Back in the punk rock days of the early eighties Boston, a weekly paper called Boston Rock published a comic called Steven. Like Picasso, Steven had a friend named Brock. Unlike Picasso's pal Braque, Brock lived in a refrigerator box. From the outside his box looked like a box, but inside it was a luxurious flat. Sometimes when Steven visited Brock, he'd be installing storm windows or an air conditioner on the box, and they'd retire inside to watch big-screen TV. While the Honda Fit is no refrigerator box, it is a very entertaining vehicle that, like Brock's box, defies its subcompact size.
There's a reason the Fit reminded me of quirky comic-strip characters from decades past. From the outside Honda's small hatchback conveys a certain cartoonishness, such that pressing the remote key fob to unlock the doors is like feeding a Neopet or pressing the snooze button on a Pompurin happy singing alarm clock. From the front the Fit even appears to wear a goofy grin. The good lot of this presence comes from the Fit's diminutive size. The subcompact exterior dimensions are fairly comical when compared to majority of large SUV's or even minivans the on the road.
Inside, the Fit tells a much larger story. Plenty of room greeted this six-foot extra large American male. While a family of six would be more suited in a 1975 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Station Wagon with rear facing kid seating, the Fit managed to transport several humans while grinning and revving all the while. The car's interior genius is in a super-efficient use of space. For instance, the fuel tank resides under the front seats. This placement, along with the super-folding rear seats allows the entire rearward interior of the Fit to be folded flat to reveal an expanse of flat floor. The back seats are an entertaining operational marvel. A few quick lever and seat folding moves, and the Fit coverts to cargo mode, defying its diminutive size.
Driving the Fit is where the comedy turns into entertainment. We tested the Fit Sport automatic out on the Willow Springs Raceway's Streets of Willow road course, and the Fit five-speed in mixed-use urban driving. The 1,500cc VTEC engine is no torque monster, yet has enough under foot to make for decent thrust. Accompanying valve growl from 3,000 rpm and up was the perfect traveling companion — aggressive enough to hear, yet polite enough not to annoy. Out on the racetrack, the Fit Sport stayed planted on line, and the paddle shifters proved entertaining. The paddles went unmissed after a few bouts rowing through the gears of the crispy five-speed manual transmission. Wringing out the manual Fit gets things moving along nicely and keeps the ears busy. On more chopped up sections of Los Angeles's 101 freeway, the Fit's ride was choppy but otherwise compliant for a sporting subcompact with a short wheelbase and small wheels. Putting all sixteen valves into full song out of corners did not stop being fun for the entire week.
While I was driving one night, Honda revealed its approach to the Fit by a single touch. Seeking to avoid temporary blindness from a sea of SUV headlamps, I reached for the rearview's day-night lever. It returned a click so satisfying that I couldn't resist moving it back and forth a few more times. The attention and effort paid to that small switch permeates the entire Fit. Audio and climate-control knobs are simple and intuitive. The rear seats are ingenious and comfortable. It kept us thinking of the Kodama tree spirits from Hayao Miyazaki's anime masterpiece "Princess Mononoke." The Kodama made a sort of clicking noise to announce their presence, turning invisible once more as they blended back into the forest. The Fit is no exception.