Thanks to a "first drive opportunity" for journalists at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California over the past couple days (June 26th and 27th), we can finally report on some details and experiences with the Honda Fit EV.

By now, if your interested in the Honda's electric car, you probably already know the basics.   But here is a quick refresher for the new kids in class:

  • 82 Miles Range (EPA Scale)
  • 118 MPGe Rating (highest of all EVs currently on the market)
  • 92 kilowatt (123 hp) coaxial electric motor generating 189 ft-lb of torque
  • $389/month (36 month) lease
 

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The Honda for the most part is a compliance car, as shown by the fact the Japanese automaker only intend to build 1,100 of them.  All will be leased.  The car will be made available in both California and Oregon.  Yes, Oregon.  We asked Honda Assistant Manager of public relations, Jessica Fini, about why the odd choice of a secondary state, and she offered:

"Oregon was selected for its growing infrastructure and receptiveness to clean technologies (hybrids, EV's) making it a good market for the Fit EV."

Personally, whenever I think of Oregon, all I can recall is the phrase "you have died of dysentery" from the early 1970s computer game Oregon Trail.  No offense to the good people of Oregon, but there had to be some better locations than this if your only initially releasing the car into two states.  When we asked about possible future locations, Honda said that the car would be made available on the east coast later in 2013.

Before we get to impressions on the car itself, what we find interesting is the lease itself (besides the fact there is no option to buyout the car at the end).  Specifically, is that it  has a very European twist on insurance.  Leasing includes collision coverage, making this car, by most insurance standards about $500-$600  cheaper to operate over the course of a year than your standard vehicle.

Given the fact the lease on the Fit EV is a no money down proposition, the $389/month payment, after allowing for the saved costs on insurance, is really only about $339.  Considering the rest of the lease deals in the market today on EVs, this one is the best...and you get a limited edition car to drive around.  Nice, if your into being unique.

Now onto the car itself,

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In normal mode,  the Fit EV, like most electric vehicles, has considerable zip from the moment you hit the gas, which masks that the car is not really accelerating all that fast.  However, the Fit EV also has a sport mode, which surprisingly dials up the straight line performance past the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf crowd.

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Steering gives you a good feel for the road, and responds well (and timely) to driver's reactions.  Sport mode is a must once you get up to speed, as the regular mode's 101hp is decent, but having the full 123 hp and 189 ft-lb of torque on tap in the small EV is a driving pleasure.  No 0-60 times where provided by Honda, but anything around 8 seconds would not surprise us.

It should be noted that the car's maximum range is achieved in ECO mode, a setting no one should ever experience voluntarily, offering up only 63 hp, evoking memories of economic Russian sedans of the 1980s.
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The car's  battery pack is 20 kWh in size (made by Toshiba) and while there is no fast charging option, it can accept a 6.6 kW, level 2 charge, the same as the new Ford Focus Electric, and double that of the current Nissan LEAF (upgrade to come for MY 2013).   A Full charge takes about 3 hours.

Regen braking is fairly strong in the car, and Honda has allowed drivers to increase it even more with a secondary setting that can be used in any of the Fit EV's three driving levels.

The Fit EV, is obviously a converted petrol version of itself, and as such, retains room (which we word loosely) for 5 passengers.  Therefore, it theoretically does have a leg up against the Chevrolet Volt and Mitsubishi i in this regard.

The car comes with all the normal accouterments you would expect in a mass produced electric vehicle.  Dash and mobile applications allow the owner to pre-conditioned the car, set charge timers, or map out a route to the nearest charging station, just in case you happen to be down a kW or two.  Other perks of the car include heated seat and a backup camera.

In summary, it is a shame this car is on a limited run, because it really appears to be a winner.  It may just be its small size coupled with a slightly larger than necessary electric motor, but it is a fun car to drive.

With a MSRP of $36,625 (if you could actually buy it), we would not hesitate to swap a Nissan LEAF for this product.  That being said, the value may be coming from the fact that perhaps Honda is not making any money on these vehicles, and that is why only 1,100 cars will hit US roads over the next two years.

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2013 Honda Fit EV Review