How fuel efficient is the Honda Fit?

January 4, 2008 / Verdict: pretty good.

2007 Honda Fit Sport

Update: Honda announced a hybrid Fit on May 21, 2008.

The EPA recently revised it’s method of calculating fuel efficiency, expressed as MPG (Miles Per Gallon). According to the agency’s report, Fuel Economy Labeling of Motor Vehicles: Revisions To Improve Calculation of Fuel Economy Estimates:

New test methods take into account several important factors that affect fuel economy in the real world, but are missing from the existing fuel economy tests. Key among these factors are high speeds, aggressive accelerations and decelerations, the use of air conditioning, and operation in cold temperatures.

A lot of this has come about because independent reports have criticised the EPA’s methods for failing to approximate real world driving conditions. Pre-2008 city and highway estimation methods, according to the EPA, were first created about 40 years ago and have been revised only once, in the 1980s. These methods assume a conservative “driving style” (at least by north-eastern standards) and temperate environmental driving conditions modelled on the climate of southern California. (Which is to say, the EPA’s window stickers on cars in dealer lots fell a long way short of “real world driving conditions” in 2007. There are city and highway figures, then there’s “You’re a New Englander, and assuming you drive like an asshole…” figures).

Interestingly, with the new revisions the most fuel efficient vehicles (gas-electric hybrids) have the most sharply (i.e. downwardly) revised mileage estimates:

City estimates for some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles, including gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, will decrease by 20 to 30 percent. The highway mpg estimates for most vehicles will drop on average by about 8 percent, with some estimates dropping by as much as 25 percent.

Which explains the confusion when I read on the federal government’s fuel economy site that the 2008 Honda Fit was dramatically less efficient than the one we own. (Although it might seem like a hybrid—”one of those ‘double cars'” as a friend of ours calls it—it’s not. Nevertheless, the Fit is an economical car by U.S. standards, and it’s certified as a “low emissions vehicle,” meaning that it produces relatively low pollutant emissions aside from the absolute amount of gasoline that it consumes.)

Whereas the EPA’s MPG window sticker on our model, a 2007 Fit Sport manual, read “City: 33, Highway: 38” when we bought it in March, the same model in 2008 reads “City: 28, Highway: 34.” It turns out that the 2008 model is rated with the same figures, adjusted for the new estimation methods, as the 2007 Fit. Both models get a 6 out of 10 air pollution score. (For an opposite-end-of-the-spectrum comparison, the Ford F150 pickup, 2WD 6 cylinder automatic gets 14/19 respectively under the new rules, and 3 out of 10 for pollutants.)

Also interesting is that the 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid, which trailed the 2007 Toyota Prius on highway mileage 45 to 60 under the old system, is now the Prius’s equal at 45 apiece under the new. To my knowledge the Civic and the Prius are the only models that have ever broken the 40 MPG barrier on both city and highway tests (currently measured at 40/45 and 48/45 respectively).

Overall, the EPA’s new tests have shortened the total range of MPG estimates for passenger vehicles, which I take as a sign that the estimates are now more valid. I haven’t looked at the methodology but the new figures for the Fit accord with my own observations: we don’t get 38 miles per gallon on the highway in winter, although we may get close to it on long trips in the summertime, and low-30s is probably a more accurate annual average than mid-30s.

I’m clearly biased, but to those interested in the Fit, and in the market for a fuel efficient car, you can do better, but not for the price. At $15k the Fit is just about the best value/design/efficiency bundle you can find. (The Toyota Corolla gets better highway mileage, but the Fit is empirically way cooler. And I don’t think that the Yaris is actually a car.) I hope that our next set of wheels is a hybrid, but at today’s prices that privilege will set the buyer back an additional $10k.

QED. The Fit is (ahem)… Go.

22 responses

  1. lyds

    do you know if the EPA had any specific impetus for reworking the calculations?

    since i bought spiff i’ve kept damn near every single gas receipt in the glove compartment, in expectation that SOMEDAY i’d get them out and see what the long haul of gas over miles is. it’ll be four years in july; maybe i should get on that…

    January 5th, 2008 at 12:25 am #

  2. Ads

    The report claims: “Over the past few years, there have been several independent studies comparing EPA’s fuel economy estimates to the real- world experience of consumers. These studies confirm that there is considerable variation in real-world fuel economy, and provide substantial evidence that EPA’s mileage ratings often overestimate real-world fuel economy. […] They indicate that EPA’s approach to estimating fuel economy needs to be improved to better represent some key real-world fuel economy impacts.”

    I would love to see your take on your gas bill since you got the Prius :-)

    January 5th, 2008 at 12:33 am #

  3. Dan Todd

    A Dan that is much smarter that me wrote about this very topic. The post talks about fuel economy and the perception that hybrid vehicles are more environmentally friendly.

    In Australia, we are lucky that we have Diesel vehicles available at reasonable prices…

    1: A Prius.

    Great in town. Tolerable on the highway. Bad if you have to steer suddenly to avoid hitting something. New and shiny and nice.

    Insofar as there exists such a thing as “an average driver”, a Prius is realistically good for a quite remarkable 50-plus miles per gallon overall if you’re careful, and 45mpg even if you’re not.

    You could probably abuse a Prius into delivering only 40mpg if you really tried. Lots of very short trips would do it, if you don’t make judicious use of the EV button. But you wouldn’t have a lot of fun doing that, which rather defeats the purpose of wasting fuel.

    2: A Volkswagen Something-Or-Other TDI.

    The 1.9 litre Volkswagen turbo diesel, when mounted in its natural habitat (a Golf), is good for a perfectly realistic 55 miles per gallon. Maybe only 45, if you’re a more excitable driver and/or have an older Golf.

    You can get at least one and a quarter new diesel Golfs for the price of a new Prius, at least here in Australia.

    Like all other diesels, the TDI can run on biodiesel, which gives it more environmentalist bragging points than any petrol Prius will ever have.

    January 5th, 2008 at 4:03 am #

  4. Ads

    Dan, definitely dig the biodiesel option. That’s a good post, thanks. Vege oil is the holy grail, as far as I’m concerned. As Dan Rutter says, “A huge plastic tank of filtered waste oil meant for animal feed will probably cost you quite a lot less than mineral diesel, even including delivery by a confused fellow in overalls who can’t figure out where you’re hiding your cows.”

    January 5th, 2008 at 3:42 pm #

  5. Allison

    I just bought a 2008 Honda Fit and have been tracking the fuel efficiency as I was sold on how great that was. However, I find myself watching the needle fall quicker and quicker. I just recently filled the tank and have been tracking just how many miles I get per tank. With gas going up to $4 a gallon – I am feeling as though I was scammed!

    April 22nd, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

  6. Ads

    Allison: What mileage are you getting? I have a 2007 manual which gets low thirties in the winter months, and mid-thirties in the summer time (from a combination of city and highway driving), which seems about right to me, given the revised numbers.

    April 22nd, 2008 at 5:46 pm #

  7. Eric

    My wife and I’s 2008 Honda Fit (automatic transmission) currently gets about 35-36 mpg in mixed driving, although it is usually mostly highway driving (with a 30 minute weekday commute). It started out getting low 30s in March when we bought it, but has improved as the weather has gotten warmer and the car has broken in. We has never gotten worse than 31 mpg, even with many short trips. We think it’s a bargain – considering the substantial extra cost of a hybrid (the civic hybrid starts around 22-23k, vs 14k for the fit, I believe the prius is even more), it would take a very long time before the savings in fuel would make the overall cost of ownership of a fit exceed that of a hybrid. Sure you get a slightly bigger car with more features, but we don’t feel like we are driving an inferior economy car with the fit’s nice mix of standard features, as well as its great utility (the fold-down seats are very very nice).

    May 29th, 2008 at 8:33 am #

  8. Ads

    Eric, I think that you (and other Fit owners who bought in the cooler months) might be noticing the effect of summer-blend gasoline which seems to be more efficient than the winter mix. No doubt the colder temperatures in the northeast play a part as well, but I believe you can go further on a tank of gas in the summertime because of the composition of the petrol (e.g. our highway range in the winter is about 300 miles, in the summer 330 or more). And yes, the interior space and folding seats are awesome.

