After mulling it over for some time, I decided to buy a Honda Fit for my new daily driver. I’d also thought about the E46 330i, which met most of the criteria I was after: it could be tracked economically; it had aftermarket support; and it was spacious enough to handle daily duty. With nice examples going for reasonable prices, I had to give the 330i some consideration. Yet, I was more intrigued by the quirky little hatchback I’d seen so many of recently.

It’s not surprising that it’s a popular city car. For something that can be squeezed into a parking spot only motorcyclists would consider, it has a remarkable amount of interior space — it’s like a compact minivan, nearly. As an HPDE car, it has potential. It isn’t the most-developed platform out there, but Kevin Burke, who put one together for cheap track days, swears by it. It’s nimble and surprisingly sporty, yet spacious enough to nap in without contorting my body. The deciding factor: the running costs would be lower than those of the BMW. Keeping costs to a minimum was a priority with this fence straddler.

After searching for a couple months, I came across a YouTube clip reviewing a lightly modified example at Thunderhill. This review from Zygrene made me hunt down the owner and make an offer. A few weeks later, it was mine.

It came with a Yonaka catback exhaust, Neomax Silver coilovers with 6 KG springs and 3.2 KG springs front and rear, respectively, as well as a Hybrid Racing short shifter, a Progress rear sway bar, and GLOC R10 front brake pads. A set of lengthened camber bolts gave the front axle a reported 2.7 degrees of negative camber, though the Falken RT660s didn’t lean all that noticeably. The rear drum brakes were left stock, as were the seats.

During the first weeks of ownership, I forgot it was a track car. Yes, the exhaust droned and the torsion beam rear axle made me wince at big bumps, but the car was pretty civilized otherwise. Because its freeway manners were so good, I decided to drive across two states to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for my first track day in it. There were closer events, but I was headed south for the holidays and figured I’d take the opportunity to give the dual-duty toy a comprehensive test.

Trek vs. Track

After a thousand miles and several hours of sleep, I arrived at Laguna and set out trying to get a feel for the car. Laguna’s recent repave provided a lot of grip, even though the track was wet, and the RT660s handled the river running across T3 well. It didn’t take much to get in the swing of things.

It stopped well, too. In Turn 2, its weight and nimbleness made it easier to close the gap with faster cars — everything else on track. In fact, that was the only place where I could consistently achieve rotation under trail-braking.

My main complaint was that the front end lacked bite. In Turn 9, it would not take the tight line I believe is appropriate for an underpowered car. I wondered if it truly had the negative camber it had been advertised to have.

I hadn’t expected much battling, but one nicely driven NB Miata and I traded positions over several laps. Eventually, it started to walk away, never fully leaving my sight. When I told a friend afterward that a basic Miata out-accelerated my Fit, she told me to never repeat that to anyone.

I hadn’t extracted much from the car that day, but I was reasonably happy with the way the car performed, and even happier with my fuel economy on the trip back to Washington. After a few hours of comfortable cruising at 3,800 RPM, the dash read 36 MPG.

Back in Seattle, I booked a track day at Ridge Motorsports Park. In the interim, I asked a few Fit drivers what setup changes I should try. The rear tires needed a little more pressure than the fronts. The front end probably needed more camber. Lastly, my spring rates were too low for a track car. I only had a week until the event, so I didn’t buy anything new. I was going to work with what I had.

Before arriving at RMP, I’d noticed the front shoulders were wearing, and I knew I’d have to deal with some push when it tracked it next. The first attempt at quelling some of the understeer was to try to soften the front shocks. With the rear shocks turned all 20 clicks to the right and the fronts four clicks shy, I then set the tire pressures to 30 pounds at all four corners. I was aware that I should pump the rears up by another 4 or 5 pounds, but I thought it would be smart to make one change at a time. I still had to remember how to drive the track, too.

Though it’s not bumpy, RMP’s surface is busier than Laguna’s. The climbs aren’t quite as high, but it has steeper gradients over a more technical layout. These features would help highlight some of the car’s shortcomings, as would the general level of grip available on that Saturday.

It was encouraging from the get-go, stable in the fast corners and reassuring in the heavier braking zones. With RMP’s average speeds being lower than Laguna’s, the brake pedal remained firm throughout the whole session.

