2010 Honda Fit filled with gear – Click above for high-res image gallery

In the past couple of years, Honda has gotten no end of grief about the styling of models like the Pilot, Crosstour and, of course, the entire Acura lineup. One car has remained largely immune to criticism: the Fit. Since its introduction to the U.S. market several years ago, the Honda Fit has become one of our favorite small cars... and for good reason. It offers a great balance of handling dynamics and fuel efficiency, a reasonable price and, most importantly, utility.

During the first half of 2008 when fuel prices ran up in the United States, a lot of people gave up their SUVs in favor of smaller vehicles. Since then, many of those same people have had buyers remorse, in part because they felt their new smaller vehicles were just too cramped. The Fit clearly demonstrates that down-sizing doesn't have to mean giving up so much space and cargo hauling ability. It's certainly smaller than a typical crossover or SUV, but it's by no means tight. To demonstrate that, we borrowed a Fit from Honda recently while out in Los Angeles. Read all about it after the jump.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

A few of us on Autoblog team still have other jobs besides writing to keep us busy. In this writer's case, this involves a lot of video production and webcasting work. Getting the work done requires a fair amount of gear, which is packed into four flight cases. On this trip we weren't able to scrounge up a larger vehicle like we usually do because of some late scheduling, but when Honda offered up a Fit Sport with navigation, we went for it.

Most automakers in Europe offer "van" versions of their B- and C-segment small cars, which are popular among small businesses like florists, messengers and plumbers. These are typically three-door hatchback bodies with solid metal where the rear side windows would be and the rear seats removed, much like a Chevy HHR panel van. These small vans are popular because they offer ample storage and easy access through the hatch.

We reviewed the current second-generation Fit about a year ago and also have personal experience with a first-generation model in the family fleet, so we knew it had far more usable space inside than is apparent from the outside. Nonetheless, we still thought we might have to pile some stuff up toward the roof. As it turns out, after folding down the back seat, we were easily able fit four large cases plus a couple of backpacks into the 57.3-cubic-foot cavity without extending above the window line. Another advantage of the Fit is a relatively low lift-over height compared to your typical SUV or crossover, which is a very handy thing when loading heavy boxes.

The best part is that we did it all without having to slide the front seats way forward. Even with some 300 pounds of gear in the back, the Fit still felt nimble and had no problem climbing the surprisingly steep roads up into the Hollywood hills above the Sunset strip. Because of the nature of our kit, we didn't need to use the Fit's "Magic Seat," but if we had needed to bring our own 50- inch flat panel display along, we could have folded the rear seat cushions up against the seat back and slid it inside through the rear door opening. Even with the rear seat in its standard position, the Fit can swallow over 20 cubic feet of stuff and carry four adult passengers in comfort. See if you can do that with your Lexus LS600h!

Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.

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