Saturday, November 21, 2009

Honda Fit first impressions

Now that we've had a few weeks with the Honda, I can write up my first impressions. I've already mentioned that the main reason we bought the car was that the tandem can fit inside. You can see Pamela Blayley's write up for all the gory details, but as far as the 2009 Fit is concerned, the tandem fits very nicely with no problems, and plenty of room for camping gear, water bottles (this thing has 10 cup holders, 4 of which are ideal for cycling water bottles, so it's clearly designed to haul cyclists and the bike). I bought the Hollywood Fork Mount, went to Orchard Supply Hardware and bought a block of wood --- they even cut it for you if you ask nicely and some wood screws, screwed the fork mount into the wood to make a glider board, and I was all ready.

It's definitely no more than a 2 person job to load the bike into the car, since one of you has to hold the bike upright while the other runs back to the front of the car and lifts the rear wheel over the hump that the front seat makes. Nevertheless, it's just as fast as mounting a hitch-mounted bike rack and then lifting the bike onto the rack, along with all the the rigamarole I needed to do to get the fork of the tandem mounted onto the vertical bike rack.

Needless to say, all this running around means that the rear bumper of the car could get scratched, so after a couple of near misses, i bought the Rear Bumper Applique and installed it. We also needed bungee cords to secure the tandem so it wouldn't sway side to side while in the car, but the large number of anchor points inside the car made that easy. I was impressed by how many of those they were. Removing the bike from the car is far easier, and the first time we did it at a parking lot, other cyclists had to stop and stare, since they could not believe how a big bike like this could come out of a tiny car.

OK, enough bike talk. How does the car drive? It drives just fine. Some people refer to it as a sporty suspension, and it does feel a bit less of a boat than my Chrysler, but it's also a smaller car, so that's to be expected. The Fit is quieter than the convertible, but then, I would have been surprised if it wasn't. I love the reduced turning radius --- it certainly feels very agile when maneuvering in the parking lot.

I opted for the "Sport" trim, which came with alloy wheels, auto-stick paddle shifters, fog lights (useful for San Francisco), and a sound system that could take as input a USB port, and supposedly an ipod. To my disappointment, the ipod dock would not recognize my ancient 20GB ipod classic. Looking through the manual, it looked like it would only recognize the latest ipod classic or ipod nanos. Oh well, I plugged in a USB flash drive instead, and that worked just fine. The big shocker, though, was that it wouldn't display unicode characters (Chinese or Japanese!). A look through my document's paperwork showed that the car was indeed assembled and manufactured in Japan, which makes me wonder what the heck Honda was thinking! (Sure, the car was destined for California, but California has plenty of Chinese/Japanese/Korean speakers)

The sound system in the car is great --- nothing fancy, it just works. I also like it that the sound system also takes MP3 CDs, not just regular audio CDs. My guess, though, is that I'll buy a 16GB USB drive and just be done with it.

As previously mentioned, the car comes with sports paddle shifters, similar to the auto-stick that was on my Chrysler. It works, but has one flaw --- it doesn't display the current selected gear continuously, only when you first click the paddle. This is nasty, since the car seems to have the habit of down-shifting and up-shifting without telling you even though you've used the manual mode, so you could easily think you're already in one gear when the car's already shifted to another. Not a big problem, but makes the feature less attractive than you might imagine. (Why would you use auto-stick? Mostly to force the car into 3rd gear when descending a big mountain --- not a big deal to most people, but California is mountainous)

Sitting in the car, you get the impression that the car is pretty big. That's because even though it's a small car, the design of it is such that there's a lot of headroom. This is good, because it lets us get the tandem into the car without lowering the stoker seat, but it also contributes to giving the car's interior an airy feel, which I like.

All in all, it seems like a pretty nice car so far, and I'll report some more after we've had a chance to take a few long trips with it.
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