The original Honda Fit was a prodigy when it burst onto the U.S. car scene as a 2007 model. With a vivid personality, an athletic chassis, and stunning space efficiency, it immediately embarked on a charm campaign that would win comparison test after comparison test, as well as a Car and Driver 10Best Cars trophy for seven consecutive years, well into its second generation. Alas, the latest Fit has been good if not quite great, handsomer than ever but sorely lacking its predecessors’ eagerness, dynamic refinement, and user-friendliness. Our 40,000-mile long-term 2015 Fit earned no shortage of complaints involving its unrelenting buzz at highway speeds, its tiny gas tank, the fussy infotainment system that lacked a volume knob, and lessened fun compared with its predecessors. Now a thorough mid-cycle enhancement for 2018 gives this third-generation Fit a second chance to make a first impression.
Our first drive of the 2018 Fit was hosted at Honda Performance Development in California, the R&D and technical-support center for the company’s prolific racing programs (including the SCCA B-Spec racing series that Honda spearheaded back in 2010 with the Fit race car). It’s also where the Fit’s natty new HPD chassis and interior bits were developed, accessories that found themselves onto some of the test cars we drove.
For 2018, Honda aimed to hone the Fit’s chassis to quell bobbing, reduce noise levels, enhance the steering’s linearity, and elevate its overall sense of nimbleness. Honda added structural braces around and under the body, swapped the shell-style steering pinion bearing for a solid one, and installed retuned dampers. It also used thicker acoustic materials inside the doors, wheel arches, and pillars, while new layers of soundproofing materials pad the dashboard and floor. To reduce wind noise, the new Fit gets an acoustically insulating windshield and thicker front quarter-windows. Remarkably, despite these refinements, weight is essentially a wash between the new and old cars, according to Honda.
Without a pre-refresh Fit on hand for comparison, it’s hard to measure the extent to which Honda achieved its ambitions. We can say, however, that the 2018 Fit EX-L we drove felt focused and planted as we swept along the Santa Clarita Valley’s rolling two-laners. As we hurled the Fit into tight corners, its body stayed calm and the 185/55R-16 all-season Firestone FR740 tires generally stayed glued to the pavement before gently…