Don't be fooled by the minivan-style looks of the 2013 Honda Fit. The smallest model from Honda offers a mix of incredible space efficiency, fun handling and a peppy engine that's uncommon in the subcomopact class. If you mourned the passing of the company's previously fun, lightweight Civic models, the Fit may be just the car you're looking for.
You might need a little coercing to take a closer look, though. While fairly crisp and modern, the styling isn't as youthful as you'd hope, with a van-like profile, flat sides and few intriguing details. Under the hood you only get a 117-horsepower, 1.5-liter gasoline four, though it has a way of feeling surprisingly frisky when you're driving around town.
One of the keys to that appeal isn't the power output, but that the attention Honda has given to the steering, handling, and maneuverability, which all help make the most of the power. On tight streets and in places where precision matters, the Fit feels crisp and easy to toss around corners. Take it out on the highway, and it's stable and secure, though a bit noisy.
Transmission options include a five-speed manual and a five-speed automatic. The latter is most efficient, reaching 28 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway, for a combined 31 mpg. The manual gets 29 mpg combined, with a city rating of 27 mpg and 33 on the highway.
Those figures are starting to fall behind the class best, but Honda does have another ace up its sleeve--the 2013 Honda Fit EV. The electric Fit is one of the most efficient vehicles on sale, with EPA ratings of 132 MPGe in the city, 105 MPGe highway, and 118 MPGe combined. Official EPA range is 82 miles. Initially on sale only in California and Oregon, sales will expand to the East Coast in 2013, though the Fit EV remains a "compliance car" built only in low numbers. It's also lease-only, and Honda will take it back after the three-year term are up.
Whether electric or gasoline-powered, the Fit is a master of interior space efficiency. Thanks to that ungainly, upright profile, it feels incredibly roomy, and features a best-in-class 'Magic Seat' collapsible and folding rear-seat arrangement. The Fit has an airier feel than in some other small cars, with a relatively low belt-line and a vast expanse of dashboard ahead, due to the rakish windshield. Packaging, seating, and cargo versatility are phenomenally good. Not many subcompacts can comfortably seat two adults in the back, but the Fit does.
The so-called Magic Seat folds flat by lifting a single lever and pushing the seatback forward, with no need to remove rear headrests in the process. There's a low cargo floor, under-seat storage, and plenty of vertical space for both everyday and more unusual paraphernalia. If you feel so inclined, you can even get a double-bass in there...
The Fit isn't quite the highest-rated subcompact for safety, but it remains one of the better picks in its class and includes a respectable roster of safety features. It's been an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick, although in federal testing by the NHTSA, it hasn't fared as well--with a four-star rating overall.
One area the fit loses out to more recent rivals is on technology and connectivity. Equipment levels are by no means poor, but you won't find satellite radio on offer at all, and Bluetooth connectivity is reserved for top Fit Sport models optioned with the navigation system, priced at more than $20,000.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Honda Fit on our sister site, TheCarConnection.