Vital Stats

Engine:
AC Synchronous
Power:
123 HP / 92kW
Transmission:
Single Speed
Top Speed:
90 MPH
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,252 LBS
Seating:
2+3
MPG:
118 Combined MPGe
Reminding Us That EVs Are Becoming Less Of A Compromise



The 2013 Honda Fit EV, the Japanese automaker's highly anticipated answer to the Nissan Leaf, is quick, agile and actually quite fun to drive. Its cabin is roomy, outward visibility good and its styling is anything but odd. The platform is impressively safe, it has decent range and Honda says it is the most efficient vehicle the EPA has ever tested.

So, what's the problem? Let's call it a lack of volume.

Honda is only releasing 1,100 of these little blue hatchbacks over the next two model years in the States, and all of them will be delivered on contracted three-year leases. Making matters more frustrating for those who want to forget about internal combustion, only California and Oregon are in the launch plans with five other preselected East Coast markets opening shortly thereafter.

Statistically speaking, the Honda Fit EV will initially be scarcer than a Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 (the Italians are estimating a production run of approximately 4,000 worldwide). But thankfully, Honda brought a handful of pre-production Fit EVs to Southern California and offered us a drive. We ran acceleration tests, dodged cones on a slalom course and then did some real-world driving. Dwelling on its pending shortage, it was almost frustrating that we enjoyed ourselves so much.
2013 Honda Fit EV side view2013 Honda Fit EV front view2013 Honda Fit EV rear view

The most obvious change, for many, will be the unique Reflection Blue Pearl paint only offered on the Fit EV.

From a distance, it isn't easy to distinguish a traditional combustion-engine Fit (1.5-liter inline-four developing 117 horsepower) from its all-electric counterpart. Yet, as it draws near, the lack of a front grille, scripting on the rear doors and its extended rear spoiler will be the subtle indicators. Most obvious, for many, will be the unique Reflection Blue Pearl paint – only offered on the Fit EV.

Even if you are color blind and happen to miss the exterior tweaks, the passenger compartment is a dead giveaway. The steering wheel is nearly identical, but the primary analog instrumentation (tachometer, speedometer and fuel gauge) has given way to an analog power usage meter, digital speedometer and battery state-of-charge meter. The navigation system has been carried forward, but the HVAC system is now fully automatic (single zone) with a large digital display replacing the air distribution dial. In addition to the standard 12-volt power outlet, there are heated seat controls and an auxiliary audio input at the bottom of the center stack. The center console houses twin cupholders, a traditional gear lever (with an unconventional PRNDB arrangement) and a lever-operated parking brake. The cockpit is clean, not cluttered.

2013 Honda Fit EV interior2013 Honda Fit EV front seats2013 Honda Fit EV rear seats2013 Honda Fit EV rear cargo area

Engineers removed the H-shaped torsion beam in the rear and replaced it with an independant multi-link system – Honda's first for a Fit.

Less observed are the physical modifications made to accommodate the batteries stowed beneath the passenger floor. As such, the three rear seat occupants are moved ever so slightly rearward. The floor is raised a bit, too, so the seat cushion logically sits a bit higher as well. We shouldn't fail to mention the bio-fabric material which covers the seats; it is Honda's first use of the environmentally friendly upholstery. And much to our chagrin, the imminently useful Magic Seat feature that flips the whole second row up and out of the way to accommodate taller objects has been sacrificed to fit the box of lightning beneath the seats.

While the chassis and suspension is mostly shared with its combustion siblings (MacPherson struts up front), engineers have removed the H-shaped torsion beam in the back of the gasoline-powered Fit and replaced it with an independant multi-link system in the EV – Honda's first for a Fit. There are single-piston sliding-caliper disc brakes up front and drum brakes in the rear. The standard wheels are 15-inch alloys, wrapped in low-rolling-resistance all-season Michelin Energy tires (185/60R15 at all four corners). Honda's Electric Power Steering (EPS) is standard.

2013 Honda Fit EV front bumper2013 Honda Fit EV wheel detail2013 Honda Fit EV badge2013 Honda Fit EV badge

The Fit EV will go 132 city miles per charge and has an EPA-estimated combined driving range of 82 miles.

In terms of powertrain, the Fit EV features a maintenance-free 92-kW AC synchronous electric motor (developing 123 horsepower and 189 pound-feet of torque) driving the front wheels through a high-efficiency single-speed coaxial gearbox. Power is supplied by a Toshiba-produced air-cooled 20-kWh Li-Ion battery, located beneath the passenger compartment completely within the wheelbase.

