It’s rare that a modern car stands out not just for what it is, but also the potential for what it could be.
Engine: 1.5L 4-cylinder
Output: 130 hp, 114 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual/CVT
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 33 city, 40 hwy, 36 combined (CVT)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 7.0 city, 5.9 hwy, 6.5 combined (CVT)
US Price: Starts at $17,080
CAN Price: Starts at $16,860
(all pricing includes destination)
It’s even rarer for that vehicle to be a Honda, a company that has spent the past decade or so concentrating on perfecting the practicality, efficiency, and reliability of its entire fleet of sensible, just-this-side of exciting automobiles. You may have noticed a distinct lack of fun on that list of descriptors — but don’t tell that to the 2018 Honda Fit Sport, which joins the Civic Type R in providing Honda fans a chance to actually enjoy their commute.
By now, half of you have probably tuned out. Comparing the lowly, sub-$20k Fit Sport ($21k CAD) to Honda’s super-hyped performance flagship? How, exactly, does this subcompact hatch manage to find itself in the same conversation as its turbocharged road course-devouring sibling?
All The Light Moves
The answer lies in the intangibles that can define a car’s personality far better than what might be suggested by its spec sheet. Take, for example, the “Sport” in the Fit Sport’s name, a badge that adds athleticism to the front-driver in the same way that zipping up a Puma tracksuit enables you to run the hundred yard dash. It’s purely a cosmetic package for the pint-sized Honda that includes unique stitching on the car’s seats, snazzy 16-inch blacked rims, the requisite spoilers and diffusers, as well as fog lights and a hint of body kit on the rocker panels.
That being said, time spent behind the wheel of the Honda Fit Sport is more than enough to distract you from the perceived inadequacies of the car’s equipment list. Keen eyes still lingering on the hatch’s facts and figures might have noticed that the Fit’s power-to-weight ratio isn’t all that far off from what you’d get in a first-generation Miata, and while its tall greenhouse might be more minivan than MX-5, the Sport feels noticeably more nimble than contemporaries like the Nissan Versa Note when asked to pirouette. It’s all part and parcel of the completely redesigned Fit’s focus on structural stiffness, more direct steering, and a renewed focus on suspension refinement.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Kia Rio vs Honda Fit Comparison
Indeed, the fact that the Fit Sport is a 2,500-pound car with a short, square wheelbase is no accident, and combined with its available six-speed manual gearbox, it’s an absolute pleasure to toss to and fro at the speed limit-friendly velocities made possible by its 130 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. You’d be hard-pressed to beat anyone for their lunch money from light to light, and there’s more than a little hoover from under the hood when winding the mini-four out to its 6,800 rpm redline, but work it and it’s worth it in terms of keeping the Fit feeling lively and fun.
It begs the question, however, of just how enticing this chassis would be were it to be whipped into a frenzy by any one of Honda’s similarly sized turbo four-cylinder drivetrains sizzling in the parts bin.
Big Where It Counts
Despite the car’s Sport marketing angle, fun remains a stealth aspect of the Honda Fit’s value proposition. At its core, the Fit surprises small car shoppers by delivering an absolutely enormous cabin that not only swallows four riders with relative ease (even in its rear row) but also a whopping 52.7 cubic feet (1,492 liters) of cargo space with the back seats folded flat. The car’s cavernous maw is enough to challenge several significantly larger SUVs in terms of sheer usefulness, and this utility is made even more approachable by way of Honda’s Magic Seat feature, which allows for multiple cargo configurations designed to better handle unusually large or tall items.
Then there’s the frugality. While I might not have been able to match Honda Fit Sport’s 31-mpg (7.4 L/100 km) combined rating during our week together — mostly because I was more interested in “smileage” than mileage — it’s certainly not out of the question that a more prudent driver might over-achieve in this department. For those who have a strict zero fun policy, the Fit is also available with a continuously variable automatic transmission that increases its combined fuel economy by 5 miles per gallon.
Best Of Most Worlds
It’s not all perfection in Fit country. Any car of this size, and at the Honda’s affordable price point, is liable to be noisier on the highway than one would like, and while comfort is good on longer trips, the Sport trim doesn’t deliver much dazzle past heated seats, a decent touchscreen infotainment system, and cruise control in terms of comfort gear (although you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). You’ll have to pay more for active safety (under the Honda Sensing banner), but you can still get stuff like lane departure warning and forward collision warning with a manual transmission if you do choose to tick that options box.
The Verdict: 2018 Honda Fit Review
The Honda Fit has long stood as the entry point to the brand for budget-conscious buyers, and the 2018 Sport model certainly underlines in red ink exactly why this vehicle continues to be the standard-bearer in its segment. If a sports car fan like me can be surprised by just how engaging this inexpensive marvel is to drive, then those who are shopping based on internal bigness and eternal reliability will be flabbergasted the first time they encounter a set of country S-curves. Now, if only someone at the head office in Minato-ku would loosen the reins enough to allow a turbocharged option under the hood of this plucky puller, there might be a lower-case ‘r’ to give the quickest Civic the running mate it deserves.
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