Thursday, April 20, 2006

Shiny things: Honda Fit test drive

Last night, I stopped by the local Honda dealer to test drive the Fit, Honda's new (to North America) subcompact. The verdict: thumbs up.

I drove a little red automatic Fit Sport with the nifty paddle shifters. It's a tight little car that seems much larger on the inside than you might guess from the outside. In fact, the guy from the dealership that went along on the test drive was probably 6'4" and he seemed to fit in the back seat without much trouble.

I like the way the seats (back and front) can be folded origami-style into several different configurations (though I'm not sure it would be big enough for our two dogs). I also thought it was great fun to drive: tight, reasonably peppy, good visibility, etc., though I'm not sure I would get much use from the paddle shifters. Here's how it works: move the floor-mounted shifter from D to S, then use your index finger to pull the little paddles on the steering wheel. Pull the right paddle and you'll go up a gear (it's a 5-speed automatic), pull the left and you'll go down. If you're in S and you forget to shift, the car will shift for you, up to 4th gear (you'll hafta get yourself into 5th). Maybe it's more of a draw for those who grew up with a Playstation controller into their hands.

Another nifty feature: a gauge that tells you how close you are to needing an oil change. According to the guy from the dealership, it's not just keeping track of mileage since the last oil change, it's also somehow monitoring the oil and filter, so it might be that you'll need an oil change after 2,149 miles (if you drive like one of those maniac Jetta drivers) or you might not need an oil change until 12,149 miles (if you drive like me). I'm interested in reading more about how it works.

I'm thinking maybe the base-level Fit, with an automatic gearbox. No paddle shifters, no "ground effects" or spoiler, no alloy wheels, slightly less stereo, about $1,300 fewer clams on the sticker price. And I'm guessing that with lots of Fits already pre-sold, sticker price is what we'll hafta pay, for the foreseeable future. If you opt for the manual tranny, you'll save $800 off the sticker price, but our dealer says the manuals will be hard to come by, perhaps because they're being directed mainly to foreign markets.

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