Honda Fit


Small car with lots of cargo room

I’ve been driving 4×4 trucks for over 30 years. The trade-off for the weight and truckiness being that I could pick up firewood, haul lumber and sacks of concrete, and go anywhere, any time. I spent 12 years 4-wheeling in Baja. Many trips to the American Southwest (always in spring). Three long trips to British Columbia, shooting pics for Builders of the Pacific Coast. 4-wheeling it across the river to my friend Louie’s house in Mendocino county. I’ve been a truck guy forever. The latest, for my last 10 years: a 2003 Toyota 4-cylinder, 5-speed Tacoma 4 X 4 with metal camper shell, pull-out canopy, all-time classic tough, dependable vehicle. 140,000 miles, good for another 140. Desert Roamer. (I may sell it, and get a beater truck for local hauls.)

But there came the time, several months ago, when I realized I was through with the long truck hauls, the 3,000-mile trips, and hauling the truck over the windy roads homewards from my weekly trips into San Francisco was a chore.

I embarked on a study of cars, and ended up settling on a Honda Fit. Other contenders (in this field of scaled-down, aerodynamic SUVs) were the Toyota Yaris Liftback, Mazda 2, Scion XD, Prius C model, VW Golf diesel. The Cube too cartoony, the Scion xB too boxy. I didn’t do extensive reviews, but in the end settled on the Fit largely because of its ingenious cargo space in the rear: 4 x 5 feet with rear seats folded down. 20 cubic feet of space vs. 15 for the other cars. 4 doors and a hatchback so you can get into the rear from all sides. Like a small truck bed. (I could get into my truck bed camper shell on all 3 sides.)

I wanted to see how the Fit did on curves, since a winding mountain road is about half of my driving. I talked salesman Murray Cherkas of San Francisco Honda into letting me take a Fit across the city and then down the winding block of Lombard Street, “crookedest street in the world.” I took the 8 hairpin turns fast, and the car behaved beautifully. Sold.

I picked up a Honda Fit Base model yesterday. OMG!! It made me think of driving a Beemer 2002 in the ’70s. The 2002 was different! Like a rabbit. And I guess things have come a long way, because this very efficient little car reminds me of that. Going from a truck to this car is like going from logging boots to running shoes. Like a 250 pound guy losing 60 pounds.

360-degree visibility, automatic windows, a USB connector (country boy with vacuum cleaner here). There are a dozen things that delight me about this car. Biggie is it isn’t as tiring as truck driving. With the Beamer, I could drive all day and arrive rested — er, we–l — not wasted.

With taxes, fees, everything, it was just under $18K. 3 years, or 36,000 miles, they’ll fix anything that goes wrong. Five years, they’ll fix a lot of things.

I’m in auto heaven. Can’t help it. California kid. Driving since age 14. As evil as it is, I like rollin down the road. Good music. Thoughts rolling in. Cruising country roads looking for barns, indigenous, tuned-in buildings of all types to photograph. Arriving rested when I drive somewhere on assignment. Easy parking. Twice as good mileage as truck.

Poppa’s got a brand new rig

-- Lloyd Kahn 03/25/13