Ride & Handling

In terms of their construction, econocars have come a long way overall. The Fit has an independent front suspension that employs MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar, but the rear is a semi-independent torsion beam. An independent rear end is preferred for performance reasons and is now the norm in the compact class, but affordability and relative space efficiency make the torsion beam dominate the subcompacts.

My emphasis is always on the results, not the formula, and the Fit's rear end does the job. The handling is good overall; despite the car's height, body roll is well controlled. Like most front-wheel-drive cars, the Fit tends to understeer in aggressive cornering, but it's predictable and easily managed. Having the wheels so close to the bumpers, front and rear, seems to prevent any abrupt weight shifts. Even the tires are decent compared to the old econocar approach. My Fit Sport wore Dunlop SP31 A/S all-season tires rated P195/55R15, which are standard on this trim level. At $70 a pop, according to TireRack.com, these aren't the cheapest treads, but the size is so common that there's a wide range of brands, prices and performance types. The base Fit's smaller tires, rated 175/65SR14, are $53 apiece and also a common size.

The Fit's power rack-and-pinion steering uses electric power assist, which improves gas mileage over the conventional hydraulic type. Increasingly popular in the market, electric power steering has been executed both well and poorly. Fortunately, I never thought twice about the Fit's steering performance and feedback, finding out only after a few days that it was electric.

The Fit's ride quality is something for potential buyers to consider. For perspective: Not long ago, subcompacts' handling ranged from life-threatening to merely terrifying. In terms of ride quality, one extreme could be characterized as "hobby horse." The opposite extreme: aspiration to hobby horse. We've come a long way. The Fit feels safe and controlled, but it feels different from a Civic or another larger car. You feel the bumps, for sure. It's more a matter of preference than performance. If anything, the Fit feels technically superior to some of its competitors, but that won't mean a thing if you find the ride too firm — something I've said about the midsize Accord too.

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