Evolution's a funny thing. We like our thumbs, enjoy walking upright and are thankful Ivanka Trump doesn't have a tail (although there's some debate about where she hides her horns), but when adaptation turns to automobiles, Darwin's dictum occasionally goes astray. There's a long list of vehicles we would love to see stay the same, but we understand that consumer demand and government regulation forces automakers to add amenities and tack on the pounds. The 2009 Honda Fit Sport is a perfect case-study.
Compared to the original Fit that landed on our shores in 2006, Honda's sophomore effort is larger, more spacious and marginally more powerful. But when you sit down with the spec sheet there are only a few "improvements" worth getting excited about. After spending a week with the 2009 model, we found that while evolution is good, some things need to stay the same. Make the jump to find out why.
Photos copyright ©2009 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.
It's tough to say which Fit is more attractive. We liked the simple honesty of the outgoing version, but as fans of the Euro Civic, the 2009 model's frontward aggression is a welcome addition. The fascia is more angular and less anonymous, and matched with the sculpted swage lines, over-styled hatch and dainty spoiler, the Fit Sport has ditched most of its mini-minivan character in favor of a dynamic shape that lends some familial cohesion to the lil' runabout. Praise be to Honda for erring on the Euro side of its recent stylistic endeavors, as we can't imagine the rhinoplastic horrors that would have afflicted the Fit if a Pilot/Ridgeline facelift found its way up front.
On the inside, the revisions are just as apparent and equally divisive. The leather-wrapped steering wheel on the Sport model is suitably chunky and the perfect diameter to live up to its trim's namesake. But for those who prefer a low wheel placement to compliment the Sport's high-riding seats, be prepared for the top of the center-mounted speedo to disappear from view.
The two-tiered stereo and climate control cluster has been dropped in favor of a singular slab of clickity-clicktastic plastic to house the audio system, and the fan, temperature and directional knobs apparently suffered a bout of elephantitus when they migrated to the left side of the stereo. While their placement might be more "driver oriented," pleas from the passenger seat to turn up the heat will be forthcoming. Thankfully, Honda got it right with the five-speed manual's shifter placement, which falls subconsciously to hand and delivers the smooth and solid action that comes with anything carrying an "H".
The front seats are what you'd expect in anything under $20-large, offering enough adjustability and padding to remain comfortable on the daily commute, but lacking the serious bolstering you'd require while tackling the bends. The rear "Magic Seats" still fold up to reveal a clean pass-through and a flat floor (we managed to fit a plasma TV with ease), and with the rear 60/40 bench backs folded down, there's 57 cu-ft of storage (15 cu-ft more than the 2008 model) for moving a dorm-full of detritus when headed home for the holidays.
The 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine remains, with a single overhead cam manipulating 16 valves, but output is up to 117 hp at 6,600 rpm (eight over the 2008 model) and 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm (one lb-ft more than before). Equipped with the five-speed cog-swapper, our tester was rated at 27 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway (one mpg down from the outgoing Fit), and while the fuel tank has shrunk by 0.2 gallons, the Fit's curb weight is up by 51 pounds (2,520 pounds) – a reasonable trade-off considering the additional 4.2-inches of length.
Our First Drive revealed that Honda took considerable care to give the 2009 Fit a more relaxing ride, and apart from the engine note, which drones through the cabin while motoring along at expressway speeds, the steering and power delivery remain true to the original. Bobbing and weaving through town, the uptake and clutch engagement takes some finesse to elicit smooth shifts and the upgraded rolling stock on the Sport (185/55 all-season tires wrapped around 16-inch wheels) provide a communicative – although slightly muted– sense of what's happening underneath.
When we ventured out into the backroads where few econoboxes fear to tread, the 2009 model put up a fight, but ultimately failed to provide the buzzy thrills of its predecessor. Although output is up, the Fit doesn't dart through the corners or deliver the chuckability we've come to expect. The additional weight may be negligible, but there's an odd sense of heft at the helm, and while the front MacPherson struts do their best to keep the tires planted, the Sport-specific rear anti-roll bar can only do so much to keep the solid-beam rear-end dancing like the Patrick Swayze of our youth.
While we're keenly aware that its smoother ride and softer suspension will please the public at large – particularly those who opt for the automatic – we missed the tactility and balance the first-generation Fit delivered. But despite the 2009 model's limited (driver) engagement, the Fit is still the most entertaining runabout in its class, easily putting the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Chevrolet Aveo to shame. Factor in the $18,000 sticker our tester carried, and the only question left is whether or not the slightly devolved 2009 Honda Fit Sport is a natural selection for you.
Photos copyright ©2009 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.