With its own built-in charger, a 6.6 kW unit, the vehicle may be plugged into any household-type 120- or 240-volt AC power supply (charging times are less than 15 hours on a 120-volt supply, but under three hours on a 240-volt AC Level 2 source). As of today, Honda has picked Leviton to supply its preferred Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) charging station. With full batteries, Honda says the Fit EV will go 132 city miles per charge, and it has an EPA-estimated combined driving range of 82 miles.

2013 Honda Fit EV electric motor2013 Honda Fit EV charging port2013 Honda Fit EV key fobHondaLink EV App

Honda has chosen a three-mode operator-selected drive system for the Fit EV: Normal, Econ and Sport.

To assist the owner with the whole charging process, Honda provides an interactive remote control with each vehicle. About the size of an iPod Nano, the digital remote is able to exchange information about charging status and climate control settings when the car is connected to a charging supply – check on your Fit EV from the comfort of your family room sofa, or from inside a restaurant, with its built-in communication system (the system uses radio waves to transmit upwards of 100 feet). An available smartphone application does the same, plus it allows scheduling of specific charging times (only draw power when electric rates are the lowest) and other features from just about anywhere.

Honda has chosen a three-mode operator-selected drive system for the Fit EV. When the transmission shifter is in Drive, the system defaults to "Normal" mode to deliver a proper balance between system power and regenerative braking (75 kW of electrical power is available during acceleration). Press the dash-mounted "Econ" button and power delivery is cut back (47 kW of electrical power available during acceleration), as is the use of the air conditioning compressor in this most efficient setting. Lastly, those who are seeking a more spirited driving experience will need to choose "Sport" mode (delivering upwards of 92 kW of electrical power during acceleration), which sacrifices range for quick acceleration and motor responsiveness. The driver won't ever question which setting the drive system is in, as the ambient meter and mode indicator within the instrument cluster illuminates in green for Econ mode, white for Normal mode and red when in Sport mode.

2013 Honda Fit EV drive mode controls2013 Honda Fit EV power/charge meter2013 Honda Fit EV gear selector

But there is more to the story; the transmission also has a "B" range ("Braking"), which optimizes regenerative braking to provide maximum charge back to the battery. It may be used with any of the three drive modes to effectively offer six unique driving modes for the Fit EV. Consider it a custom setup.

The Nissan Leaf (more than one hundred pounds heavier at 3,385 pounds) demonstrated more body roll and softer suspension tuning.

We spent the morning with a Fit EV prototype in Southern California's Rose Bowl parking lot and surrounding community. A slalom was first on the list, followed by some acceleration runs and then a few loops around a city/highway driving cycle.

With rare exceptions, the words "sporty" and "electric vehicles" are rarely combined in the same sentence (especially when the vehicle costs less than $40,000). Yet the Honda Fit EV, tipping the scales at 3,252 pounds (weight distribution 55 percent front/45 percent rear), happily dragged itself around the basic cone-laden course with confidence. There was plenty of tire squeal and noticeable understeer, but it wasn't sloppy or misbehaved like the Nissan Leaf – yes, Honda thoughtfully brought its closest competitor along for our subjective comparison. Back to back, we found that the Leaf (more than one hundred pounds heavier at 3,385 pounds) demonstrated more body roll and softer suspension tuning. The electric steering feel was rather numb in both, but the Fit felt more comfortable and controllable running the loop.

2013 Honda Fit EV driving2013 Honda Fit EV driving2013 Honda Fit EV driving2013 Honda Fit EV driving

Honda also set up a short straight with a radar gun at the end. We took turns drag racing to the flags to see which of the two was faster. The Leaf hit 36 mph in ECO mode and 42 mph in Drive. The Fit EV hit 43 mph in Econ mode, 44 in Normal mode and 47 mph in Sport. Both cars were traction limited at the start, but the Honda pulled much more strongly during the acceleration run once the tires hooked up. (Note: The Leaf and Fit were both running on near full charges for the acceleration test.)

Normal mode with the transmission in "B" was our favorite setting.

Lastly, we left the parking lot for a brief city/highway loop, as that is how most Fits will wear down their tires (our suspicion is that few owners will slalom or drag race with their EV, considering how detrimental it is to range). Acceleration off the line wasn't bad in any of the drive modes (as our previous acceleration numbers show), but the Econ mode was much more lethargic when reacting to accelerator input at speeds above 30 mph. Normal mode is more than adequate, acting like any other low-displacement four-cylinder engine around town (yet without the annoying need to downshift, thanks to the single-speed gearbox). The Sport mode is almost zippy, especially at slower urban speeds.

