Motoring | Road Tests
Jaco Van Der Merwe
Shakespeare might have written the famous line in Romeo and Juliet “What’s in a name?” over 400 centuries ago, but today it is as relevant as ever. Especially when it comes to the Honda Fit.
The Fit was recently rolled out as a local replacement for the Honda Jazz. But the two are exactly the same, barring the badge.
Ever since the hatchback’s world debut in 2001, it was marketed as the Fit is some countries and the Jazz in others, including South Africa. But with the rollout of the fourth generation, Honda saw it fit to silence the out-of-tune Jazz for good locally. It was replaced by the Fit nametag to start the latest version of the hatch off on a clean slate.
Judging by its latest offering, Honda’s move might just be a masterstroke. After the first edition of the Jazz put the car on the map properly, it lost its touch over time. And in the end dissolved into something that felt just plain cheap and plasticky. This was evident judged on its dwindling popularity and decline in sales.
However, the Japanese-built Honda Fit is very much reminiscent of the Jazz’s early days. It has a serious feel-good factor and smacks of good built-quality.
One of the biggest changes going from the Jazz to the Fit in the inclusion of a Hybrid model which presides over the line-up otherwise consisting of 1.5-litre petrol-powered engines in various trim levels. Honda Fit Hybrid will only go on sale in October, but we recently had one as a house guest for a week.
Powering the Hybrid is what Honda calls the e:HEV system which was newly developed for the Fit. It is a combination of two electric motors connected to a 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery and a fixed-gear transmission via an intelligent power control unit. The system combines to deliver a total output of 80kW of power and a very impressive 253Nm of torque.
ALSO READ: New Honda Fit plays right tune as Jazz replacement
The Fit Hybrid uses what Honda calls an electric CVT (e-CVT) with a single fixed-gear ratio to create a direct connection between moving components. We have to admit, it was one of the best experiences we’ve had with something with CVT in its name. Changes are super smooth and it tends to be far less erratic than your average CVT.
Honda claims the Fit Hybrid can complete the 0-to-100 km/h dash in 9.3 seconds, but in all fairness, it actually felt quicker than that. It really feels quick off the line and can be rather deceptive during stages when the car runs without help from the engine.
We also felt that its handling was superb. As a result of an enhanced chassis, suspension and body rigidity, the Honda Fit is well-balanced and feels sturdy and planted to the road.
As expected, fuel economy was exceptional. While we did not manage to achieve Honda’s claimed consumption of 3.7L/100km, we were nevertheless very impressed by clocking 5.2L/100km over the course of 308km. That is seriously impressive real-world numbers in anyone’s book and achieved by e:HEV system seamlessly changing between three drive modes to deliver the required amount of power.
One of the standout features of the Honda Fit is its futuristic interior. While it pretty much features the recognisable monoform silhouette from previous generations on the outside, it inside the cabin where the Fit has made gigantic strides over the outgoing Jazz.
It’s only once you get inside that you truly appreciate the sweeping A-pillars being more than halved to 55mm. This has been done in conjunction with eliminating the dashboard visor to increase driver visibility to an almost panoramic view while also creating the sense of space.
A new nine-inch infotainment system in brilliant HD quality and seven-inch full TFT instrument cluster are the two highlights in a very simplistic dashboard that sweeps horizontally through the cabin. Soft touch materials and a magnificent two-spoke steering wheel lends the Honda Fit a very premium feel.
Overall, the whole cabin could have Fit right into the Starship Enterprise. No pun intended. It feels ultra-modern, is very quiet – especially when in electric vehicle mode – and is extremely comfortable.
The Magic Seat in the rear is another standout feature. With its fuel tank situated below the front seats on the chassis, there is plenty of space for any requirement in the rear.
When carrying human cargo there is an astounding 986mm legroom at the back, while the rear seats can also be folded flat of flipped up to load things of all shapes and sizes. The Hybrid offers 298 litres of boot space, which can be maximised to 1,199 litres.
The Fit features Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure technology to enhance occupant crash protection, while there are six airbags in the cabin.
In addition, the Fit comes standard with the impressive Honda Sensing active safety technology, which includes Collision Mitigation Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation and Auto High-Beam.
Finally we get to the elephant in the room. At R469,900, the Honda Fit Hybrid costs R80,000 more than the most expensive petrol model and will result in very few of them finding new owners.
Sadly greener cars like hybrids and all-electric vehicles are not incentivised by government like they are in many other countries and will remain out of reach of most buyers until they become more affordable.
It’s impossible to compare apples to apples here, because the Honda Fit is a very unique fruit. The best way to put the price tag into perspective is to see what else R469,900 is worth.
If you prefer to stay with a hatch back, you can save a few rands and own a much bigger Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.2T XR for R451,200. Or get its sedan sibling, the Corolla 2.0 XR CVT for R460,200.
If you prefer an SUV, the Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite Plus is an attractive option at R468,995. Or the Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Premium at R482,500. Looking at the bakkie listings, the new Nissan Navara in 2.5 double cab SE guise is only a few rand more at R474,000.
The Honda Fit Hybrid is an awesome little car. It looks great, feels great and drives exceptionally well. Offering both fun and functionality in equal amounts, there is little not too like in terms of the car itself.
But in our current market, these things can’t justify the hefty price tag. The sticker will sadly be the deterrent that will have buyers opting for the more affordable petrol versions.
For more information on the Honda Fit range, click here.