Compacts and city cars never really took off in Australia like they did in Europe or Japan. We have different roads, and a huge landmass, so the shift to larger SUVs and 4WDs is more than expected. And this shows in the model lineups of almost every brand sold down under. Carmakers are quietly axing smaller cars. Possibly because of lower profit margins or the gradual shift in driver taste. Or a combination of both. Either way, even the few models remaining have seen huge price increases.
Honda missed to cash in by not offering the replacement for one of the bestselling small cars in Australia, the Honda Jazz. It endured three model generations, with the first cars hitting the streets in 2002. Though an early disciple of hybrids and electrification, along with Japanese rivals Toyota and Nissan, Honda failed to diversify its lineup during the years, and now is treading the path that Holden knows so well.
One gem that can still be found on the used market Is the Honda Fit. It was basically a Jazz, just fitted with a battery. European and US models came with a 1.3 or 1.5-litre petrol and paired with an electric motor. The hybrid model offered here didn’t sell in droves, possibly because it was a little ahead of its time. Battery power provides a combined output figure of 101kW and 170 Nm of torque, up from the base 1.5 litre’s petrol figures of 88kW and 145Nm. And this at lower revs. The Fit was nippier than its twin, with better acceleration. Not by much, but still faster.
One of the selling points of the Jazz/Fit duo was space and practicality. It offered much more passenger and boot space than its rivals, and also better visibility. And the hybrid had significantly lower fuel consumption. This makes it a good second car, one that’s cheap to run, but also reliable. Slight modifications, like a Honda Fit throttle controller, also make it decently fast.
How the Honda Fit Drives
Being a hybrid, the Honda Fit uses an electric motor for initial get up and go. There’s no noise when you turn the key as only the electric motor is engaged. The petrol kicks in later, at around 30km/h or when you’re going up steep hills. The benefit is that the petrol serves to regenerate battery power and the two can be combined when more power is needed. The slight hesitancy of the petrol to get going can often be felt from the jolts in the back you get from the jumpy transmission.
Installing an Electronic Throttle Controller
You’ve probably heard about electronic throttle controllers, and how they engage the throttle body much faster. With this electronic marvel you get reduced throttle response times, and better acceleration figures. Throttle controllers work as Drive-By-Wire units, meaning no mechanical parts connect the acceleration pedal and the throttle body. Instead, sensors read how far down the pedal is depressed and send that data to the Engine Control Module, which regulates how much the throttle body opens. If any errors occur in the readings, the controller disengages, and you get an engine warning signal in the dash.
Electronic Throttle Controller Modes
A Honda Fit Throttle Controller makes use of the different modes in better synchronising the switch from electric to petrol power for a more seamless driving experience. Modes include ultimate or performance mode, depending on the manufacturer, which reduces throttle lag. This is especially useful in the Fit when picking up speed, and with not much power on tap, in safer overtaking. The petrol engine engages faster and revs quicker. And the battery regenerates at a faster rate.
Older Fit models have an Eco button by the light switches near the steering wheel. Engaging this reduces throttle response from the petrol engine. You’ll also feel the aircon less on a hot Aussie day. Bypassing this to an Eco or Economy mode on a throttle controller means that you still get better mileage out of every litre but not the cut in power. Eco and all other modes in a Honda Fit throttle controller can be adjusted in slight increments, even while driving, and at any speed that the petrol engine is running at. Up to ten levels of adjustment are available, so you can still save fuel, while also having a decent run of speed and without running a sweat.
Auto modes suit the Fit just as much as the previous modes. This is useful since a throttle controller set to auto will collect data as to how you drive and adjust the throttle response accordingly. You get seamless switching from electric to petrol power, and better speed the further you press the pedal. Set the controller to auto and let it work for you.
Some electronic throttle controllers also have a neutral mode. This turns the controller off and reverts to the Honda Fit’s original ECU settings. The good thing is that you can flip between modes and different levels while driving. The neutral mode is where you’ll see just how useful the Auto, Eco and Ultimate modes really are.
Buying and Installation
Electronic throttle controllers are small units that bypass the ECU to provide better acceleration times. They engage petrol power in the Honda Fit seamlessly and help with getting to highway speeds quicker. The unit is easy to install, taking only a few minutes, and is placed in an easy-to-reach place along the dash. There are also units that are Australian made, so you know you’re getting a decent product. Most are sold direct from manufacturers, or through dedicated automotive retailers.