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car review

2010 Honda Fit

In 2009, Honda's popular Fit subcompact unveiled its second generation and got a bit of a redesign. Nothing major, however; 2010 was also the year that total worldwide sales of the Fit (known as the Jazz in other markets) exceeded 3.5 million units. Clearly, Honda was doing something right.

Three trim levels were available in 2010: DX, LX and Sport and, although they were much the same vehicle, the Sport featured tuned suspension that gave it a stiffer ride. Yes, it handled the corners better, but it was at the expense of comfort and tended to magnify every bump and dimple in the road.

Power for all models was supplied by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder that put out 117 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque. This was up a little over the first generation, and it featured drive-by-wire throttle, variable valve timing and a single overhead camshaft. Not the most powerful engine in the "small-car" category, the engine was lively, refined, smooth and useable. A little loud on the highway, perhaps, but nothing onerous.

There were two transmission choices: Five-speed manual and five-speed automatic. The Sport featured Honda's sequential Sportshift manual shift feature and, should you choose, you could go through the gears via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The five-speed manual version was equally civilized and driver-friendly. Arguably one of the smoothest in the industry.

Fuel economy was, and still is, exemplary. With the automatic, the Fit delivered 7.1 litres/100 km in town and 5.5 on the highway.

Fold the back seats down and 1,200 litres of cargo space was revealed. One of the things that accounted for the Fit's popularity was its deceptive roominess. With a little effort, you could get most of a bicycle into the back and, theoretically, it'd carry five adults.

The base DX model offered air conditioning, power windows, tilt steering, cruise control and power door locks, and you could also get fog lights, a navi system, MP3 player, keyless entry and an upgraded stereo. Safety equipment included front, side, and side curtain airbags, and brakes were front disc/rear drum with ABS and electronic brake distribution. You could also order a traction control system and electronic stability control. This last feature became standard issue in 2011.

Transport Canada has one recall, and it applies to both 2009 and 2010 models. The variable valve timing system could fail, which would result in loss of power and inability to restart the car. Dealers will replace the defective components.

NHTSA has this recall on file as well, along with four technical service bulletins for the 2010 Fit. These include possibly loose seat mounting bolts that could rattle on rough road surfaces and a "request for information" on the rear seat belt buckles. Some complaints from owners: "The car's steering is extremely over-responsive but unfortunately not speed-sensitive," "I was sitting in the parked car listening to the radio before work when I saw a foot-long crack form half way up the right edge of the windshield" and "front driver seat rocks while making sharp turns."

Consumer Reports likes this one a lot. It gets this organization's "good-bet" seal of approval and top marks in every category. The only areas of concern are "squeaks and rattles," body hardware and the climate control system. In these cases, it receives "better-than-average" marks as opposed to "much better than average." Notes C.R: "we expect reliability of new models will be 68 per cent above average." Some comments from owners: "Visibility shortcomings make it difficult for short people," "ride is noisy and a bit rough" and "more cup-holders than the back of a church pew."

Market research firm J.D. Power, meanwhile, grades this iteration of the Fit "among the best" for overall performance and design, and gives it "about-average" grades for overall quality and dependability. The 2010 Fit, notes J.D. Power, received a top five-star rating for frontal impact and is one of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Picks.

No surprise then that it's held its value well. From a base price of less than $14,500 in 2010, it's valued at between $8,000 to $13,000, depending upon the model and trim level. The top-of-the-line Sport is fetching $2,000-$2,500 more than the base DX.

Tech specs

2010 Honda Fit

Original Base Price: $14,480; Black Book: $13,000-$15,100; Red Book: $8,625-11,000

Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 117 hp/106 lb-ft

Transmission: Five-speed automatic/five-speed manual

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 7.1 city/5.5 highway (automatic); regular gas

Alternatives: Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Aveo, Volkswagen City Golf, Hyundai Accent, Mazda3, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio, Suzuki Swift