Around town, we found Normal mode with the transmission in "B" to be our favorite setting. The aggressive regenerative braking in this configuration helps to preserve battery life while dramatically slowing the vehicle when the accelerator is lifted. It took only minutes to become comfortable with its almost single-pedal operation, and we soon began to enjoy its natural sensation of engine braking.

Autoblog Short Cuts: 2013 Honda Fit EV

Merging into 70-mph traffic on a moving highway, the Fit EV held its own. While the output of an electric motor remains constant at speed, torque falls as RPM increases. This means that all EVs accelerate quickly off the line, but slow at higher speeds as torque diminishes and aerodynamic loads increase (even the Tesla Roadster runs out of steam above 100 mph). As we figured, the Fit EV lost most of its zippiness on the highway, but it was never worrisome, and we didn't have any problem jockeying from lane to lane. However, it was perhaps our clearest reminder that the Fit EV is anything but traditional.

The urge to drive more slowly seems to subconsciously occur each time we jump behind the wheel of an EV

Ignoring the urge to drive more slowly than normal to conserve battery power (it seems to subconsciously occur each time we jump behind the wheel of an EV), we headed back to the Rose Bowl parking lot with the transmission lever in "D" while utilizing Normal mode. In this configuration, with only minimal regenerative braking, the Fit EV responds much like a conventional car – eerily reminding us that electric propulsion is becoming less and less of a compromise to its fossil fuel counterparts.

We found much to like with the new Fit EV. We were impressed by its cabin space, driving dynamics and advanced electronics designed to ease the ownership experience. Its physical appearance is unique, but it doesn't scream out like many other "green" oddities on the road. Its human interface is friendly, and overall, it is exceptionally easy to drive.

2013 Honda Fit EV rear 3/4 view

Yet regardless of its expected rave reviews, Honda has no plans to sell its Fit EV to the public. Instead, the company has concocted an aggressive three-year Fit EV lease program of $389/month with zero out of pocket (the program is based on an MSRP of about $36,000 and buyers are still responsible for local applicable taxes). The deal not only includes roadside assistance, routine maintenance and navigation updates, but insurance too (customers will need to secure liability insurance on their own). There is no purchase option at the end of the lease.

Honda will only allocate about 1,100 units to the States over the next two model years.

But the attractive lease program isn't really a hurdle – low production volume is. To ensure a very positive experience for all Fit EV customers, Honda will only allocate about 1,100 units to the States over the next two model years (that works out to about 45 per month, a pitiful amount considering that Honda sold 4,227 Fits in February of this year alone). Therein lies our frustration.

