2007 Honda Fit: New Subcompact for America

Challenging the popular new Toyota brand Scion and its spiffy xA model, Honda is bringing a new subcompact to America: the 2007 Honda Fit. Known in some countries as the “Jazz,” the Honda Fit has been a big seller abroad, gaining positive reviews from users in nations as diverse as Argentina and Malaysia. In fact, it has even outsold the Toyota Corolla in Japan. The American version of the 2007 Honda Fit will hit dealerships in the spring of 2006, filling out the bottom end of Honda’s line and offering buyers a subcompact alternative to the tried and true, but admittedly duller, Honda Civic.

With an expected retail price between $12,000 and $14,000 for its base model, the 2007 Honda Fit is poised to steer buyers away from the Scion line and also from the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, and Chevrolet Aveo. At first blush, the 2007 Fit looks like a cross between the 5-Door Chevy Aveo and the Scion xA on the outside – like a cute, crunched-up station wagon. But this squat little car is aptly named, and its indispensable versatility will separate it from the pack. The “Fit” is a triple entendre. First, it’s fit because it’s strong for its size: the car is a healthy runner with an efficient engine. Second, the car is designed so that it can fit more cargo with more seating variations than you’d ever expect. And third, the car is meant to fit, or appropriately match, the lifestyle of its owner. Someone at Honda had fun flipping through a dictionary and identifying all the ways in which Fit would be a fitting (pun intended) name for the car.

For those Americans concerned about power, the 4-cylinder Honda Fit engine is a 109-horsepower, 1.5 liter gunner – that’s plenty of pep for a small car. In this regard, it’s similar to the 108-horsepower, 1.5 liter engine on the Scion xA. The Fit will have a little more pickup than the slightly less expensive Chevy Aveo, Kia Rio, and the newly redesigned Hyundai Accent. As Americans learn to weigh fuel efficiency against power, small-but-ample engines like the Fit’s will continue to gain appeal. The 2007 Honda Fit’s gas mileage is estimated at about 38 miles per gallon on the highway and 33 miles per gallon in the city.

The real hallmark of the Fit, though, it what Honda calls its four special seat modes. When not being used conventionally, the seats can be maneuvered into four different configurations. The two rear seats can be flipped down to create a small flat bed in the back. This “utility mode” is allegedly big enough to fit a bicycle at an angle. The “long mode” involves flipping down the rear seats and reclining the front passenger seat to an almost fully prone position, allowing a lengthy item (Honda suggests a small kayak) to fit. But what about tall items, you ask? The Fit touts a “tall mode” which is created by flipping up just the lower (butt) portion of the back seat, allowing the user to shove something in from floor to roof, largely unencumbered. Finally, the fourth option is a “recline mode,” which fashions an in-car chaise lounge by flattening the front seat and using the back seat to support a reclining person.

These well-engineered variations are remarkable, especially in such a tiny vehicle. Pictures of these modes are available on the American Honda Fit preview website at www.honda.com, which will eventually be replaced when the car makes its debut in the spring of 2006. The Japanese website features a more thorough demo with enough English wording to be useful: www.honda.co.jp/fit.

The Honda Fit’s excellent fuel efficiency and its space-shifting tactics are not its only tricks, though. Look for other special features, including a unique connection for iPod users. Honda is tapping into a young market and will sell the Honda Fit as an ideal car for the first-time buyer. Unless American users find flaws that foreign Fit owners have not, the car should be a raving success. Honda’s tagline for now: “The Fit is Go.”

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