Among conventionally powered vehicles, Honda’s completely redesigned 2015 Fit blends respectable mpg, utility, and reasonable price.
Not quite the “TARDIS” of Dr. Who fame which outwardly appeared tiny, but inwardly expanded to large proportions, Honda’s subcompact is nonetheless a case study in smart space utilization.
We’d be remiss however not to also mention Honda isn’t letting Americans have its hybrid version of the Fit proffered in Japan since 2010 and Europe since 2011, where it’s sold as the Jazz.
Fuel economy for that version competes favorably against the most fuel-efficient hybrid sold in the U.S., Toyota’s Prius c. Honda did in 2012 build a limited-market Fit EV for the U.S., but is canceling that, and meanwhile Americans haven’t been given any hint new alternative powertrains could come along.
Even so, the Fit now gets a latest-tech gasoline engine with mpg that would rank it among the best non-hybrids and not far off some hybrids. Honda hopes to sell more of the hatchback than it previously has against competitors that may not even be as good. It has relocated production to Celeya, Mexico in part to remove a supply bottleneck for formerly Japanese-built Fits.
This is now the third generation Fit since it was originated in 2001. This version has been sold in Japan since September 2013, and was launched in the U.S. in June this year.
Honda has won a number of awards for its previous Fit, and its goal was to truly improve it, not just make it different, and on most counts, it succeeded on a car that stands out as a class-leader.
Gas mileage and horsepower, though sometimes mutually exclusive, are both improved with the Fit’s all-new 1.5-liter four.
The engine is the first direct-injected system used in a Honda subcompact and is adorned with Honda’s “Earth Dreams” moniker suggesting the environment can rest easy and more certain is it combines many technological innovations to make it all-around better.
These include i-VTEC+VTC variable valve and timing control, direct injection, lightened reciprocating components, cooler-running oil-cooled pistons, larger valves, DOHC cylinder head, overall reduced weight and size, and more.
Compression ratio for the engine fed via plastic intake manifold has been increased to 11.5:1. This yields 130 horsepower at 6,600 rpm, and 114 pounds-feet of torque at 4,600. That’s 13 horsepower or 11 percent more than the previous 1.5-liter Fit engine, torque is 7.5-percent more, and this is decent for a car only around 100 pounds heavier to propel.
Also new is an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) borrowed from Civic siblings. It can simulate seven gears operable via optional paddle shifters (for EX, EX-L versions), and the manual transmission increases from formerly five to now six speeds – but retains the same final drive ratio.
Traditionally manuals have been advantageous for fuel sippers, but in this case the EPA rates the six-speeder 4 mpg less on the combined cycle than the Fit LX with CVT, and 3 mpg less than the Fit EX and EX-L with CVT.
Specifically, the 6MT – only available in the LX trim – is rated at 29 mpg city, 37 highway, and 32 combined, and the CVT in the LX is 33 mpg city, 41 highway, 36 combined. In the CVT-only EX and EX-L trims levels, the CVT nets 32 city, 38, highway, 35 combined.
Big Little Car
If “subcompact minivan” were a category, the Fit would exemplify that paradox. The wheelbase was increased by 1.2 inches, overall, the car is 1.6-inches shorter, but inside rear seat leg room grew by an impressive 4.8 inches to 39.8 inches.
This came at the sacrifice of four cubic feet cargo volume, still decent at 16.6 cubic feet. With seats folded, the total is 52.7 cubic feet, but novel is the feature called “Magic Seats.” Here the rear bench fold vertically to create a larger volume to carry more stuff.
The big news is the rear space utilization, but front space is still good although those with longer legs may wish for an extra detent on the rearward adjustment for maximum stretch.
In all, an extra 4.9 cubic feet of passenger space was netted, and most important dimensions are improved for a more spacious cabin.
Outward visibility all around is good, and the driver is perched in a functional box on wheels.
Body lines are rounded from the previous squared Fit. Beauty is entirely subjective and personally we kind of like the look of the old car, but others have said they didn’t as much, and the new car does have appeal.
Also true is aerodynamic improvements were incorporated into the folds and creases to help with fuel economy, so few will argue with that. Leading the way is a new face with halogen auto-on/off headlights and daytime running lights merged into the grille, These go along with the new protruding, shapely, hi-visibility rear LED tail lights. Above them is a rear spoiler which is less pronounced than on the previous Fit.
Inside, the driver interface keeps up with the times including for the base LX, a 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers, a 5-inch color LCD screen and a USB. For the EX and up, much more connectivity includes a 7-inch touch screen, HondaLink infotainment, and in ether case, you get a functional interface.
Materials are mostly improved, of respectable quality, with a few basic plastic bits here and there. Up-line versions can now be had with leather and heated front seats. The sum of the fit and feel is they didn’t skimp on value for the money.
Fit For The Road
A pushbutton brings the 1.5-liter to life, and power from the non-turbo never feels actually pokey.
Honda makes claims for improved performance – not just for the stronger engine, but stiffer chassis, suspension, and reduced noise – and it does live up to these, but in a straight line the CVT feels close to the former Fit.
The CVT does default to taller ratios conspired to delver maximum economy at the expense of acceleration, but if nudged, the revs climb higher to match supply with demand. Honda’s six-speed manual does well too, and gearing is now pureed more finely, but final drive at 70 mph has the engine busily droning at 3,600 rpm.
Rounding corners with the stiffer chassis – enabling also a five-star federal safety rating and Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Top Safety Pick – one retains good control at a fair clip. It’s not a Volkswagen GTI, but then it’s not boring either.
In a phrase, the Fit does what you’d expect it to do. Honda says one of the net effects of the more-rigid chassis with longer wheelbase is to contribute to a feeling of “oneness” between car and driver.
Whether such harmoniousness is immediately obvious, the vehicle feels sufficiently confident everywhere, and improved now at highway speeds, it’s surefooted in a straight line, or rounding bends.
Bump attenuation is helped by tuned dampers that respond softly to initial jolts, but firm up with heavier hits. Combined with refreshed suspension geometry, the vehicle means you don’t have to leave fun checked at the door, and then for those so inclined there is the tuner’s market to refine things further.
But how about that fuel mileage? Driven without care, with occasional speed bursts to test acceleration, we netted middle-to-upper 20s to lower 30s in a CVT EX-L with Navigation. Driven with more care, and the EPA numbers are attainable, though we hesitate making a statement for all, because different drivers will experience differing results.
More Competitive Than Before
Including $790 destination, prices ranges from $16,315 for the LX with manual (add $800 for CVT) to $21,590 for the CVT-only EX-L with Navigation.
There are cheaper cars out there, and cheaper cars that get better mpg. But the phrase, “you get what you pay for” comes to mind, and the Fit packs in a lot of quality, usefulness, refined feel for a subcompact.
Non-hybrid competitors would include the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris. Hybrids would include Honda’s compact Civic, and the subcompact Prius c.
As it is, the Fit is a neat vehicle, and for such a small one, it accommodates most humans along with their stuff in comfort with decent fuel economy.
It improves on an already excellent car but we do wish Honda would catch the vision and import its Toyota-beating hybrid version that other markets have had for almost half a decade.
For now, its mileage is good enough to place it among the top 10 non-hybrids sold, and the rest of the car does arguably edge out what some hybrids offer, so there is the dilemma.
You can pick your own priorities, but our take is the sum of its qualities make it a top contender among non-hybrids and an alternative to be considered.