Jun 152012
 

Astute readers of this site will probably note that I have had some difficulty keeping Car of the Week a truly weekly piece. Some of that is laziness on my part and some is actual schedule and personal conflicts. Whatever the case, though, in the coming weeks we will be trying something new. Astute observers may also have noticed that Gearheads Anonymous has also gained a few new writers over the last month. So far they have only been contributors of individual opinion pieces, but that is about to change. Next week, for the first time, the Car of the Week will be written by someone other than me.

This does not mean that I am not going to do them at all anymore, but if several people are writing them my hope is that some variety and a sense of freshness is injected in to the process. Want to write one? Use the contact info in the “About Gearheads Anonymous” tab above. I’m always happy to have contributors.

This week, though, I have for you a car that brought Honda back to its roots in the U.S. market:

2007 Honda Fit

Why?

By 2006 the “small” Honda Civic had grown in size by 10 inches and 600 lbs over comparable Civics from the late ’80s and early ’90s. The Civic, in fact, was about the same size in 2006 as the midsize Accord was in 1990. The Civic is not unique in this, though. Most cars in the U.S. market have grown at a similar rate. It is startling to take a moment and consider, though. Sure the Civic still gets good gas mileage, and it is still smaller than the Accord, but it has lost some of that small car feel that made it so enticing in years past.

With the Fit, Honda sought to bring that feel back to American car buyers. Though it had been on sale for several years in Europe and Asia (under the Jazz name), 2007 was its first year in the U.S. and it made a splash. Where Toyota’s Yaris felt and drove as cheaply as it looked, the Fit immediately earned a reputation as a quality small car.

It did all of the things those early Civics did — got great gas mileage, handled well and looked good without looking outrageous — and managed to stay small without being spartan. Only one engine option (a 109 horespower, 1.5-liter four cylinder) was available, paired to either an automatic of five-speed manual. The car itself (which was only available as a 5-door) could had in either base or “Sport” trims. Both were priced well below $20,000.

The Fit, then, checked all the right boxes at just the right time for many American consumers. It will probably never outsell the Civic, but to me the Fit is the more interesting car. It does more with less, which is an equation that has always appealed to me.

About the Car

The Fit was introduced to the rest of the world as the Honda Jazz in 2001 and 2002 but, as I said above, did not hit American shores until late 2006 as a 2007 model. Different regions of the world get different engine options, but here there was only one: the 1.5-liter gasoline engine.

The Fit ran in that form until it received a substantial update for the 2009 model year. The body was redesigned, but retained its 5-door wagon layout. The sole engine option remained a 1.5-liter four-cylinder in the U.S. Other regions got a hybrid option, but Honda decided that a Fit hybrid would compete with its new Insight and existing Civic Hybrid models, so it was not offered to American buyers.

A limited-production electric Fit (or Fit EV) is currently scheduled for the 2013 model year, but no additional major changes are expected to the model line in the next couple of years.

Other Resources

Fit Owners Club
Fitfreak.net Unofficial Honda Fit and Honda Jazz forum
Wikipedia: Honda Jazz and Fit (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Car & Driver long-term road test of the 2007 Fit

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Mar 052012
 

It amazes me sometimes what people believe to be true. Even more so how they will cling to those truths, even in the face of clear facts and reasoned arguments. Indeed, when it comes to talking about cars I often find myself shaking my head at the stubborn dogmas that people hold on to.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in discussions on fuel economy.

With fuel prices and social consciences high, people are looking for any way possible to reduce their own usage of fuel, cut down on our nation’s dependence on oil from other countries, and limit the environmental impact of our cars. These are all both reasonable and noble goals. Unfortunately, many of the steps that are being taken are not really effective ways to reach them.

But don’t tell that to someone who believes he is saving the world.

Nevertheless, I have decided, dear readers, to share with you a few common misconceptions about driving, cars and fuel economy that I have encountered over my years of automotive enthusiasm. You can take my advice or leave it, of course. As long as I have succeeded in getting you thinking, I will be happy. Continue reading »

Mar 052012
 

Note: This review was originally published on September 24, 2010 on my original WordPress blog.

Back in early spring of 2002, while I was still in college, I test drove a Mazda Protégé ES. The idea was to determine if Mazda’s then-new “Zoom-Zoom” marketing campaign was really representative of the cars it was selling. The answer, I found, was a resounding yes. I had a blast in that car. It handled great, had decent pep, and gave you all sorts of stuff standard that the Civic only offered as options — alloy wheels, fog lamps, trunk spoiler, etc. It was a lot of car for the money and, fair or not, it became the benchmark by which I continue to judge every Mazda I drive.

Despite setting the bar high, Mazda has generally done a very good job of meeting or exceeding expectations, in my opinion. I have been very pleased with the 3, the 6 and the MX-5 and I was downright impressed with the MazdaSpeed 3 when it hit the streets.

But Mazda is entering new territory in the U.S. market with the introduction of its new entry-level 2 model. The car looks like a winner on paper — the price is very competitive, the value for the money is high, and the power and gas mileage specs are right in line with other cars in its class.  The question, though, is whether it can do all of those things and still keep the “Zoom-Zoom” spirit of those other Mazdas.

To find out, I tested a manual transmission example in base trim. As I discovered, the answer is not a clear-cut yes or no. Continue reading »