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USA: First Drive: Honda Fit EV Combines Power and Practicality

Let’s not mince words: the Honda Fit EV kicks ass.

If Honda President Takanobu Ito is looking for a car to bring driving fun to the company’s brand—his main message from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show—he need look no further than the Fit EV. Last week, I was among the world’s first journalists to drive the compact pure electric car—in two six-minute jaunts around the Twin Ring Montegi grounds north of Tokyo—and was floored by the level of performance delivered by the all-electric Fit. I was just as amused to witness my colleagues on the press tour—made up almost entirely of writers for the horsepower-obsessed auto buff rags—step away from their drives, shaking their heads and picking their jaws off the pavement.

“Wow, this thing scoots,” was the refrain.

The Fit EV has a 94-kilowatt electric motor compared to the Nissan LEAF’s 80-kW motor. But that 17.5 percent boost in power only begins to tell the story about how much quicker the Fit EV is than the LEAF. Honda would not divulge the Fit EV’s curb weight, but the Fit’s dimensions, inside and out, are demonstrably smaller than the LEAF’s. The Fit EV is not a ground-up purpose-built electric; it’s a straight adaptation from the gas-powered Fit, but Honda managed to save all but a slight percentage of passenger and cargo space, lifting the seats by about two inches to make room for the battery pack (while giving up the rear seat’s flip-up theater-style function, which allows easier storage of stuff when nobody’s in the back). If you were going to convert any gasoline car to a sporty electric commuter, the Fit—with its clever packaging of decent space in a small lightweight five-seat format—would be my first choice.


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