The tires switched on immediately, but started showing their limitations by the fourth lap. Then, the understeer worsened as the front tires rolled over on their shoulders, sending a nasty vibration through the steering wheel.

I knew there wasn’t anything to do but back off for a lap. While doing that, I changed my approach at the entry to the long double-apex corners, which punished the fronts the most: I forgot about entry speed and took the shortest path through the corner. It didn’t help the delta, but it spared me that shudder.

After the session ended, I checked pressures. As expected, the fronts had gotten slightly hotter than the rears. After they’d cooled, I set the rears at 35 pounds and the fronts at 31. I didn’t touch the dampers, again tweaking one thing at a time.

One hour later, with the track temperatures climbing, I went out to test my latest tweak. When I turned in on the brakes, it would rotate more readily, but it took some speed to coax the rear around. Turning into the fastest corners — not counting the effortless T9 kink — and then dabbing the brake with the car laterally loaded resulted in a reassuring pivot. I could “bend” the car into the corner semi-consistently. This required a different touch than what I’d used before, though. Because grip levels weren’t at their highest, I tried applying and releasing the brake earlier and more progressively. I noticed how, in several corners, I could open the steering up a little bit earlier (1:14 and 1:24 in the footage below) after learning the right rate of release.

It was more adjustable, period. In the constant-radius double-apex called The Carousel, a brief midcorner lift off the throttle would help rotation. I had found another tool to help mitigate understeer.

A new issue emerged at this point. As I charged uphill between T2 and T3, I could hear the revs spiking as soon as I introduced a little steering lock. The open-diff front end was lifting the inside wheel during direction changes over steeper gradients.

After sharing my findings with an instructor, he suggested softening the front dampers to improve compliance through turns 2 and 3, which are the front and top of a steep hill, respectively. You climb the hill with your foot pinned, the car wheelspins a little while turning to the right to crest Turn 3, where the front end continues to wheelspin if not straightened out enough. Then, as you fall off the shelf and begin to turn left across the backside of the hill in Turn 4, the adverse camber tries to pull you out to the edge and onto the marbles.

Before the final session started, I made Geddes’ suggested change. Minimizing wheelspin didn’t make the uphill portion noticeably faster, but down and across the backside of the hill, the added compliance helped the front stick and enabled me to get to full throttle a half-second sooner.

Unfortunately, softening the front made it roll more. While this wasn’t an issue in most corners, it didn’t inspire much confidence when trying to attack Turn 1, the fastest corner on the track, where the ideal turn-in speed is somewhere around 95-100. After turning in a little too late and going wide (but keeping it on the island), it was harder to attack the entry to Turn 1 for the rest of the session.

Nevertheless, I felt I had made real progress. The car had improved steadily throughout the day and burned only a half-tank of fuel. A quick conversation with a knowledgeable racer there confirmed that the car would need a little more negative camber and spring rate (matched with the appropriate damping rate) to get much more from it. The Fit was far from perfect, but I didn’t mind. I reminded myself that this was a commuter car that, with a little bit of fiddling, happened to handle track work well.

The incremental changes made over the course of the afternoon and the buzz I received afterwards convinced me that the car could be made into a satisfying track tool — hopefully without ruining its road manners or spending much. Now it’s time to learn what driving a torsion beam car with twice the spring rate is like.

Images courtesy of Tommy Parry, Kirk Myhre/MC Motorsports Design 2024, Tommy Parry and Kirk Myhre/MC Motorsports Design


  1. Welcome to the club!

    I started taking my ’85 Civic wagon out to track days in 1988, first with the mini club, then with the California Capri Club (which became NASA a few years later). Your Fit is about as close to my old civic wagon as you can get these days.

    Nobody will be able to claim that the only reason you were able to pass them was because you had a faster car, pretty much every pass you make will be because of driving skill. It will also teach you how to avoid scrubbing off any speed. You don’t notice those bad habits so much in a car with lots of power, but they still cost you in lap time.

    You have already learned the advantages of a car that gets 25MPG, at the track, and can comfortably carry your track tires in the back, along with all of your other gear for the weekend.

    Have a bunch of fun with your car, and the best advice I can give, is to spend most of your effort working on the spacer that fits between the seat and the steering wheel. Time at the track is the best investment that you can make into the performance of your car, and it will carry through to every other car you ever drive.

    Larry Colen

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