The parking lot of Pasadena’s famed Rose Bowl was filled with the sound of squealing tires this week. Passersby were treated to a show of journalists in bright blue Hondas whipping around tight corners on one of two closed courses. There was one sound missing, though; the sound of meaty exhaust. While most track sessions are filled with a musical score of engine exhausts, this one was much quieter, burning rubber aside. Why? The bright blue cars that the journalists were testing are electric vehicles, the new Honda Fit EV to be exact.


Honda will be delivering the first EVs to customers in select markets in California and Oregon on July 20, but several lucky journalists, including myself, were treated to a ride-and-drive event in advance of the official vehicle launch.


When I first saw the Honda Fit EV, I was surprised by its size. I had expected the vehicle to be much smaller and even though it is a subcompact, it was far roomier than I thought it would be. There was ample headspace and plenty of legroom in both the front and back seats. While this all-electric vehicle is designed for the daily commuter, I could comfortably fit my entire family in the car for trips to and from ballet, tennis, birthday parties and the grocery store.


While learning more about the Fit EV on Tuesday night, several Honda employees told me that it was a fun vehicle to drive. Prior to this event I’d never driven an all-electric vehicle, and while I didn’t know what it would feel like to drive one, fun was never an adjective that came to mind. Practical, yes, but never fun.


That changed when I finally had the chance to get behind the wheel of the Honda Fit EV on Wednesday morning. I chose to start on the shorter of the two closed courses and was instructed to accelerate rapidly from the launch, keep an eye out on the radar for my trap time and then brake at the red flags in preparation for the first corner.


I giggled inside at the thought of a trap time. I’ve been on a quarter-mile drag strip before and I know what it feels like to race down the track trying to get the best time possible. I did not think that my little jaunt down a closed course in an electric vehicle would be nearly as exciting. This was the second time that I was mistaken with my preconceived notions about the Fit EV.


Once I lined up the car’s mirrors with the green flags I put the pedal to the metal and immediately burned rubber as the tires spun in an attempt to gain traction. This was one torque-y little electric vehicle and for me, torque makes for a fun driving experience. I quickly accelerated without the loud and rumbling exhaust that I’m used to, and that made me smile. Yes, I was smiling like a giddy schoolgirl as I raced down toward the red flags.


My first trap time was only 36 mph; I’m not sure of the distance between the green flags and the red flags but I’d venture to say that it was about 1/16 of a mile. I ended up taking the car for two more laps, exploring the Sport, Normal and Econ driving modes. Eventually I was able to get up to 40 mph on my trap time. All of this fun came with zero tailpipe emissions because the Honda Fit EV doesn’t even have a tailpipe.


After my trip around the shorter course I walked over to the sports course, which included more turns. This is where I was able to really enjoy the Fit EV’s suspension. The vehicle is heavier than the Fit by several hundred pounds and has a different front-to-back weight ratio, which made for a more responsive drive.


By now I was feeling confident in my handling of the vehicle and really pushed it around the corners, with the tires squealing and my smile widening after each lap. After four laps I had to call it quits because all of the twists had actually made me a little dizzy.


The Honda employees that I’d spoken to the night before were right; it was a fun car to drive. I know that the Honda Fit EV wasn’t designed solely for the pleasure of driving, but for someone who absolutely loves to be behind the wheel, it was great to see a fun-to-drive car combined with zero tailpipe emissions and advanced vehicle technology.


Speaking of advanced vehicle technology, the Fit EV comes equipped with a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery that provides drivers with an estimated 82-mile driving range and a fuel-efficiency equivalent of 118MPGe. This makes the Honda Fit EV the most fuel-efficient vehicle available today.


The pep in the Fit EV comes courtesy of a 92-kilowatt (123 horsepower) electric motor that produces 189 lb-ft of torque. To put this into perspective, the Honda Civic DX produces 128 lb-ft of torque at 4300 RPM and the sporty Honda Civic Si Coupe delivers 170 lb-ft of torque at 4400 RPM.


As you can see, the Fit EV really impressed me. Unfortunately it isn’t available in Arizona. The Fit EV will be available on a lease-only basis to customers in the following California markets: Los Angeles/San Diego/Orange County, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area. The vehicle will also be available to residents in Portland, Ore.


For more information or to find a dealer near you, visit the Honda Fit EV website.

First drive: Honda Fit EV
The Honda Fit EV will be available in select markets on July 20, 2012.