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Compact Japanese hybrid frugal but priced high

REVIEW | Hybrid Honda is Fit for purpose

Brenwin Naidu Motoring editor, reporter and presenter
2024 Fit benefits from styling updates.
2024 Fit benefits from styling updates.
Image: Supplied

While the modern automobile has evolved to a point of great sophistication, certain compromises are impossible to avoid.

It is difficult for engineers to fully concile opposing virtues. Superior economy will always come at the expense of power, for instance. A tough, utilitarian vehicle will inevitably need sacrifice outright luxury. Even electric vehicles – blending responsive acceleration with zero-emissions trump – suffer from weight disadvantages, among other downsides.

Hybrids have presented a “best of both worlds” solution in some cases. You get the relative simplicity of a traditional internal combustion motor with the boost of an electric aid.

Of course, the additional technology comes at a price, as proven in our test subject this week. Meet the Honda Fit e:HEV. Now that last part might look like a title of a blockbuster movie about cyborgs, but all it denotes is that this is the partly electrified version of the Fit.

In case you forgot, the Fit picks up where the popular old Jazz left off. Although the name has changed, the overall concept remains the same: a B-segment hatchback with clever packaging, good build quality, pleasant road manners, promising hassle-free motoring for many years – as Honda models are known to provide.

Cabin space is ample, assembly is of a good standard.
Cabin space is ample, assembly is of a good standard.
Image: Supplied

The Fit range uses the same 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine across the range. Pricing for the basic Comfort model starts at R379,900. The middle-grade Elegance goes for R415,900.

The hybrid e:HEV will cost you R544,900. A five-year/200,000km warranty is part of the deal, plus a four-year/60,000km service plan. The hybrid gains a further eight-year/200,000km warranty for its electric drivetrain components and lithium-ion battery. Setting this model apart are a pair of electric motors and battery pack supplementing the 1.5-litre unit.

A traction motor is directly connected to the driveshaft, regenerating electricity during deceleration. A generator motor is directly connected to the engine, which feeds power into a pod of lithium-ion batteries aft of the chassis.

The big trick of the e:HEV Fit is its ability to move on electric power at low speeds, handing over to the engine when additional punch is required. You can quite easily tell when the transition happens as the engine audibly jumps into life. Coasting facilitates recharge of the battery, which the driver can see live via a meter on the instrument cluster.

Engine and electric systems combined, the nifty Fit has an output of 92kW and 253Nm, transmitted to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Honda quotes a 0-100km/h time of 9.4 seconds, which sounds pedestrian but in robot-to-robot conditions where you will be going from standstill to 60km/h, the Fit has an eager feel off the line.

"Magic seats" functionality makes for versatile package.
"Magic seats" functionality makes for versatile package.
Image: Supplied

Of course, economy is what the hybrid is all about. And to this end, it works flawlessly. The manufacturer claims 3.7l/100km, which is achievable in the real world. Even if you drive like the price of petrol is of no consideration, the worst you might see is 5.3l/100km. Still excellent.

Road manners are textbook Honda, with an assured sense of refinement and a steady nature. The Fit proved to be a pleasant companion day-to-day, cruising silently in traffic, happy to take it easy at 120km/h on the freeway. Practicality was a proven strong suit of the Jazz and thankfully, that has not changed with the Fit. Luggage capacity with the rear seats in place is 298l, but fold them down and that opens up to a whopping 1,199l. The configurable “magic seats” function enables the easy loading of more cumbersome, taller items.

Stylistically, there is an assortment of changes to spot, compared to the Fit that was launched in 2021. This includes redesigned bumpers, matte black finishes and refreshed alloy wheel styles.

The interior of the e:HEV has an upmarket impression to it, thanks to its dark colour scheme, elegant garnishes, well-padded leatherette seats and soft-textured panels.

Clean lines ensure the Fit ages gracefully.
Clean lines ensure the Fit ages gracefully.
Image: Supplied

The nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system employed across the range is easy to operate, with its simple menus and large icons. Standard kit is bountiful, including the fitment of Honda Sensing driver assistance functions. This comprises adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and automatic high beams.

Honda has a compelling option with the Fit. This hybrid derivative is intelligent, but at the price some buyers might find it tough to justify especially since you could have larger hybrid such as the Toyota Corolla Cross in range-topping GR-Sport trim for R543,700. So if electrification is not a must, the Comfort or Elegance grades of the Fit could make for more appealing prospects.


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