Thanks to structural modifications to improve crashworthiness, the 2015 Honda Fit earned a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Honda will reach out to those who already bought a 2015 Fit and modify the bumper structure for free.
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The redesigned Fit scored good in IIHS' side, rear-impact, roof-strength and moderate-overlap frontal tests, and it earned an acceptable score in IIHS' small-overlap frontal test after Honda modified the front bumper structure. The old structure earned the 2015 Fit a marginal in IIHS' small-overlap test. (IIHS scores are good, acceptable, marginal and poor.) All Fits built after June 9 have the revised structure, but some 12,000 cars were already built or sold before the changes occurred.
"Mailed notification to customers with early-production vehicles will begin in late September 2014," Honda spokeswoman Jessica Howell told Cars.com in an email. "At that time, Fit owners will also be able to determine if their vehicle is eligible for the update or if it already has the updated bumper design from the factory by contacting their local Honda dealer or calling Honda directly."
Beginning in late September, owners can call Honda's customer hotline at 800-999-1009 and select option 4, Howell added. Bring your Fit in, and Honda dealers will make the structural modification for free.
Upgraded bumper beams — steel bars that sit behind the plastic bumper cover — won't begin to arrive at Honda dealers until mid-September for installation. In the meantime, dealers can still sell any unmodified 2015 Fits in their inventory.
"Vehicles produced before June 9th currently being sold by dealers will be eligible for the product update later," Howell said. "We are not issuing a stop sale, as this is not a safety recall issue."
How do shoppers tell if their prospective 2015 Fit has the structural retrofits? And how will used-car shoppers down the road tell if a 2015 Fit had the work done? After all, there's no visual difference between the old and new bumpers, Howell said.
Fortunately, there are a couple things you can do. First, check the car's date of manufacture, which is typically printed as a month and year on a driver's doorjamb sticker. Anything that's July 2014 or later is in the clear, but June 2014 or earlier means your prospective 2015 Fit might not have the retrofits. From now until mid-September, any cars built before June 2014 will most certainly lack the retrofit, so if you buy an early build Fit, be sure to bring it in for the fix come autumn. After September, some early builds will have the bumper retrofit, but others won't. At that point, if you're looking at a 2015 Fit that was built before June 2014, write down the car's vehicle identification number — a 17-digit alphanumeric code that's under the glass at the base of the driver's-side windshield — and call Honda's hotline. Howell said representatives can take the VIN on any Fit and tell you if the retrofit was made.
Since this isn't a recall, don't expect to be able to determine the status through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's new VIN-searchable recall database.
There's "no regulatory requirement" that Honda make such a change, Howell noted. Indeed, there's little precedent for this. The 2013 Ford Fusion, Volkswagen Jetta and Passat, Nissan Altima, and Subaru Legacy and Outback all received running structural changes during the 2013 model year to improve their IIHS small-overlap results, but explicit retrofits to existing cars, like Honda is doing, are rare. A Subaru spokesman said there was no program to retrofit earlier 2013 Legacy and Outback vehicles; Nissan, Ford and Volkswagen didn't respond to our questions.
We strongly urge current 2015 Fit owners to heed the free update, because the safety benefits are significant. It puts the Fit near the head of its segment, in terms of safety. Small cars had mixed showings in IIHS small-overlap test, and subcompacts and minicars did abysmally. The small-overlap test, introduced in 2012, simulates hitting an object at 40 mph that overlaps just 25 percent of the car, versus 40 percent in the moderate-overlap test. Small-overlap tests address a situation — decreased "overlap," or how much the object you hit overlaps with the width of your car — that's responsible for a quarter of the 10,000 fatal front accidents in the U.S. each year, the IIHS claims. In order to get a Top Safety Pick, a car has to score acceptable or good in IIHS' small-overlap test, as well as good in all four other tests.
Editor's note: This post was updated on Aug. 21 to reflect additional information on dealer sales of the 2015 Honda Fit.