The last time we left our subcompact hero, the plucky Honda Fit was getting a bit long in the tooth. But the second-generation model was still holding its own rather well, and for the enthusiast on a tight budget who wanted it all, it remained the car of record in its class. If you desired an endlessly practical and reliable little hatch that was fun to drive, it didn't get much better than the Fit. Even with nearly every competitor having been fully freshened since the model's introduction in 2009, the Honda managed to fight off also-ran status simply because of how incredibly functional and great to drive it was. Long story short: we loved this car.
Of course, there were a few caveats to the Fit's superhero status. It wasn't particularly fuel efficient, only mustering up, at best, 33 miles per gallon on the highway in a segment where 40-mpg quickly became the new benchmark. What's more, its onboard technology and infotainment was seriously showing its age. While we'd praise the Fit's behind-the-wheel goodness all day long, this shining beacon of great steering and suspension tuning never proved to be all that wonderful for long-distance highway cruising.
Now, say hello to the 2015 Fit, hitting dealerships this spring. Worry not – it's still clever as ever from a packaging standpoint, and comes fitted with lots of newness both inside and out. It's a far more competitive vehicle than its predecessor, and has everything it takes to fight even the toughest of classmates. But just as before, our recommendation doesn't come without a few caveats.
Visually, the 2015 Fit loses much of its cute-as-a-bug demeanor in favor of something decidedly more aggressive and modern, especially up front. By and large, we like the new look, but we aren't sold on the strong character line that rises dramatically on the front door, only to broaden from a point to a channel as it goes further up along the car's profile, finally dropping off over the wider rear fenders. It's an interesting design idea, but one we don't find particularly successful – it's especially hard to swallow from the rear three-quarter angle. From that same view, the Fit looks less like the two-box, upright hatchback it did before, taking on more of a small MPV shape. A quick poll of the Autoblog staff reveals that we like this new design better, but some of us still miss those large, wedge-shaped headlamps and cutesy cues of the previous car. We'll have to see how this new design ages, but it certainly falls more in line with the rest of Honda's restyled range.
The Fit looks less like the two-box, upright hatchback it did before, taking on more of a small MPV shape.
The Fit hasn't grown much since we last saw it – in fact, certain dimensions have actually decreased. It rides on a 99.6-inch wheelbase – an increase of 1.2 inches versus the outgoing model – but its overall length has been shortened, now sitting at an even 160 inches compared to its predecessor's 161.6. Width is up by 0.3 inches and height remains unchanged at 60 inches. Extending the wheelbase and shortening the length means the front overhang – a particular point of issue on the old car – has been reduced, and the overall shape is less bulgy than before, despite the added curves.
Honda is offering a fresh crop of new colors that work well with the restyled shape, including Pikachu Yellow (okay, it's really Mystic Yellow Pearl). Base LX models roll on 15-inch steel wheels with drab plastic covers, but EX, EX-L and EX-L Navi trims use the handsome 16-inch alloy wheels seen on our test car. Halogen headlamps remain standard up front, but the Fit now uses LED taillamps out back. It's all pretty good looking, this Fit, and new darker colors like Passion Berry, Modern Steel and even the Aegean Blue do a lot to hide the character line that rounds out the rump. We do wish Honda would lose the chrome strip below the rear window, though. There's very little of the shiny stuff on the rest of the body, and a blacked-out panel like the one in the grille would likely look better.
The dashboard and center stack designs lose a lot of the previous car's cleanliness.
Inside, there's a lot going on, and the dashboard and center stack designs lose a lot of the previous car's cleanliness. Chunky plastic moldings on the dash are met with aluminum accents and strips of faux-leather with unconvincing fake stitching, and the new center console has been canted to be more driver-focused, with the old car's vertical arrangement of heating/cooling controls now neatly organized below the radio (or new-generation infotainment system on higher-end models). What's in front of the driver is particularly clustered, with two-tier vents to the left of the redesigned steering wheel and gauges, and in redesigning the HVAC module, Honda has killed the volume control knob for the stereo – it's now annoyingly housed digitally in the touchscreen. Speaking of that screen, all Fit models now come standard with a rear-view camera. Sadly, the two-compartment glove box is gone, with usable storage space only found below the passenger's knees on the new car.
