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Ted LaturnusIn 2012, Honda’s popular Fit subcompact was well into its second generation and it was pretty much business as usual.

Two trim levels are available: Base and Sport. Although they’re pretty much the same vehicle, the Sport features tuned suspension that gives it a stiffer ride. It handles the corners better but it’s at the expense of comfort and tends to magnify every bump and dimple in the road.

Power is supplied by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that puts out 117 horsepower and 106 foot-pounds of torque. This engine features a drive-by-wire throttle, variable valve timing and a single overhead camshaft. Not the most powerful engine in the small car category, it’s still lively, refined, smooth and usable. A little loud on the highway, perhaps, but nothing onerous.

There are two transmission choices: five-speed manual and five-speed automatic. The Sport features Honda’s sequential Sportshift manual shift feature and, should you choose, you can go through the gears via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. The five-speed manual version is equally civilized and driver-friendly – arguably one of the smoothest in the industry.

Click here to downloadFuel economy is exemplary. With the automatic, the Fit delivers 7.1 litres/100 km in town and 5.4 litres/100 km on the highway.

Fold the back seats down and almost 1,200 litres of cargo space is revealed. One of the things that accounts for the Fit’s popularity is its deceptive roominess. With a little effort, you can get most of a bicycle into the back and, theoretically, it will carry five adults.

The base model offers amenities such as air conditioning, power windows, tilt steering, cruise control and power door locks. You can also get fog lights, a navigation system, MP3 player, keyless entry, upgraded stereo and so on. Safety equipment includes front, side and side curtain airbags, and brakes are front disc/rear drum with anti-lock and electronic distribution. You may also find models with a traction control system. Electronic stability control was standard issue.

Transport Canada has one recall. Apparently, the variable valve timing system can fail, resulting in loss of power and inability to restart the car. Dealers will replace the defective components.

2012 Honda fit

One of the things that accounts for the Fit’s popularity is its deceptive roominess. With a little effort, you can get most of a bicycle into the back and, theoretically, it will carry five adults

The U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has this recall on file as well, along with four technical service bulletins. These included possibly loose seat mounting bolt which can rattle on rough road surfaces and a “request for information” on the rear seatbelt 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;”
  • “front driver seat rocks while making sharp turns.”

Consumer Reports liked this one a lot. It got this organization’s Good Bet seal of approval and top marks in every category. The only possible areas of concern are “squeaks and rattles,” body hardware and the climate control system. In these cases, it received “better than average” marks as opposed to “much better than average.” Notes CR: “we expect reliability of new models will be 68 percent above average.

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Some comments from owners to CR:

  • “visibility shortcomings make it difficult for short people;”
  • “ride is noisy and a bit rough;”
  • “more cup-holders than the back of a church pew.”

Marketing researcher J.D. Power, meanwhile, gave this iteration of the Fit a “among the best” grade for overall performance and design, and “about average” grades for overall quality and dependability. It received a top five-star rating for frontal impact and was one of the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks.

No surprise then that it’s held its value well – if you can find one. People tend to hold on to this one. From a base price of about $15,000 in 2012, it’s going for $8,000 to $13,000 these days, depending on the model and trim level.

2012 Honda Fit

Original base price: $14,580
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 117
Torque: 106 foot pounds
Transmission: five-speed automatic or five-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.1 city and 5.5 highway, with automatic transmission and regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Aveo, Volkswagen City Golf, Hyundai Accent, Mazda3, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio, Suzuki Swift

Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.

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