Our initial impressions suggest that Honda has engineered the best EV in its segment. But with a volume limited to just eleven hundred copies, it's disheartening to realize that you may need your congressman to write a letter on your behalf to secure one.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 76 Comments
      stumpy
      • 2 Years Ago
      come on honda. balls up. all i can hope is that the demand far exceeds hondas expectations and that they listen to their customers and produce more.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        carfan
        • 2 Years Ago
        I think if you would know that "fotze" means "*****" in german you would finally stop using this stupid pseudonym
      FuelToTheFire
      • 2 Years Ago
      Blah blah blah, it's lease only, range sucks, Volt rulzzzzzz. Die Honda die. /s. Who cares? Honda is almost guaranteed to release a version without lease only. It's still much better and more reliable than any other electric vehicle out there. It also comes with Honda's bulletproof reliability.
        carguy1701
        • 2 Years Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Funny, the Volt seems pretty reliable.
        Synthono
        • 2 Years Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        I suspect they're just not fully confident in their tech yet. Maybe the next-gen Fit EV will be available for purchase.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Synthono
          [blocked]
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Synthono
          [blocked]
          Synthono
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Synthono
          What is the CARB mandate? The EV Plus a decade ago was what you described - and they were all crushed, people seem to forget that part - but the more I read about this, the more it sounds like an elaborate battery experiment rather than what you describe. If it was just to meet a CARB mandate, it would've been much lazier.
          jmm
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Synthono
          @ SVX Pearlie--Because they'd lose money on each one.
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      >build an EV that people might actually want >not for sale GG Honda. Dicks.
        themanwithsauce
        • 2 Years Ago
        @carguy1701
        If they can;t produce enough battery packs or motors, they can;t sell them. By law, they'd be reuired to have spare parts and maintenance available for these cars for I think 10 years afterwards......And if they don;t use these packs or motors in any other model and they only made 1000 or so of them.....They're taking a heavy hit. Plus what if this is just a test run, and when they actually SELL an EV, it is 10x as good as this? Would you complain then? All of those cars are probably packed with sensors for every shred of data imaginable since they will get them all back. Each of those cars is worth its weight in gold as far as data is concerned. ANd most of them will probably end up being torn down and every inch studied to further their program. Plus there's always a chance they could offer it for sale if they push it into production.
      doejoe7hiya
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow, that is incredibly ugly. Honda's styling lately has not been good.
        Matrix
        • 2 Years Ago
        @doejoe7hiya
        Hondas style is actually the best in the world, thats why they are #1 maybe you just dont have good taste.
          carguy1701
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Matrix
          No, it is not.
          doejoe7hiya
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Matrix
          Really? Aston Martin? Ferrari? Nope. Honda's styling is the best in the world. hahahahahaha To quote the article "Its physical appearance is unique" and I've never heard anyone describe something beautiful or even slightly pretty as "unique".
      Ducman69
      • 2 Years Ago
      Arnold Voice: "ITS NOT A TUMAH!"
      NY EVO X MR GUY
      • 2 Years Ago
      Now this is a step in the right direction towards energy independence. Bigger than a four two and scion IQ(certainly safer), better room. The only thing I wish(and hope) is that they can extend the range to about 300-400 miles per charge. By doing that would be the ultimate transportation vehicle.
        Ducman69
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NY EVO X MR GUY
        Still wasteful IMO, as there is no way the average Joe can have an only-electric vehicle, and if you have to produce two vehicles for him, well there goes your "green" angle. The logical solution is to progress naturally to plug-in hybrids that can drive solely on the battery until it runs low. This will over time encourage the adoption of appropriate outlets around the nation. Once that infrastructure for recharging electrics while you're parked out at work or what not is set up, THEN start producing pure electric vehicles.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ducman69
          [blocked]
          NY EVO X MR GUY
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ducman69
          Gotcha. Thank you for your input. But you do get what I am getting at?
          suthrn2nr
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ducman69
          except the average Joe doesn't drive 300 miles a day, so that would just be a lot of capacity if you are plugging in everyday. I say 100-150mpg capacity is fantastic for most people that can plug-in. The only way I see Ducman's point as valid is for people who can't plug-in (i.e. no garage, live in condo, etc), which I'm sure is a large group of people, but for anyone with a covered parking area 300 mile range is not necessary.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NY EVO X MR GUY
        [blocked]
          • 2 Years Ago
          [blocked]
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      I will say, though, that is a lovely shade of blue.
      CrankShaft
      • 2 Years Ago
      I would say an absolute compromise in every possible way!!
      Axel E
      • 2 Years Ago
      I would be completely fine with this vehicle for my wife's commute. My car is more comfortable on the highway so we take it on longer trips. The Fit EV would be ideal for us, even to spend a weekend with friends an hour away. Shame on Honda for not setting their sights bigger on this one..they could have a real winner.
        Axel E
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Axel E
        Thinking about it more...she would be able to commute for about a week without needing to plug it in. Her Focus only sees about 4-5k miles/year. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Honda, though I can understand their hesitation to undergo a mass release. I would hope after the 3-year lease program experiment on this vehicles is up, the tech goes into mass market.
          John
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Axel E
          4-5K a year? ...Walk or bike to work? Seems a lot more economical and sensible than getting/keeping a car for that
          rjstanford
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Axel E
          John, sometimes its a timeliness thing. I used to walk my 3 mile commute, but after my first child was born the extra 1.5 hours a day became more important to me. In the Texas heat, biking (and I'm a pretty solid road biker) is almost more trouble than its worth, regrettably.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      $389 is not bad assuming you will not exceed the alloted mileage.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        [blocked]
      Ian Kennedy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Lease only = DOA. This is nothing more than a me-too publicity grab for relevancy. Nissan is selling real EVs. Toyota is using batteries from Tesla for their EV efforts. Tesla will own the high end with their bag of awesome. GM has their Volt quasi-EV and when kept charged can go for months without refueling in the typical commute scenario. Honda - irrelevant. Maybe they can sink another billion into that fuel cell failure. Why would anyone get into a dead end lease when there are better options?
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