Cure for the mean reds: Honda Fit

Whenever she came down with a case of the mean reds, Holly Golightly ran down to Tiffany’s for breakfast.  Car dealers should be so lucky. If they haven’t fallen into catatonic shock this week, they aren’t paying attention. October sales are running a stunning 40% below a year ago, and  GMAC announced that it would no longer provide credit to less than the best customers – thereby removing one quarter of the potential owners from the market.

A shortage of buyers is not likely to be a problem for the Honda Fit, one of the smallest, most stylish – and yet most utilitarian cars on the market. Sales have been rising steadily since the Fit arrived here from Japan in 2006. Through September, Honda had sold 63,638 Fits, up from 41, 085 in 2007, and even at that,  demand was limited by supply.  Expect about 85,000 Fits to find homes in the U.S. this year.

Fit is the ultimate expression of Honda’s long-time philosophy “Maximum man, minimum machine.” It can haul five passengers with their luggage in a vehicle little more than 13 feet long and weighing about 2500 pounds. In addition to its superior management of interior space, the Fit is a masterful conservator of the environment. The Fit is rated at 27 mpg city/33 mph highway, and during some 500 miles of mostly highway driving – at times loaded with passengers and gear – I managed right around 33 miles per gallon.

The price of all that fuel economy is a certain lack of pep.  The Fit is powered by a 1.5 liter engine that generates a mere 117 horsepower. The absence of oomph is particularly noticeable on long uphill runs, such as a stretch on the Massachusetts Turnpike heading east from Exit 2 that climbs until it reaches the highest point on 1-90 this side of the Dakotas. Zero to 60 times are unofficial but figure on 8.5 seconds – nobody’s idea of quick.  Although the automatic transmission was slow making shifts at times, the engine never sounded buzzy nor felt less than willing to give its all.

All that Honda utility came at a $19,430 sticker price for my fully equipped Sport model.  It included such surprising standard equipment in a small car as a navigation system with voice recognition and stability control. I felt like a big spender.  Twenty thousand dollars will buy some nice baubles at Tiffany’s but I’ll take a Fit to cheer me up any time.

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