By Aaron Bragman on Sun Jan 12 20:18:38 GMT-06:00 2014
Competes with: Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Mazda2, Chevrolet Sonic, Nissan Versa
Looks like: An evolution of the current Honda Fit
Drivetrain: 130-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual or CVT
Hits dealerships: Spring 2014
The Honda Fit is a popular choice for small-car fans, urban dwellers or anyone who wants efficient, smartly packaged, fun-to-drive transportation. But Honda has faced problems importing the diminutive subcompact into the U.S.: The Japanese-built car isn't profitable thanks to exchange rates, so Honda limited the number it brought in to the U.S.
That's all about to change with the redesigned 2015 Fit, introduced at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Now built in Mexico, Honda can build as many Fits as Americans want — and with the all-new model shown here, Americans are likely to want quite a few.
Outwardly, you might be hard-pressed to tell that this is a new Fit, but it is. It rides on a new chassis and has all-new sheetmetal, but it's styled to look similar to the old model. Still, there are some differences worth noting, like the larger headlights and taillights, a bit more chrome and a more aggressive grille. The new Fit is shorter overall than the one it replaces, but is slightly wider and rides on a longer wheelbase, meaning interior volume is up this year. Wheels are standard 16-inchers.
The Fit has always been about two things: a fun-to-drive spirit and a ridiculously versatile interior. The 2015 looks to have an even more special passenger cabin; passenger volume is up by almost 5 cubic feet. Up front, a redesigned dashboard is attractive, well-built and features materials that feel more expensive than you'd expect in a car this size and price. There's plenty of room for front passengers, and headroom feels positively cavernous.
In back, rear passengers are likely to praise the legroom improvement of nearly 5 inches over the outgoing car. Despite the Fit's dinky overall footprint, four full-sized adults can fit in the new Fit with surprising comfort. When the needs turn to cargo hauling, Honda's "Magic Seat" feature, which offers multiple seat configurations, makes for a cavernous storage space of 52.7 cubic feet. By comparison, Nissan's Versa Note hatchback manages 38.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, and at 26.0 cubic feet, the Ford Fiesta doesn't even have half the cargo volume of the 2015 Fit.
Honda has upgraded the car's electronics as well, with standard Bluetooth connectivity and a backup camera. Options include Honda's LaneWatch technology, which uses a camera below the passenger-side exterior mirror to display the car's blind spot on a screen in the dash; push-button start; heated seats; a 7-inch touch-screen audio system; and HondaLink smartphone interface. For the first time ever, the Fit will have optional leather seats.
A new, more powerful 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the only one offered in the Fit, now making 130 horsepower, 13 more than the outgoing car. It's mated to a standard six-speed manual or new continuously variable automatic transmission, driving the front wheels.
Extensive use of high-strength steel in strategic places means that Honda expects the new Fit to retain its top safety ratings and come in lighter than the car it replaces. Despite the bigger engine with more horsepower, Honda says that the CVT-equipped Fit should achieve class-leading EPA mileage ratings of 33/41/36 mpg city/highway/combined.
The new Fit looks to be quicker and roomier than the old one, which wasn't a slouch in those departments to begin with. If Honda holds the line on price and increases availability, the Fit could be a popular player in its segment when it goes on sale in spring 2014.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron