The Fit Goes

The Fit earns its fuel economy the old-fashioned way: with modest acceleration. Technology like variable valve timing helps the 1.5-liter four-cylinder deliver even, usable power, but the emphasis here is on efficiency. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the calibration of the five-speed automatic, which isn't apt to kick down unless you give the pedal a good jab — even when in Sport mode. If you want to take control, get a Fit Sport, which adds steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Once the transmission downshifts and the engine revs higher, acceleration is definitely adequate. Inevitably people will hear this transition and conclude that the engine is "straining." It's not straining; it's doing its job. Anyone who gets over this misconception will be rewarded with good mileage. Unfortunately, the Fit Sport might not make it easy, because it has significant engine noise when accelerating moderately to heavily. Is it because the car is otherwise quiet and exceptionally nice? I don't know, but it surprised me, and I drove a 2008 model the same day that seemed quieter.

The five-speed manual, which has been tweaked a bit over last year's, is well-matched to the new engine's power band — a total of 117 horsepower at 6,600 rpm, which is an 8 hp increase. The torque is 106 pounds-feet at 4,800 rpm, and the stick has shorter throws for a sportier feel. Somehow the manual Fit sounded quieter to me — perhaps because engine noise seems less intrusive when it's expected, which it often isn't when an automatic is doing the shifting.

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