    May 29th, 2008 at 10:29 pm #

  9. Ralph Machio

    “(The Toyota Corolla gets better highway mileage, but the Fit is empirically way cooler. And I don’t think that the Yaris is actually a car.)”

    The Yaris is not just a car – it’s a SWEET car. I just got 47 mpg highway in my girlfriend’s car. Other’s are experiencing similar results in polls on Much better than the Fit – and more comfortable and quiet too. I’m a big Honda fan. My ’93 Accord has 330K miles and still going strong. But I get 35 mpg highway. How is it that the Fit is only getting 38 highway in such a dinky little econo box? Honda engineers can do better than that. Let’s hope the redesigned fit has some real Honda engineering in it.

    June 27th, 2008 at 11:02 pm #

  10. Ads

    I just got 47 mpg highway in my girlfriend’s car. […] How is it that the Fit is only getting 38 highway in such a dinky little econo box?

    Ralph, the fact that you “just got 47 mpg” doesn’t mean that the Yaris generally gets 47. Firstly everone gets better mileage on summer blend gasoline. Secondly, under certain conditions your car can do a lot better than it’s rating: I’ve learned I can get low-40s mileage in my 2007 Fit on a long highway trip.

    The Yaris is rated as more economical than the Fit, and I believe it. My guess as to why is that the 2007 and 2008 Fits sold in the US have first generation engines (going back to 2001), while the Yaris since 2005 is a second gen model with, presumably, a more economical engine than its predecessor.

    Honda engineers can do better than that.

    I’m sure you’re right, and they plan to:

    June 28th, 2008 at 8:54 pm #

  11. Kat

    I am currently trying to decide between a Honda Fit and the Toyota Prius. We already own a Prius – the very first one of its kind, and a Honda Civic. Daughter will be driving the Civic and I’m picking the new car. Husband drives our original Prius. I think the Prius is awesome but I just think that darn Fit is so cute and versatile. With an additional year of financing and the extra cost of one, it seems quite economical to get a Fit….but…..I am having Prius guilt, cause once you have/drive one, you get spoiled not having to fill up more than every two weeks. But, honeslty, I think I would have more fun with a manual Fit than a Prius. Not interested in the Honda Hybrid. If it’s any hybrid, it’s the Prius. What to do?

    July 1st, 2008 at 4:02 pm #

  12. Adrian

    But, honeslty, I think I would have more fun with a manual Fit than a Prius. Not interested in the Honda Hybrid. If it’s any hybrid, it’s the Prius.

    Fuel economy doesn’t come close to a Prius so that’s a big tradeoff. The second generation (2009) Fit goes on sale in the U.S. in the fall with an updated engine, but I haven’t seen fuel economy ratings yet.

    The manual Fit is way fun to drive, and is very well designed. Nice materials quality. Totally reliable. The only negative for me is the relatively small fuel tank that limits your range to about 300 miles in the cooler months. For the price you pay it’s a great conventional gasoline car.

    As a general comment to those reading this thread, it seems that some people right now expect more from this car than is reasonable when it comes to fuel economy. It’s not a hybrid, which is important to remember when guarding against buyer’s remorse!

    July 1st, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

  13. Kat

    Thanks for the input. Such a tough decision for me & us. The Prius is a lot more money – a lot more, but I think it would take a long time to make up the money you save on gas in the Prius, so maybe this little baby is the best idea. Some people on some sites have been saying they don’t get the gas mileage on it that is actually advertised. How often are people filling up their tanks with the Fit?

    July 2nd, 2008 at 11:21 am #

  14. Adrian

    Some people on some sites have been saying they don’t get the gas mileage on it that is actually advertised.

    Kat, Allison and Ralph said that here too. Allison didn’t say what mileage she is actually getting, and Ralph thought 38 mpg highway (as advertised before the EPA metrics changed) was not good enough. If you feel that way, then you feel that way.

    The Fit is great in a lot of ways, but it’s not the most fuel efficient subcompact. If someone is most concerned about that one thing, then he or she should probably not get a Fit. A little research goes a long way: Civic Hybrid, Yaris, Mini Cooper and Corolla all did better than the Fit for 2008 year models.

    I wouldn’t drive any of them. Ain’t personal preference grand?

