With the 2015 Fit, Honda concocted an elixir of most things small-car shoppers want, and the results are mighty desirable.
If you're shopping for an entry-level car, make sure to fit the Fit onto your list. Even the outgoing car deserved that distinction; it thumped six newer competitors in a seven-car subcompact comparison back in 2012 (click here to read it). The 2015 Honda Fit had big shoes to fill, but fill them it does. It's not the quietest, quickest or most refined car in its class, but it plays a respectable hand in most areas — all while combining impressive fuel and space efficiency.
Honda skipped the 2014 model year for the Fit. Trim levels for the 2015 include LX and EX, which can have manual or automatic transmissions, and the automatic-only EX-L. I drove a range of EX and EX-L cars.
Exterior & Styling
The bug-eyed styling that's characterized two generations of the Fit hatchback has finally buzzed away. The Fit's creased expression draws comparisons to the Civic, which has rocked squinting headlights since the middle of the past decade. The Fit's shielded black grille is distinctive, though some may think it looks too much like the faux-grille areas on many electric vehicles, including the prior-gen-based Fit EV. Body-colored mirrors and 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers are standard; the EX and EX-L add 16-inch alloys, fog lights and a bit more chrome trim.
Curb weight remains roughly the same as the outgoing Fit, which was roughly the same height and width. Length is down 1.6 inches.
How It Drives
While the last Fit jumped off the line when you hit the accelerator, sustained acceleration revealed limited power beyond its initial pep. The 2015 redesign has more in reserve. Passing and merging maneuvers have surprising oomph, the sort you'd get from the larger four-cylinders in a Chevrolet Sonic or any member of the larger, compact class. Such is the result of Honda's Earth Dreams initiative, which bestowed the Fit's 1.5-liter four-cylinder with direct injection to make 130 horsepower, up from 117. More important, torque — that seat-of-the-pants feeling when a car pushes you ahead — is up 8 pounds-feet to 114.
Most trims have a new continuously variable automatic transmission, standard. It behaves well, kicking down as quickly as the previous Fit's five-speed automatic. It revs linearly, with little of the telltale CVT rubber-band feeling of disconnection between your right foot and the transmission. An Econ mode introduces a hint of accelerator lag from a start, plus a slower transition to higher revs. Below Drive, a sportier S mode defaults you to higher revs. (You can also throw the Fit into S mode and Econ mode at the same time. I did. S mode takes over. The universe did not explode.)
LX and EX cars offer a six-speed manual transmission, which replaces last year's five-speed stick. It's a delight, with short, direct throws and close gearing. Engineers say 6th gear is no taller than last year's 5th; indeed, all the gears feel close-ratio, and the Fit hovers near 4,000 rpm in 6th gear at 80 mph. Honda clearly favored driving fun over efficiency, as demonstrated by the manual Fit's EPA mileage: It's improved, but still only so-so, at 29/37/32 mpg city/highway/combined. Mileage with the CVT ranges from 32/38/35 mpg in the EX and EX-L to 33/41/36 mpg in the efficiency-optimized LX, which adds aerodynamic underbody covering and deletes some weight in the form of insulation and the moonroof. Both trims compare well to automatic 2014 versions of the Nissan Versa Note (35 mpg in EPA combined mileage), Ford Fiesta (32 mpg), Hyundai Accent (31 mpg) and Toyota Yaris (32 mpg). Across the board, mileage also beats the prior Fit, whose EPA combined mileage ranged from 29 to 31 mpg. I haven't driven an LX, so it's unclear how that car's deleted insulation might affect noise. The EX and EX-L already exhibit plenty of wind and ambient noise, though. It's the Fit's biggest downside, and those who want a quieter subcompact should consider the Sonic or Ford Fiesta.
Thanks to a reworked suspension and 1.2 inches' extra wheelbase, the Fit's ride quality has caught up with the competition: It still rides on the firm side, but it dispatches manhole covers and other bumps with Fiesta- or Sonic-like richness. Both Detroit competitors ride better still, but the Fit has closed the gap versus its sometimes-choppy predecessor. The same goes for steering, which displays good highway composure — an improvement over the previous Fit, which occasionally wandered in crosswinds.
Wheel choices range from 15 to 16 inches, but a sport-tuned suspension is no longer available. Honda says the redesigned torsion-beam rear suspension — a budget setup common among subcompacts — has enough rigidity to get by without a stabilizer bar, which the prior Fit Sport had, and the Fit corners well enough. Some body roll accompanies hard maneuvers, but the car's light, direct steering should satisfy casual driving enthusiasts.