Despite its busier visuals, the new Fit's interior is a far more premium space than before. The hatch now offers amenities like leather upholstery, heated front seats and a sunroof – all things you couldn't get on the outgoing model. The Fit remains a hugely functional machine, and Honda's executives proudly note that the car's packaging is its "single-greatest competitive advantage." Despite a minimally increased wheelbase, the Fit now offers a whopping 39.3 inches of rear legroom. That's a gain of 4.8 inches versus the previous Fit, imbuing the subcompact with more rear seat legroom than the larger Civic and Accord. Combine that with a more upright seating position, and you'll find the rear bench is extremely spacious, not a penalty box like other subcompacts. Regardless of cloth or leather upholstery, the seats are decently comfortable, and even though front legroom has grown by a tenth of an inch, the seats seem to be closer to the floor than before. That's not something your five-foot, seven-inch author really noticed, but taller passengers weren't pleased during our test drive.
Honda's executives proudly note that the car's packaging is its "single-greatest competitive advantage."
That nifty rear Magic Seat is still the star of the show, able to be reconfigured many ways, all totaling a massive 52.7 cubic feet of storage space with the seats down. Oddly, that's 4.6 fewer cubes than before, but the Fit's cargo area is still far more capacious than anything else in the class. For comparison's sake, a Ford Fiesta hatchback can only muster 25.4 cubic feet, less than half the Honda's total. In fact, that's more cargo space than the much larger Hyundai Elantra GT yields, 51 cubes. Said another way, flip the seats up, fold them down, whatever – you won't even notice the loss of space versus the outgoing model. And considering you can lay the front seats nearly flat to accommodate longer items, it's still possible to, well, fit nearly anything you want inside this Honda. We recently heard a rival automaker's PR person describe the Fit as "the Sistine Chapel of packaging." Indeed.
Clever packaging and a spacious, airy interior will be the Fit's biggest selling points as it strives to have more mass-market appeal. Elsewhere, the powertrain has been updated with Honda's new Earth Dreams technology and two new transmissions that result in better economy and overall driving refinement. But with those improvements, this new Fit unfortunately loses some of its spunkiness.
A 1.5-liter Earth Dreams inline four-cylinder engine is nestled under that short hood, with 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque available, peaking at 6,600 rpm and 4,600 rpm, respectively – improvements of 13 hp and 8 lb-ft compared to the outgoing 1.5-liter engine. The Fit hasn't gained much weight in its overhaul, the base car tipping the scales at just 2,513 pounds (up from 2,496). Loaded to the gills, the top-spec Fit EX-L Navi comes in at a respectable 2,628 pounds.
The new, direct-injected powertrain means the 2015 Fit is quite a bit more fuel-efficient than before. With the continuously variable transmission, base models are estimated to achieve 33 miles per gallon in the city and 41 on the highway – large increases of 6 mpg city and 8 mpg highway versus the outgoing five-speed automatic-equipped car. For folks who like to row their own, a six-speed manual transmission is still available in LX and EX models, and fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg city and 37 mpg highway – gains of 2 and 4 mpg – over the old five-speed stick.
This new Fit unfortunately loses some of its spunkiness.
Now, don't freak out over the use of a CVT here – it's not a bad transmission, and Honda offers paddle shifters on so-equipped Fits with seven built-in "shift points." This unit is essentially the same CVT from the 2014 Civic – a more compact version of the transmission used in the Accord. We used the paddles briefly on our drive around San Diego, CA, but found that you're generally better off just leaving the transmission alone. It's one of the more nicely behaved continuously variable units out there.
Like the outgoing Fit, the new 1.5-liter engine is pretty gutless in the low end of its powerband, and you'll really be digging into the throttle under acceleration, especially uphill. With either transmission, that sort of order is met with an audibly buzzy engine soundtrack – in fact, despite Honda's efforts to quiet the cabin, the Fit feels louder in terms of powertrain, road and wind noise than many competitors. The benefit of the CVT's wide ratio spread, though, is that when you're cruising, the engine settles into lower revs. The manual, on the other hand, holds 'em high at cruising speeds – sixth gear uses the same ratio as fifth gear in the old car, and on the highway at 80 miles per hour, you're revving at some 4,000 rpm. And it doesn't sound great. That said, Honda's manual transmissions have always been nice to use, and that doesn't change here with the new six-speed unit – the clutch pedal is nicely weighted and the gearbox itself offers crisp action. Good stuff, despite the audible highway drone.
We'd be remiss not to point out that the Fit's newfound composure has come at the expense some of the car's great-to-drive pleasantries.
