving character, Honda has refreshed the 2018 Fit.
Revised styling, reworked suspension and steering, and refinements in terms of noise, vibration, and harshness are a part of the list of updates to the Fit, along with new driver-assistance, collision-avoidance, and infotainment technologies. A new Sport trim level debuts, too, slotting above the base LX and below the EX and EX-L trims.
Honda Factory Performance (HFP) has also created a new accessory package for the 2018 Fit. Available for Sport, EX, and EX-L versions of the car, it includes a lowered sport suspension, along with several cosmetic enhancements that give the Fit a racy character.
Naturally, the 2018 Fit retains the utility that has made it a standout in the subcompact segment, where Honda claims it accounts for half of all retail sales to the typical consumer.
Styling and Design
In an effort to make the Fit appear wider and lower, Honda has restyled the front and rear bumpers. A new grille is also included, and the Sport trim level adds gloss-black 16-in. aluminum wheels, a front spoiler, side sill trim, and a rear diffuser panel. Orange accents further distinguish the Fit Sport, along with fog lights and a chrome tailpipe finisher.
Inside, the Fit is largely unchanged. Sport trim has orange contrast stitching on the seats and manual gearshift knob, and the EX-L trim continues to offer leather seats—an upscale touch that is unusual in the subcompact segment. Added sound-deadening material and thicker windshield and front quarter window glass is claimed to quiet the Fit’s cabin.
Form follows function with the Honda Fit. Shaped like a doorstop, this car packs maximum interior space and utility into as diminutive an exterior package as is possible. Inside, a greater sense of style and flair gives the Fit near class-leading levels of refinement, yet practicality rules, as is evident from the pop-out cupholder in front of the leftmost dashboard air vent.
What makes the Fit particularly special is its rear “Magic Seat” design. Owners can flip the bottom cushion up to carry tall items, or the seat can be folded down to transform the trunk’s 16.6 cu. ft. of cargo room into 52.7 cu. ft. of cube-shaped space. Also, by removing the front-seat head restraints, they fold flat creating a lumpy but comparatively comfortable place to sleep.
Features and Controls
Upgrading from LX to Sport trim adds the previously discussed cosmetic enhancements to the 2018 Fit, as well as a new Display Audio infotainment system with better sound. The Fit Sport also has a few more functions for its driver information display.
The next rung on the trim ladder is EX, which is visually distinguished from the LX by its machine-finished 16-in. aluminum wheels. This trim also adds Honda Sensing safety technology, LaneWatch right-side blind-spot monitoring, power sunroof, keyless entry with push-button engine start, satellite radio, and a handful of other conveniences.
For leather seats, heated up front, the EX-L is the right choice. This version of the car also includes heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, and it comes only with a continuously variable transmission.
Simplicity has its rewards, and operating a Honda Fit is easier than ever, thanks to the return of a volume knob for the stereo. Front-seat comfort could be improved. It would be nice to get a separate thigh bolster for improved driver positioning, some padding on the door panel armrests, and an armrest between the front seats. The rear seats are downright huge for such a small car, offering plenty of room for two lanky adults.
Safety and Technology
Perhaps the most significant news associated with the 2018 Fit is the addition of Honda Sensing to all trim levels, either as standard or as optional equipment, and in conjunction with both the manual gearbox and the CVT.
Honda Sensing includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and a system called Road Departure Mitigation, which tries to prevent the car from unintentionally leaving the pavement. Combined with a standard reversing camera and the LaneWatch system, all that’s missing from the Fit is a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert.
In crash testing, the 2017 Fit excelled in federal government crash testing, earning impressive marks in most assessments from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In 2015 and 2016, the Fit received an “Acceptable” rating for small overlap frontal-impact protection, and the 2017 Fit was not rated in this regard, suggesting that a structural change may have been made. Honda has further reinforced the Fit’s chassis for 2018, though, including areas at each leading corner of the passenger cell.
Also for 2018, Honda adds a new version of its Display Audio infotainment system to the Fit. Standard in Sport, EX, and EX-L trims, this system features improved graphics, a stereo volume knob, and smartphone-projection supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto formats. Additional highlights include text-messaging support, Pandora integration, and HondaLink subscription services. These models also benefit from quick-charge USB ports.
Move up to EX trim and satellite radio is standard. As an exclusive option for EX-L trims, an embedded navigation system is available complete with real-time traffic and voice-recognition technology.
Every 2018 Fit is equipped with a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. With the manual transmission, it is rated to generate 130 horsepower. With the CVT, the horsepower figure is 128. Though the car weighs no more than 2,648 lbs., this level of output is adequate, and no more.
Manual shifting makes best use of the power, and is the most gratifying. Honda knows how to engineer a slick stick, and the Fit is no exception. Comparatively, the CVT drones in an aurally unpleasant way, making the car seem slower because the amount of noise is not commensurate with the sensory perception of acceleration. Paddle shifters are provided for Sport, EX, and EX-L trims, but during short jaunts in a Los Angeles suburb proved somewhat effective.
The good news is that you hear less engine racket. Road and wind noise are better attenuated, too. Some on-center uncertainty remains in the electric steering, but it is slightly improved, and the ride and handling equation is better than ever. Especially with the manual transmission, the 2018 Fit flits about town with a nimble cheerfulness.
Don’t expect any extra fun from the Sport trim level. Mechanically, it is identical to the EX, right down to its 16-in. wheels and 185/55 all-season tires. Instead, consider the new HFP accessory package for its sport suspension tuning. A brief run down a canyon road in a Fit Sport HFP showed that the components transform the car’s handling capabilities. Now all it needs is more aggressive rubber. And a turbocharger. And better-bolstered seats to keep you anchored behind the steering wheel.
Honda has no intention of relinquishing its dominance over the subcompact car segment, and this year’s list of improvements to the Fit should certainly ensure the model’s continued success.
Of course, it helps that other companies are dropping out to focus on more profitable subcompact crossover SUVs, perhaps most notably Ford, which isn’t planning to renew the Fiesta in the U.S. market.
If you’re thinking that’s a good idea, Honda’s got you covered. The company’s HR-V is basically a crossover version of the Fit, offering similar utility and available all-wheel drive at a higher price.