Aug 3, 2013

Saitama Honda | Revisited

In my latest trip to Brazil for the 2012 holidays half a year ago, I found myself inside the Saitama Honda dealership once again. Not much had changed in a year's time since I was last there, but I was able to get a close look at the newest Fit submodel, the Honda Fit Twist.

Some type of rugged specimen of the Fit made exclusively for the Brazilian market, the Honda Fit Twist boasts a variety of changes including a roof rack, flared fenders, plastic cladding, fog lights, 16'' alloys and all new redesigned bumpers + head/tail lamps.

A Fit with a Twist, business in the front and party in the back. The clear taillights are something different, unique and perhaps trendy but surprisingly don't look half bad!

All in all, the exterior is exquisitely finished and gives the second generation Fit a fresh breath of life. A base Twist model such as this one, sells for R$57,900 (Brazilian Reals) or the US equivalent of $28,600. Roughly $5,000 more than a regular base Fit.

Inside, the Fit Twist retains the same ergonomic interior that we've grown to love. There are no differences aside from the amber faced instrument panel and upholstery but many features become standard in this trim such as the double din head unit, power locks/windows, and A/C.

Power adjusting/folding mirrors with built in turn signals are also standard.

Personally, the highlight of the interior is the instrument panel. It carries the same design as the JDM Fit, but displays all the way up to 220 km/h instead of 180km/h.

The double din head unit does quite a lot but will most likely be swapped out for an aftermarket DVD player, an incredibly popular mod amongst the Brazilians.

It would be unrepresentative to speak on the Honda Fit without mentioning its cargo utility. By placing the gas tank under the front seats, the Fit is able to squeeze out extra square footage where it counts the most for cars in this segment–out back.

Now I do realize that the Fit isn't a new model and has been available for quite some time now around the world but taking an extra moment to appreciate it's design is still worthwhile. It excels in areas that other manufacturers overlook without thinking twice. For example, as a rear passenger you know just how rare it is to come across proper cup holders and in this case, the Fit delivers.

Brazil is saturated with manual transmission vehicles but as of recent years the demand for automatics surged due to their luxury appeal. Manuals are very enjoyable to drive but in the metropolitan traffic setting are more of a chore than anything else. Thankfully Honda offers both transmissions for the Twist to everyone's satisfaction.

Brazil is the second largest producer of Ethanol fuel in the world and as a result, Flex-fuel vehicles represent over 90% of all vehicles sold in the country. Being able to run on any mix of ethanol and gasoline has its advantages, one of them being using whichever one is priced better. As a rule of thumb, it is advantageous to run ethanol if its price is 70% or lower than that of gasoline. Ethanol produces less emissions and delivers slightly more power than gasoline but most importantly is a renewable energy source since it is made from sugar cane.

In cold weather, the engine will have difficulty getting fired up if using a high ethanol mix so a small secondary gas tank is needed to store gasoline to alleviate that issue. Having a gas cap in the front fender is definitely strange to us foreigners though I find it very cool.

When it comes to sales however, the base model is king. I was spotting them quite a lot on the road. They are similar to what we have here aside from the smoothed out bumpers, mirrors and rear tailgate. 

To ensure their customers drive off the lot on brand new cars, Saitama has designated test drive vehicles in their inventory, also an effective way to advertise around town.

Here is the mythic Honda City. I sometimes wonder why Honda never brought them over. My best guess is that they would rival the sales of the Civic and Fit in an already competitive market.

You might have noticed that the cars all sit rather high. That's because of the steep topography as well as the tall speed bumps scattered all over the place. Dirt roads are also common in areas outside of the city so it's a must to have the clearance.

The City's cabin is SoHonda, halfway between a Civic and an Accord. It uses the same steering wheel that's borrowed from the 8th gen Civic, a shifter similar to the Fit and a cluster like the Accord's.

New Civic. Expectanologic. Wrd.

"Be noted in traffic for what you've done right"

The showroom had many optional extras on display as well, floor mats, door sills and skid plates to name a few.

It was a quick visit as I had to make my way to the airport to head back, but it was more than long enough to get a grasp for things. The salesman politely showed me around and was kind enough to provide me with a ton of brochures and pamphlets to take home.
Honda continues to expand and being 4th in sales represents how just far they've come. The factory plant in the state of São Paulo is now operating under its maximum output and plans for a second plant are being evaluated. It would be great for the country with all the new jobs that it would generate. I'll be sure to keep an eye open for developments. As always, thanks for reading!