Honda Fit iPod controls: when something is worse than nothing

Honda FitI own a 2009 Honda Fit. It’s the second Fit I’ve owned, having purchased a 2008 model less than a year earlier. It’s not that I disliked the 2008 — I loved it. But we wanted to get down to one car, and it worked out perfectly to make an even trade of our 2008 Fit plus our old 2000 Civic for a 2009 Fit with a few upgrades. But we’ve already been over all of this.

One of the things I was most excited about with the 2009 Fit was the integrated iPod support. I have an old iPod that I’ve dedicated solely to providing music in the Fit, and it was great to not have to rely on the 1/8-inch audio input jack, but instead to stash the iPod in a special second glove compartment with an integrated USB port. Plug the iPod in and forget it — you can control it straight from the car stereo. Perfect.

Or so I thought.

Yes, it’s true that you can do all of that. But the controls for operating the iPod from the car stereo are abysmal. You can browse the iPod’s contents by playlist, artist, album or song, but there’s no secondary browsing (other than albums by artist). When you’ve got a 30 GB iPod with thousands of songs, from hundreds of albums, by hundreds of artists, this method is inefficient, to say the least.

What’s worse, you always have to start from the beginning in each list, and it doesn’t wrap around if you try to scroll backwards. Good luck finding music by a band like Yes… you’ll be scrolling for days. (And did I mention how slooooow the scrolling is? Spin that dial as frantically as you want, it’s still going to tick through the list one item at a time, at the same leisurely pace.) And if you’ve taken the time to scroll all the way to the Y’s and are listening to Yes, then you decide you want to listen to U2, don’t think you can just start at Y and scroll back to U — oh, no — you’ll find yourself right back at A.

I’ve been incredulous about this horrible navigation system since almost immediately after I bought the Fit, and I have been searching for any kind of relief — a firmware update would be best, but I’d even settle for the simple ability to turn off the console navigation and control the music directly from the iPod. But as soon as you plug it in, the car stereo takes over and you can’t control the iPod directly. The only solutions I’ve found are to unplug the iPod and set up the music you want, hit play, and then plug it in — the stereo will at least keep it going from that point — or to skip the USB altogether and go back to the 1/8-inch input. But that’s on the dash next to the stereo controls, and you’d end up with a cord dangling there — not the elegant, enclosed solution the hidden USB port offers.

What a drag. I’ve been searching for an answer and apparently I’m not alone. I’m hoping, at least for the sake of others, that Honda has improved the system in the 2010 Fit. But that won’t help me.

In the past, I’ve found that blogging about something like this often attracts the attention of someone with an answer. Here’s hoping it works this time. Someone… help!

The Fit is go!

That is, our two-for-one even trade on a new 2009 Honda Fit is (a) go! We love our orange 2008 Fit (which we’ve only had for about 8 months), but our 2000 Civic has been sitting in the garage untouched for about three months now. Clearly, despite juggling transportation for SLP’s job, kids in kindergarten and Montessori school, and my own freelance work, we are still a one-car family. Convenient access to the light rail and my own scheduling flexibility (and willingness to shuttle people around) definitely help in that regard.

So, with winter fast approaching and a single-car garage, we’ve decided it’s time for the Civic to go. It has served us well for nearly nine years, despite nearly meeting its maker (which the deer did, alas) about 4 years ago. But now, what can I say? We’ve moved on.

As I said, we love the Fit. So when I made the mental leap that a possible way to rid ourselves of the Civic would be to try to get an even trade of both cars for a new one, there was no doubt that the new one would also be a Fit. Honda’s made a few of our requested improvements (not that we actually requested them, but they must have read our minds) to the standard package this year, including a USB iPod interface, a passenger-side vanity mirror, and ten — count ’em, ten — drink holders. You wouldn’t think a car that seats five would need that many drink holders, but I can tell you, when you’ve got two kids in the car, the drinks-per-person ratio is higher than you might expect.

I checked Kelley Blue Book for the trade-in values on our cars, and determined that we should be able to pull off an even trade — zero dollars exchanged — including a few additional (entirely utilitarian) dealer add-on accessories. No clear coat though.

We went with Inver Grove Honda and were extremely happy with the whole process… and we got our deal! Our new red 2009 Fit will be arriving in a couple weeks.