2013 Honda Fit Driving Impressions

The 1.5-liter engine is very smooth and powerful, for an engine that small. It's rated at 117 horsepower at a high-revving 6600 rpm.

Mated to the 5-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, it's an exceptional powertrain. And the 5-speed manual gearbox is tight and fun, with a clutch that's easy to use.

We drove into a heavy headwind with the cruise control set at 72 mph in a Honda Fit automatic. On uphill stretches, the transmission shifted back and forth between 5th and 4th, and on steeper hills it kicked down to 3rd, but the shifts could not be felt, or even heard with the radio tuned to the news. We watched the tach jump, from 2600 rpm in 5th to 3100 in 4th to 4000 in 3rd, but never felt or heard the shifts. That's smooth. The automatic has a Sport mode that holds the transmission in gears longer when you're in Drive. This sport mode is meant for sports car-like driving, which the Fit likes. The driver can shift manually using paddles.

However that headwind caused the Fit to dance around on the road a lot, because it is so light, even though the aerodynamics are good.

The gas mileage was good at that pace. We started the trip at 25.8 miles per gallon from city driving, and it climbed to 30.5 mpg after 229 miles, despite sometimes pushing to 80 mph. The manual transmission Fit and Fit Sport with the automatic get an EPA-estimated 27/33 City/Highway mpg, while the base Fit automatic manages an even better 28/35 mpg rating.

The Honda Fit is nimble around town, making driving fun and relaxed. For everyday driving the Fit is obedient and comfortable, thanks to the great seats and a suspension that smoothes the ride.

The all-electric Honda Fit EV is, of course, a bit different from the other models. On the road, the Fit EV is really two cars in one: in Eco mode it conserves wattage and pretty much ambles along, a sedate statement of green consciousness. In Normal mode, acceleration and torque is sufficient for cruising and city driving. Punch in Sport mode and the lightweight Fit thrusts forward with a significant kick and the EV holds a head of steam that's more than enough to attack an incline or power up an interstate on-ramp.

The Fit EV draws its power from a 20-kilowatt hour, lithium-ion battery and a 92-kilowatt coaxial electric motor/gearbox. The high-density electric motor, similar to the unit that drives the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, is highly efficient and ultra-silent; more than a couple of times we had to check the Ready to Drive readout on the dash panel to make sure that it was running and ready to engage.

The three-mode Dynamic Electric Drive system, with Eco, Normal and Sport buttons located to the left of the steering wheel, is lifted from the CRZ two-seater. As with the CRZ we drove some time ago, the Fit EV in Eco mode with the CVT continuously variable transmission labors when uphill thrust is required, and torque is limited. In Sport mode, the EV is positively fast, and, like most Fits, adept at handling corners and hunkering down on freeways. Sport mode reduced the range by about 20 percent in our testing.

When it comes time to recharge, the Fit EV owner should have a plan A, and a Plan B just to be safe and avoid range anxiety.

A 6.6 kW, onboard, 32-amp charger allows for convenient recharging of the Fit EV with a 240-volt circuit in less than three hours. Owners will want to equip their home with a 240-volt charging station. Honda has partnered with Leviton as the preferred Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) charging supplier.

When using 120-volt household current, be prepared to close the garage door and settle in for a long nap; a full recharge takes more than 10 hours, Honda says. In fact, we plugged the Fit into a 120-volt household line and five hours later, the range meter hadn't budged. The charger during that time appeared to be operating, as all the charge lights were green. You'll want that 240-volt charging system.

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