Modern shapes and an airy layout characterize this redesign, whose dashboard sacrifices a few of the previous Fit's storage nooks for a more grown-up look. The front seats are more supportive than their flat backsides would suggest, and EX-L models have a moonroof and heated leather seats — firsts for the U.S. Fit. I'm 6 feet tall and needed the seat just one click ahead of all the way back. Taller drivers may wish the seat went farther back.
It's also strange that Honda invested in padding for the dashboard and door inserts — both areas that few people touch — but left hard, cheap textures on the armrests and upper doors, where your elbows usually end up. The Fiesta and Yaris both cushion the armrests, and even the last Fit had a shred of padding down there.
The previous Fit already had adequate backseat space, and thanks to a reworked fuel tank and rear suspension, Honda says it added 4.8 inches of rear legroom — a massive figure, as legroom goes. It's not quite the win-win that it sounds, though; while knee clearance remains generous and the seat sits a bit higher off the floor, which improves thigh support, you pay for it in headroom, which loses about 1.5 inches. It used to be excellent; now it's merely OK.
Cargo & Storage
Honda says overall passenger volume has increased 4.9 cubic feet. Some of that may have come from the cargo area, which falls from 20.6 cubic feet — a figure that once led the Sonic, Fiesta and Versa Note, in some cases handily — to a more so-so 16.6 cubic feet.
Honda's Magic Seat carries on, and it's one of the Fit's niftier tricks. The 60/40-split seat's bottom cushions fold up and lock in place to expose more than 4 feet of vertical storage space in the second row; a low floor hump maximizes storage potential. The seats still fold flat into the floor for 52.7 cubic feet of maximum cargo room. That's down from last year's SUVlike 57.3 cubic feet, but it still leads the group. The Fiesta has less than half that much room.
Ergonomics & Electronics
Fit LX models have a 5-inch display (not a touch-screen) with physical knobs and buttons, including radio presets. The four-speaker stereo has USB/iPod compatibility, Bluetooth phone/audio streaming and steering-wheel audio controls — generous features for a base trim in this class.
EX and EX-L models get six speakers, more stereo wattage and a second USB port. They also get a 7-inch touch-screen with 480-by-700 pixel resolution, HDMI inputs for video (when parked) and audio playback and Siri Eyes Free iPhone integration (click here to learn more). Similar to the system in the 2014 Civic, the touch-screen ditches the mechanical tuning and volume knobs for aggravating touch-sensitive capacitive buttons alongside the display.
Still, the system's capabilities are impressive. It facilitates HondaLink, which can play Pandora and Aha Internet radio off your smartphone (newer iPhones at launch; Android compatibility by late 2014). It can also read your Facebook wall or Twitter feed, and $60 adds a navigation app complete with pinch-and-swipe capabilities. Switching between apps generally requires going back to a root menu and waiting a few seconds for HondaLink to reboot, however. The navigation app is also slower than the optional factory navigation on EX-L models, which pinches and swipes at near-smartphone speed and packs navigation-specific voice recognition, plus HD and satellite radio. Is that worth the extra $1,000? You decide.
As of this writing, the Fit has yet to be crash-tested. Standard features include a stability system and side curtain airbags, which are now teamed with a rollover sensor to deploy if the Fit goes wheels-up. Forward collision and lane departure warning systems aren't available, but those are rare among subcompacts. A conventional blind spot warning system is also unavailable, but EX and EX-L models get Honda's LaneWatch blind spot camera system. Check out the photo for more information.
Value in Its Class
The Fit LX starts around $16,300, including destination. That's hundreds more than many other entry-level hatchbacks, but standard features include power windows and locks, keyless entry, cruise control, manual air conditioning, a backup camera and Bluetooth phone/audio. Add $800 for the CVT, and the Fit nears Versa Note territory as the value choice for shoppers who want all the basic conveniences. Most competitors with similar features cost more — in some cases, a lot more. On the other end, a loaded Fit EX-L tops out around $21,500. That's with factory navigation, a moonroof, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated leather seats and a keyless access system — short of automatic climate control, the full palette of options in today's subcompacts.
Automakers have spent the better part of a decade trying to crack the code on desirability in this class, and the results have paid dividends in driving refinement, cabin quality, safety features and must-have technology. By and large, today's subcompact is a decent car, and the redesigned Fit is proof. Honda claims supply constraints were the biggest obstacle to the last Fit's popularity. Now built in Mexico, its successor should be in ready supply. I expect Honda will need to crank them out.
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