Finding Myself Un-Fit, I Take a Lesson in Civics
By David Wright
I bought a new 2008 Honda Fit last July. It was an attractive purchase for a couple of reasons, namely fuel economy, price, and shiny orange paint. The 5-speed manual transmission helped me average 36 mpg, driving 40 miles a day to work and back, plus my regular errands to the grocery store and recycling center.
But the longer I drove the Fit, the more I felt uncomfortable in it. The stickshift became a nuisance on a daily commute that features 15 traffic lights each way. While the child safety seats necessitated by my six-year-old and his nine-month old sister fit into the back seat, I found it impossible to sit comfortably in the front seat with the children actually back there. I just didn’t have the heart to ask my son to get his legs out of the way so Daddy could move his seat back far enough to be relaxed. The console was sparse; functional, but sparse. Not even an armrest or closed storage space.
Performance-wise, the 109-horsepower, 1.5 liter engine got the job done, but I can’t imagine pulling onto the highway without that pesky stick. It was fun to drive, a bit like a go-kart on the twisty roads in my area, as the handling was tight and controlled, and once I shifted into 5th gear, the ride was smooth, if not a little noisy. For a car of this size at this price (about $16,000 new), I won’t complain too loudly.
However, the Fit just wasn’t meant for me. I was impressed with the sound system and the very cool rear “Magic” seats that flipped all sorts of fun ways, but overall, the Honda Fit is meant for a younger guy without kids. And if that guy has kids, he had better be shorter than 5’10”. Besides, what good are Magic seats if child safety seats are installed on top of them?
So, I called my dealer a few months ago and told him I’d be interested in trading in the Fit on a used Civic. Fast forward to two weeks ago. I took the Fit in for a 10,000-mile service visit, and my salesman came over to see me. He said he had a 2007 Civic he thought I’d like. I asked him to work up the numbers and give me a call. A few hours later, he called and told me the price difference between the 2007 Civic and a brand new 2009 model was about $8 a month thanks to the much better 3.9% interest rate offered to new car buyers. He showed me a couple of Civics, both LX-models, and two days later I picked up a new 2009 Civic LX.
Now, when I bought the Fit last year, the dealers I went to convinced me that the interior dimensions were basically the same on the Fit and Civic. But now that I have spent two weeks in a Civic, taken a long-ish road trip with my family in tow, and enjoyed not shifting through 30 red lights a day, I must say that the numbers may be the same, but the Civic’s interior is much roomier than the Fit’s in terms of usable passenger space. My kids can ride in the back without me being cramped. The front seats are more comfortable on long drives and much more functional, as they are adjustable not only back and forth, but up and down as well.
If I could have swapped the sound system from the Fit and put it into the Civic, I would have. Audio quality is fairly pedestrian in the Civic, but what the heck – I listen to a lot of sports-talk anyway. The cup holders in the Civic slip out of sight with a sliding cover that hides them when not in use, but the spring loaded grips can create just enough resistance on a can of soda to cause some spillage when the can slips in. The storage areas inside the cabin are plentiful, accessible, and other than a smallish glove compartment, roomy. Plus, the trunk space is significantly more useful. Some of the plastic, particularly on the steering wheel, isn’t as “finished” as it might otherwise be. And if you really want me to complain about something, I’ll tell you that the emergency brake handle and my right knee seem to want to occupy the same space, which is something neither of them is happy about.
Performance is pretty impressive, at least to a regular guy like me. The 140-horsepower 1.8 liter engine responds quickly, and merging onto the highway isn’t a concern. Fuel economy isn’t too bad either at about 34-35 mpg. The automatic transmission may be guilty of thinking too much, as downshifts can be a bit hard at times. However, from what I can tell, only the driver notices. My wife and I both notice the effect when we drive the car, but not when we ride as passengers. Somewhat surprising is the road noise, which is similar to what we experienced in the Fit.
Admittedly, I’m nit-picking. There is a whole lot more to like about this car than not. The center console is much bigger than it looks. The smooth ride, fantastic looks (especially with the optional rear spoiler), and functionally placed instrumentation (especially the digital speedometer mounted above the steering wheel) make this the car I plan to keep for years. Considering I’ve owned 8 different cars in the last twelve years (the first seven were used), and I didn’t really like any of them very much after the initial honeymoon period, things might change. I’m fickle. But the 2009 Civic LX has the feel of comfort and quality all my used cars (and my Fit) lacked.
Note: specifications comparison data from TrueDelta.
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