Honda admits that current Fit customers have complained about the car not being terribly pleasant to drive over long distances at highway speeds, and the new model does a lot to solve those problems. The suspension is more compliant for highway cruising than before, offering a more comfortable ride. While that's all well and good for the majority of Fit owners, we'd be remiss not to point out that this newfound composure has come at the expense some of the car's great-to-drive pleasantries on more interesting roads. Gone is the rear stabilizer bar from previous Fit Sport models, and the torsion-beam rear suspension loads weight oddly when cornering. Braking feel and power are fine, but the long and short of it is that this car doesn't instill as much driver confidence on winding roads, with noticeable understeer and a rear end that just doesn't feel as planted as in the previous model.
On top of that, the newly electric power steering isn't as nice to use as the rack from the outgoing Fit. The ratio has been increased from 12.7 to 13.1 in the new car, with turn-in that lacks crispness and an overall level of feedback that isn't as rewarding as before. That's a bummer, especially since Honda – and particularly, the Fit – has long been known for excellent steering feel. But all is not lost – it's still near the front of the class. The toughest competition for the Fit in terms of driving dynamics is arguably the refreshed Ford Fiesta, with its dual-clutch transmission, nicely weighted steering and more engaging chassis tuning. Classmates like the Chevy Sonic, Nissan Versa Note and Toyota Yaris still lag somewhat behind in this regard. Even so, good as the last Fit was, the Mazda2 still felt more involving from the seat of our pants. But the old Fit's versatility, economy and interior refinement still made it a better daily choice than the entertainment-above-all Mazda.
The driving dynamics are still better than the majority of the Fit's competitive set.
This sounds like a long list of disappointments, but really, that isn't so. Sure, the 2015 Fit's less-involving driving dynamics are a step back from the outgoing car, but it's still better than the majority of its competitive set. It isn't the far-and-away-better, great-to-manhandle hatch that it used to be, but for daily use, we don't think the overwhelming majority of consumers will mind – most probably won't even notice. We even spoke to a couple of current Fit owners, who said they'd be willing to sacrifice some of that sharp handling for something that's a bit more at ease on imperfect pavement. So it goes.
It all comes back to the Fit needing to have more appeal to a greater range of buyers than before. After all, this hatch is Honda's fourth-best-selling model in the United States, behind the successful Accord, Civic and CR-V. And don't forget: the Fit's chassis will also underpin the upcoming small crossover (known as Vezel elsewhere, and rumored to be called HR-V when it lands here), meaning its basic architecture will have to accommodate a broader variety of priorities.
Pricing is still competitive, with the base Fit LX 6MT slotting at $15,525, not including $790 for destination – an increase of $100 compared to the outgoing model. From there, the volume-leading EX starts at $17,435, EX-L models command $19,800, and the top-notch EX-L Navi reaches to $20,800. The current top-shelf Fit Sport Navi starts at $19,790, and considering the new model adds things like leather, better tech, a sunroof and more, the extra coin seems absolutely worth it to us. For comparison, a comparably equipped Fiesta Titanium hatch comes in at $21,285, not including destination.
In a class where cars have to be everything to everyone, you could certainly do a lot worse than this capacious little Honda.
So, is the Fit still our subcompact hero? Yes and no. For us, that wishy-washy answer all comes down to it being less engaging from a driver's perspective. But its gains in interior refinement, onboard tech and the ever-excellent functionality and packaging go a long way toward making up for its less tossable and communicative nature. It may no longer be the clear driver's choice, but in a class where cars have to be everything to everyone, you could certainly do a lot worse than this capacious little Honda.
New Car Test Drive
All-new version is a home run.
If there's one single area where Honda shows the rest of the industry how it should be done, it's packaging, and the Fit is Honda's packaging poster child. Introduced for the 2001 model year, the Fit is regularly compared to the tents from the Harry Potter movies, tiny on the outside, impossibly roomy within.
The 2015 Honda Fit is nominally the third generation, but really the first total makeover of Honda's smallest U.S. vehicle. And as makeovers go, this goes further than most: new unibody, new interior, new engine, new transmissions, new styling, safety upgrades, improved fuel economy ratings. Essentially there is no carry over from the previous Fit.
Like previous generations, and like its entire competitive class, the latest Fit is a front-drive subcompact. Unlike some competitors, it's offered only as a five-door hatchback.
The 2015 Fit wheelbase has been stretched, from the previous 98.4 to the current 99.6 inches, but overall length has actually diminished, from 161.6 to 160 inches. Width expands slightly, from 66.7 to 67 inches, and height is unchanged at 60 inches. While there has been some reapportioning of interior volume, the overall impression is unchanged: how did they pack this much space into such diminutive exterior dimensions? Particularly in the rear seat area. Once again, Honda seems to be defying physical laws.