    July 18th, 2008 at 8:13 pm #

  15. Hamish

    Hello from Australia

    I have a 2007 Honda Fit, known as the Jazz here. We have 2 engine options, the 1.3 litre and 1.5 litre. Mine is the 1.5 litre. I am averaging 39 mpg. This is in US gallons – 3.78 litres, not imperial gallons – 4.55 litres. I have the automatic CVT transmission which helps to keep the revs low. Most of my driving is half highway (55 -62mph) and half light urban (31 -37mph).

    I have a litres per 100km gauge with the odometer and it goes up to 6.1 in town and the drops back to 5.8 after a stint on the highway. It averages at 6 which converts to your 39mpg. I have compared these readings with odometer readings and petrol purchased and they are accurate.

    If I’m on the highway cruising at 62 mph and reset the fuel economy gauge I can get a reading of 5 litres per 100 km which converts to 47 mpg.

    Back to the CVT transmision, which stands for continuously variable transmission. I wont try and explain how it works – thats what google is for, but it keeps the revs at the lowest needed to accelerate and maintain speed. This is a big factor in good economy. Most of the time I keep the revs under 2500.

    Of course you have to drive smart. Watch for lights changing, stay in the left (your right) lane in most cases. Don’t be bullied into speeding by agressive drivers, easy on the throttle.

    I live on the Sunshine Coast in the state of Queensland (think of Fort Lauderdale for the southern hemisphere) and air conditioning is a must for 8 months of the year. This usually adds 1 litre per 100km to the usage which brings the economy to 33.5mpg. It’s a sacrifice but I’d rather keep a cool head, especially in traffic.

    Enough from me, have a good day.

    July 22nd, 2008 at 11:30 am #

  16. Adrian

    Hamish, thanks for the info, very helpful. The CVT model is not available in the U.S. currently, it’s a conventional 5 speed auto instead. That, and the fact that the posted speeds are higher here (both officially and in terms of the way people drive), might explain a lot of the difference people are seeing between advertised and actual mileage. Throughout New England, for example, it’s very rare to see people driving at or below the speed limit, which is 65 miles an hour on most highways. So (completely anecdotally) I’d guess that the majority of people over here are averaging highway speeds of 70 miles an hour or more which would lower their fuel economy.

    July 23rd, 2008 at 11:21 am #

  17. Britt

    My 2008 manual fit actually gets about 40 mph on highway and about 30 or more in city driving. Just as a heads up. It depends on how you drive.

    September 30th, 2008 at 3:01 pm #

  18. Adrian

    It depends on how you drive.


    September 30th, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

  19. Ron

    Interesting reading but let me pass on to you that I have a 2000 Buick LeSabre 3800 V6 that gets 30-31 running at the speed limit (not over) and 22mpg in city/rural. Several of my friends also have this car and they say the same thing. So here we have a vehicle that is 1000 pounds or more heavier getting this kind of highway mileage doen’t it seem like the Fit should be WAY better?

    November 11th, 2008 at 12:20 pm #

  20. Adrian

    Ron, I don’t know if it should be way better. I’m no engineer. The spread between our two cars is 8-10 MPG (based on your data and mine, and also using the comparison tool). That’s a substantial difference. But as I’ve said above, you can get more efficient gasoline cars than the Fit.

    November 11th, 2008 at 11:26 pm #

  21. Jack Quinn

    i found this post because I have a 2000 Pontiac Bonneville (full size) car with the 3800 v6 engine and just got 32 mpg on a trip from Boston to NYC, all highway, with cruise engaged at 65 mph, no traffic, with one person in the car. Fantastic mileage I’d say for a ten year old car with 82,000 miles. I keep very accurate records using an iphone app, GasBuddy, and only fill up with full tanks. If I use 87 octane, I average 17.4 mpg in my combined highway/suburban roads commute, and if I step it up to 89 octane, I get 19.6 mpg for the combined hiway/suburban roads of my commute, but the 32 on the hiway just really impressed me.

    February 8th, 2010 at 9:08 am #

  22. Adrian Cooke

    Thanks Jack. A mechanic friend impressed on me at a young age that cars run much more efficiently when they are warm on the highway. Seems that was truer in the 1990s than the 2000s, too.

    March 9th, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

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