2013 Honda Fit EV: First drive review
Honda proves small car speed and emissions-free excitement really isn't for everyone.
After testing the electric Honda Fit EV in California, we walked away certain we'd never drive or see one again.
That's not because we hated it. Unlike the regular Fit, a roomy subcompact with a steady following, the Fit EV is bound to be rarer than a Rolls-Royce. Honda will lease just 1,100 in the United States over two years — about a third of what Rolls sold worldwide in 2011 — and only in California, Oregon and six cities on the East Coast, including New York and Boston. You can't purchase one outright or extend the lease, and even if you make the cut, bear in mind this little Fit is $389 per month — enough for a BMW 328i. So what's the point?
Even though the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are available nationwide, Honda says the Fit EV is here to test the market. However, this is Honda's second experiment at building and marketing an electric car. In 1997, Honda leased the tiny, 2-door EV Plus to about 300 Californians (meeting the state's zero-emission vehicle mandates) and promptly quit the market — as did Toyota and Chevrolet with their first electric cars. That said, the 2013 Fit EV has what it takes to tackle the entire country, if only because it's a hoot and a half to drive.
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As a pure electric car, the Fit EV comes fully loaded in one trim level. It's essentially a Fit Sport (which maxes at $20,480 with navigation), plus a few key additions. The seat fabric is made from a biodegradable material, the front seats are heated, the instrument cluster gets new gauges, and there's a smartphone app and key fob that allow the driver to run the air conditioning while the car charges, among other interactive features. Outside, a thin chrome strip replaces the grill opening, and there's an enlarged rear spoiler and other body tweaks to make the Fit more aerodynamic. The Fit EV's sleek 15-inch wheels are an inch smaller than those on the Sport.
Under the Hood
The gasoline-powered Fit runs on a rev-happy 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 117 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque, fed to either a 5-speed automatic or 5-speed manual. The Fit EV has a 92-kilowatt electric motor (equivalent to 123 horsepower) and dumps a diesel-like 188 lb-ft of torque from a standing start. As with most electric vehicles, the Fit uses a single-gear transmission and a regenerative braking system that charges the battery while coasting and stopping. Maximum speed is about 90 mph.
While we couldn't verify the car's range and charging times during our brief test, the Environmental Protection Agency rates the Fit EV's 20-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery at 82 miles, slightly more than the Nissan Leaf. It's also more efficient than any of its electric competitors at an EPA-rated 118 mpg-e (the equivalent energy usage of a gallon of gasoline). Another big plus: Honda says the larger onboard charger cuts typical recharging times in half, to about three hours on a 240-volt connection. A sportier multilink rear suspension and modified front suspension cope with the Fit EV's added weight.