2009 Honda Fit Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Second-generation model

  • Longer and wider than previous model

  • Midsize interior with versatile seating, cargo configurations

  • More powerful new engine

  • Standard front side and side curtain air bags

  • U.S. launch in fall 2008

Introduction

Just as gasoline prices were nudging up toward $3 a gallon, Honda, Toyota and Nissan introduced new sub-compact cars to the U.S. automotive market for the 2007 model year. Honda's was the Fit. The idea was to create what Honda terms "the ideal small car for a new age."

While the Fit was new to the States, it was based on a model Honda had been selling in other countries since 2001. Now, with the approach of the 2009 model year, Honda introduces a second-generation Fit that the automaker hopes will even better suit the American automotive tastes because it is longer, wider and more powerful. Honda also says the new Fit will be sportier thanks to improved suspension, steering and body rigidity.

Model Lineup

With the first-generation Fit, both in the 2007 and 2008 model years, Honda offered a base version and a slightly tweaked Sport model. The same strategy will continue with the second-generation version. The Sport model will come with 16-inch wheels in place of the base's 15s, as well as a USB audio interface. Optional for the Sport will be a navigation system with voice recognition and a 6.5-inch screen.

Design

Like the first generation, the new Fit offers a versatile, even clever interior design with a flip-and-fold rear Magic Seat and an adjustable package shelf. The Magic Seat folds with a single touch and the headrests don't need to be removed for the seat to fold flat, even with the front seats set all the way back. Occupants can choose the standard 5-passenger seating configuration, or one of three cargo-carrying configurations: utility mode, long object mode, and tall object mode. In addition, a new hidden storage bin for small items is added under the driver's side rear seat.

Cargo loading and unloading is enhanced by rear passenger doors that open 80 degrees and a rear hatch sill that is less than two feet above the pavement. The second-generation Fit will make access even easier-at least for Japanese buyers-offering a front passenger's seat that rotates, a feature that Honda says will make it easier to load and unload a wheelchair.

Combined with a new body design that pushes the A-pillar (windshield support) toward the front bumper, the new Fit has what Honda calls a midsize car interior and thus it will use the same front seat frames as it does in sedans with considerably larger footprints. The width of the rear seats also has been increased, and a new headrest design should provide the driver with a better view through the interior rearview mirror.

The driver's forward view should be enhanced by moving the A-pillars and increasing-by three times-the size of the front quarter windows. Exterior rearview mirrors also have been redesigned and enlarged. The instrument panel offers LED readouts, including current fuel economy and range figures. Fit is equipped with 10 cupholders.

Hardware

The 2009 Honda Fit will be more than 2 inches longer and three-quarters of an inch wider than the original, and will ride on a wheelbase that has been lengthened by nearly 2 inches.

The second-generation Fit went on sale late in calendar year 2007 in Japan, where it is offered with a new 1.3-liter engine with 100 hp or as a more upscale "Road Sailing" version with a new 1.5-liter engine with 120 hp.Thus far, Honda has only announced that the 2009 Fit will be offered with a new iVTEC 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. We suspect that will be the only engine offered in the U.S. Honda has confirmed that 5-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions will be offered, and the automatic transmission will come with steering-wheel shift paddles in the Sport model.

The current Fit's 109-hp, 1.5-liter engine is rated at 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway in the U.S. Expect the new Fit to meet or exceed those numbers.

Safety

Honda notes that the 2009 Fit will adopt the company's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which uses load-bearing frame structures to disperse frontal crash energy and better match the Fit with other vehicles of different sizes and bumper heights, the company explains. Active front head restraints will also be new. Other standard safety equipment will include dual-stage, dual threshold front air bags; torso-protecting front side air bags; head-protecting curtain side air bags; tire-pressure monitor; and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. Traction control and electronic stability control will be optional.

Technology

Honda promises the new Fit will be even quieter, thanks to sound-absorbing acoustic materials in the roof, floor and dashboard, and will provide reduced NVH (noise, vibration and harshness qualities), thanks to improvements in the mounts between the body and various components.