So How About That Honda?

As my Dad would ask in any lull in the conversation, “So, how’s that car runnin’?”

2016 Honda Fit
2016 Honda Fit

My Honda Fit is running fine. I don’t drive it a lot—it has less than 6000 miles on it after a year, so it could conceivably last me forever at this rate. I have had it long enough by now to know what I really enjoy and to know what I wish they had spent a little more time on, so let’s talk about some of that.

This is the third-generation Fit, and the first one to be radically restyled. The first one was a plain and simple, honest little econo-car. A wonderful hatchback praised by the motor press and by its owners all around the planet. The newer model, the second-generation version differed from the first seemingly only in little details. The first-gen car had one crease down the center of the hood, the follow-on car had two. Otherwise the family resemblance is strong and immediate. I loved the look of those first two cars.

But my car? My car was designed to appeal to the same kids who need tennis shoes that make their feet look either reptilian or like some kind of a space man. The new car features all manner of faux air intakes and exhausts like you would see on LeMans racers or skillion dollar supercars. Just to be clear, the Honda Fit is neither of these, even in EXL-Navi trim.

Honda Fit EXL-Navi
2016 Fit Interior
2016 Fit Interior

About that package: EX has always brought an uprated suspension, a sunroof, better tires and a few other gadgets and doo-dads and the Fit provides all of those. My Fit also includes the “L” for leather interior, and also Navi, for satellite navigation. The leather is terrific, the navigation much less so. The leather isn’t cheap and it feels great in both summer and winter—and the seat heaters help quite a bit with that, too. But the navigation is frustrating. It can take an awful long time to enter and save an address you will use frequently, as bore down through the menus Honda uses to make it all easier for you.

The most frustrating thing is that you may not find the address you are looking for in the new car’s database. My sister has lived in the same house for seven years now and her address still does not appear in the database of my new Honda’s navigator—which was one of the reasons I bought the damned thing! I can get within a few blocks of her house (I know, First World Problems, huh?), but I cannot get to her driveway, despite it being in Apple and Google Maps and several other databases for years and years, now. You spend a couple of dozen thousand dollars on a new car with magic technology like satellite navigation and you kind of expect it to work. It… might.

After about a year, I started getting little advisory windows on startup at random intervals inviting me to visit my local Honda dealer to update my navigation database. All well and good, but when I showed up there I discovered two things: They wanted to charge me for this update, and there wasn’t one available for my car anyway. So, some day I will be invited to pay for an updated database that may (or may not?) include data that was available for six years before my car was even born, and get to pay for the privilege. It’s hard to be happy about that.

Build quality on Honda cars is uniformly good. You don’t have to buy an Acura to get a good car. You don’t even have to buy an Accord to get a good car. The Fit is well built, of good components and materials, but it is built to a price. In my time with the car I have not been disappointed with a lot, but there are a few things I think come up short.

There is no temperature gauge. There is a light that comes on when the engine is cold and goes off when it reaches operating temperature, but you don’t know how close it is getting or what, exactly, that temperature range actually is. Likewise, there is no oil pressure gauge. Again, a light goes out and we just hope everything is okay. Not exactly fitting with the sporting pretensions of the little car. There are a few exposed screws and bolts you wouldn’t expect in an up-market car. And the heater has four settings, where my wife’s CR-V seems to have about two hundred.

I like that there are two trip odometers, two trip mileage readouts. I like that the car calculates miles-to-empty for you. I like that it tells you what the outside temperature is. It’s nice to know when or if you’re near freezing when things are wet, you know?

The EX bring paddle shifters, which is kind of odd with a continuously-variable transmission. But the little Honda does a passable impression of mixing actual gears when you pull back on one or the other. I’ve used this feature a dozen or so times maybe—not nearly as often as I thought I would when I bought the car. For the most part, I put it in “D” and select “E” for Economy Mode and leave it at that and more or less mimics any automatic transmission.

Put the selector in “R” for Reverse and the navigator turns into a backup display which is hugely nice. A sharp, clear, full-color image of what’s behind your car. Bend the steering wheel a little and an arc shows your path across the image shown on the TV. You can also select different views of looking backward, too. You can look down from the top of the car to see how much room you have before you hit your bumper on something, if that’s to your liking.

This video panel also changes to TV when you signal a right turn. Nothing for a left turn. There, you’re on your own. But signal a right turn and your navigator or radio display turns into a video of what’s beside and behind you. So much technology in such a little and inexpensive car.

I got caught in the Great Hail storm of 2016, so there are a few dimples on my machine today. And Kathie and I had a disagreement over what “I’ll meet you over there” meant, time-wise, and a dent was placed in the left-rear quarter-panel. I’d like to get those fixed, for sure. But they don’t detract from my enjoyment of the car at all.

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