Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Many consumers who bought the Honda Fit because of its diminutive dimensions ironically ended up telling American Honda Motor Co. Inc. that the car was, well, a tad too small.

That’s one reason the ’09 Fit introduced here at the New York International Auto Show is bigger than the first-generation model, says Richard Colliver, American Honda’s executive vice president-automobile sales.

“It wasn’t dissatisfaction, but Fit owners said they wouldn’t mind a little more room,” Colliver tells Ward’s.

He bristles a bit at the suggestion the evolution of the recent wave of subcompacts introduced in the U.S. is that they initially are touted as meeting growing consumer demands for small cars, only to get bigger with each new generation.

“You’ve got to remember that the Fit was first introduced in 2001 in Japan,” he says. “It was designed around a different consumer.”

In 2006, the Fit hit the U.S. market, where there seems to be a demand for small cars, but not as small as in some international markets.

The Fit is sold in 100 countries. Honda has delivered 2 million of them since 2001.

The ’09 Fit may be bigger than its predecessor but only “a little bigger,” Colliver says.

Moreover, Honda says it has improved in some big ways: interior functionality; suspension and steering refinement; and a broader array of safety features.

The new subcompact raises the bar, “taking what was already great about the Fit, making it even better and throwing in a healthy dose of refinement,” Honda says.

The Fit now has an optional satellite navigation system with voice activation. All Fit Sport models come with USB audio interface, compatible with iPods and similar devices.

“The goal is to provide entry-level vehicle customers with functionality and refinement that is a class above,” Colliver says.

“The growing demand for small cars is more than getting a cheap set of wheels.”

The ’09 Fit goes on sale this fall. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but Colliver says it will be similar to that of the current version, which ranges from about $13,800 to $16,000.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com