It’s been over a year since high-profile electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and Mitsubishi i went on sale. But now Honda is ready to throw the Fit EV into the mix to show that electric cars can be economical and green, but also fun.
|1. The Fit EV gets a 118 MPGe combined rating, the highest of any electric car. |
2. Available in select markets on a $389-three year lease, with not purchase option at end.
3. Special key-remote and iPhone App allows for charge management.
4. Borrowed from Honda’s CR-Z are three driving modes to provide a range of driving options, from performance to the longest driving range.
Honda claims that the new Fit is not only more enjoyable to drive than its counterparts, but is also more efficient and can also go farther on a single charge. Plus, a full charge takes just three hours or less.
With the big promises having been made, we traveled to Pasadena, California, one of the cities the Fit EV will launch in later in July, to run the sub-compact electric car through its paces.
BY THE NUMBERS
California and Oregon will be the first markets that will be receiving the Honda Fit EV, with six other east-coast markets scheduled for next year. Interested parties will be able to get this electric go-getter for $389 a month, over three years, which would roughly mean the Fit EV carries a MSRP somewhere in the area of $36,625, close to the price of a Nissan Leaf.
While it might just sound like an expensive subcompact, there is plenty here that makes up the price of the EV variant. First, its 118 MPGe combined rating is the best electric car rating given from the EPA, with 132 MPGe city and 105 MPGe highway.
The Fit EV also gets a range of 82 miles per charge, another top of class grade. Finally, to make the trifecta complete, it boasts the fastest charging time at around three hours.
Alone, those three elements should easily sell the Fit EV to 1,100 customers per year. Then there’s the fun factor.
The Honda Fit EV’s electric motor is closely related to the one found in the heavier hydrogen powered FCX Clarity. In the Fit, it makes 123-hp and a whopping 189 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot of grunt for the subcompact.
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Put your foot to the floor and you can easily make the low-rolling resistance tires screech. In a straight line or a corner the Fit EV flies around with ease and it’s easy to forget you’re driving an eco-friendly electric vehicle that’s designed to go farther on a full charge than any other.
How did Honda make an EV that’s both fun and frugal? They started with three buttons to the left of the steering wheel labeled “Sport” “Normal and “Econ.” Tested on a small autocross course and on the street, Sport mode gives all 123 horsepower and 189 lb-ft of torque to the driver, but hinders the car’s range. In Econ mode, the car only has a fraction of the electric motor’s full power. It’s great for slow urban traffic, and taking off in the Econ mode has almost a luxurious whoosh to it. Splitting the two is the Normal mode. It doesn’t have full power like Sport mode, but it’s not overly limited either, essentially a fair compromise for every-day driving.
Special handling tweaks help make the car feel sporty as well. Since the batteries reside under the seats the Fit has a lower center of gravity, which reduces body roll. Additionally, Honda did away with the H-shaped torsion beam in the rear and gave it an independent multi-link suspension, a first for the Honda Fit.
Driving the Fit EV is an example in what a no-compromise electric vehicle should be. It certainly doesn’t feel as heavy as its 3,252 lb curb weight indicates. On the road it’s confident in just about every situation, smooth in Econ and Normal modes and excellently responsive in Sport mode.
It’s more engaging than the Nissan Leaf (itself already peppy), feeling light on its feet and genuinely fun to drive. While at its limit the car does exhibit some understeer, it never feels out of control.
KEY TO MANAGE CHARGE
Fun to drive, it’s also easier to own thanks to the fastest 240-volt charge time of any of its rivals. At just three hours for a full charge it bests the new Ford Focus Electric.
The Fit’s accomplishes this with a unique 6.6kW built-in charger, which plugs into any 120, or 240 volt AC power supply. Without the quick-charger, the Fit takes almost 15 hours to fully.
Helping drivers manage the charge, The Fit has a special key-fob with a 100-foot range. It shows the charge of the vehicle, and allows remote start and stop of the car’s charger, and climate control. An iPhone app is also available which does the same thing, as well as schedule charging to get the best peak rates.
BIG CHANGE IN LITTLE FIT
One of the most undervalued and overlooked parts of the Fit EV is certain to be its interior. Compared to the gasoline Fit, and other Honda vehicles, the EV boasts a wonderful cockpit, covered in unique materials with a clean layout.
The interior is made up entirely of bio-friendly materials, which shows that Honda wasn’t just making an electric car out of recycled parts, but is following a theme of environmental responsibility; something owners of electric cars will appreciate.
Additionally, the car’s center-console receives a slight reworking from the gasoline powered Fit. First of all, all Fit EVs get a touch-screen navigation system, which has a few tweaks including a button to help you find the nearest quick-charge station. The screen also displays the back-up camera when reversing, another feature all Fit EV’s will get.
Additionally, the big ugly climate control knobs found in the regular Fit have been replaced with much more attractive buttons in the EV.
The dash also receives a slight change. Depending on which driving mode you select, the gauges will change color, appearing red when in sport mode to remind you of the lower range. When in Normal and Econ, the gauges glow green and will change depending on how economical you’re driving.
UNIQUE LOOK AND COLOR
While the Fit EV might look a lot like its gasoline sibling, there are a few details to help tell the two apart. First, the grill has been removed and a more aerodynamic spoiler has been added to the rear while all models come in an exclusive Reflection Blue pearl paint job.
Honda’s strategy is to provide an alternative fuel vehicle for every corner of the market. The Fit EV rounds out the range of hybrid and natural gas vehicles, not to mention Honda’s hydrogen car. The upcoming plug-in hybrid Accord will be the company’s next step.
Learning from its sporty CR-Z and economical Insight hybrid, and adding some spice from the FCX’s electric motor, the Fit EV is perhaps the very best no-compromise electric vehicle. It’s fun to drive, and goes further on each charge, breaking a barrier that past electric vehicles had stopped at.
One step closer to being a car that works for the majority drivers, and infused with Honda’s fun-to-drive ethos, the Fit EV is an appealing product for more than just the ‘save the planet’ types. With the still-obvious range and charge time drawbacks of electric cars, this Fit’s largest flaw is Honda’s short-term plan for the car and its limited availability.