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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: Honda Fit fills a niche

Appearance: The Fit's design is about function and not form. Sure, it's streamlined, but it has a high roofline that culminates in a wedge-shaped rear. Peter thinks it looks like a smaller version of the Mazda5 van. Our tester was the Fit Sport, which adds a rear spoiler, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, underbody kit and chrome exhaust tips.

Performance: First things first — the sport package is for appearance, not performance. The Fit's acceleration is sluggish — you have to step on it to get the 1.5-liter 4-cylinder to really rev, and in doing so you'll hear all 117 horsepower working hard. (There can be a fair amount of cabin noise in interstate driving.) The Fit's nimble handling and small size make it a practical city car. The steering provides good feedback and the ride is composed enough for some of the bay area's brick streets. But because of its cabin height and light weight, you'll feel any wind gusts. Lyra had to fight the wind on the Howard Frankland on a breezy day. The Fit Sport comes with an optional five-speed automatic that has a manual mode and paddle shifters. While we were pleased that a car in this class had a five-speed gearbox, we would like to try the manual transmission to see if it helps the performance. The car also gets high marks in government crash tests.

Interior: This is where the Fit really scores. The cockpit has easy-to-read blue-lit gauges and simple controls. The comfortable seats, which have a manual adjustment, seem to sit up high, yet there is ample headroom. In the rear, there's enough legroom for most adults and the seatbacks lean back for a more comfortable ride. Parents, there are 10 cup holders — six up front — and nooks for cell phones. The double glove compartment has a USB hookup for audio players. Peter found the Fit to be perfect for the school car line. His daughters' overstuffed backpacks are always a tight squeeze in most cabins — no matter the car's size — yet the Fit offers a great solution. The easy-fold rear "Magic Seats" either go flat for cargo or fold up if you need vertical space. Peter folded one of the rear seats and let the book bags become a fourth passenger. You won't hold up the line as your child tries to wedge a backpack loose.

The bottom line: We've driven the Fit's two major competitors and neither offers the practicality of the Honda. We think it's a good choice for both parents and young drivers. Maybe one size does fit all . . .

What's in a (car) name? In the case of the Honda Fit, it's, well, fitting. That's because the subcompact's exterior is deceptive: There is a lot of room inside — for both passengers and cargo — because of the five-door hatchback's cab-forward design and its versatile "magic seat" configuration.

Our 3 favorites

Gas mileage: It gets 27 (city) and 33 (highway); slightly more in the base model.

Seat fabric: The design adds a bit of fun to the interior.

In-dash cup holders: They are easy to reach, and there are 10 cup holders total.

Magic seats: Parents, you'll love them. And they are easy enough for kids to fold.

Styling: It's equal parts quirky and edgy.

Cargo room: With the seats folded for max space, it's 57 cubic feet.

Peter Couture

Lyra Solochek

2010 Honda Fit Sport

Price: $19,110 as tested

Powertrain: 1.5-liter four-

cylinder, five-speed automatic with paddle shifters, FWD

Horsepower: 117 at 6,600 rpm

Torque: 106 pound-feet at 4,800 rpm

Curb weight: 2,604 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 98.4

Length, 161.6

Width, 66.7

Fuel

economy:

27 miles per

gallon city, 33 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular

unleaded

Safety

features: Airbags and curtains, ABS, electronic brake distribution, side-impact door beams, crumple zones, ACE body structure.

Other trim level: Base five-door, from $14,900

Options worth

considering: Navigation

system

Web site:

automobiles.honda.com/fit

The Daily Drivers: Honda Fit fills a niche 04/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 16, 2010 4:30am]
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