Structurally, the new car benefits from expanded use of high-strength steel, reducing chassis weight and increasing its rigidity. Torsional rigidity is up by 15 percent, according to Honda, and shows to advantage in the Fit's eager handling traits.
Overall, the new car has gained a bit at the scales, less than 20 pounds when comparing base model to base model, a little more in others. This is due largely to added standard feature content and noise reduction measures. But the slight weight gain, which varies depending on trim level, is offset by a substantial increase in engine output.
The displacement of the Fit's four-cylinder engine is unchanged at 1.5 liters, but this is a new DOHC 1.5-liter, with Honda's iVTEC variable valve timing and lift system, direct fuel injection, more power, and improved fuel economy numbers. The Fit's previous 1.5 was a single overhead cam design with port injection, rated 117 horsepower at 6600 rpm and 106 pound-feet of torque at 4800, and was EPA rated for 27/33 mpg City/Highway when paired with the then-standard 5-speed manual transmission.
The new engine produces 130 hp at 6600 rpm, 114 lb-ft at 4600, and is EPA rated for 29/37 mpg paired with the new 6-speed manual. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) replaces the previous 5-speed automatic, and is the only automatic option offered with the new car. In most trim levels the CVT-equipped Fit is rated 32/38 mpg, though in the basic LX it cracks the magic 40-mpg frontier at 33/41.
Like many contemporary CVTs, the Fit's new automatic is programmed for simulated steps controlled by paddles shifters, to mimic the up- and downshifts of a conventional automatic. This mitigates the occasional slipping clutch effect that still plagues CVTs, but the new manual gearbox is distinctly more entertaining to employ.
Previous Fits have never been much of a threat in auto beauty contests, but the latest edition looks a little less utilitarian and a little more like a small scale street fighter.
Then there's that amazingly spacious interior. The change will be instantly apparent to anyone who climbs into the back seat, where the design team has exploited the wheelbase stretch to increase rear seat legroom by a mind-boggling 4.8 inches. Previous Fits stood out for exceptionally voluminous rear seat space, as measured against other subcompacts and compacts. With 39.3 inches of rear legroom, the new Fit is roomier than a good many mid-size sedans.
The Honda Fit had some catching up to do in terms of safety ratings, and this appears to have taken place. An early-production 2015 Honda Fit was originally tested in March 2014 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and earned a Good rating in four out of five IIHS crash test modes but a Marginal score in the challenging small overlap frontal crash test. Honda made a running change to the bumper structure, the Fit was re-tested and earned an Acceptable score in the small overlap frontal crash test, which earned a top rating of Good from the IIHS. Early-production 2015 Fit models without the change can be retrofitted with the update. Honda says no vehicle in its class has received a higher rating from the IIHS than the Fit, which has been named a Top Safety Pick by the insurance industry organization.
The 2015 Honda Fit comes in a choice of trim levels and offers a choice between 6-speed manual and continuously variable transmissions. All are powered by a 130-horsepower 1.5-liter engine.
Fit LX is available with 6-speed manual ($15,525) or CVT ($16,325) and comes standard with fabric upholstery, air conditioning, 160-watt four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio, 5-inch LCD center screen, Bluetooth link with streaming audio, USB audio interface, MP3 jack, MP3/Windows Media audio playback capability, Radio Data System, speed-sensitive volume control, tilt-telescope steering column, cruise control, back-lit steering wheel controls (cruise, audio, phone), map lights, two 12-volt power outlets, rear view camera, keyless remote entry, auto on-off halogen headlamps, LED brake lights, body-colored power side mirrors, 15-inch wheels and tires.
Fit EX ($17,435) upgrades with 180-watt six-speaker audio, 7-inch touch-screen, Honda-Link telematics, Pandora compatibility, display audio interface, power moonroof, smart entry system, Honda lane-watch, SMS text messaging, push-button start, HDMI port, cargo area tie-downs, 16-inch wheels; buyers choose between the 6-speed manual and CVT.
Fit EX-L ($19,800) upgrades to leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and comes standard with the CVT, body-colored heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
Fit EX-L Navi ($20,800) adds satellite navigation with voice recognition, real time traffic info, 7-inch touch screen, HD radio, satellite radio; CVT is standard.
Although it's actually slightly smaller than the previous model, the 2015 Fit looks more substantial, due in part to its slightly longer wheelbase and in larger part to a higher beltline. That beltline is accentuated by a strong crease rising from the front wheel wells to the top of the rear fender, and a hint of fender flare suggests a little more muscularity, particularly with the 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels that go with the EX and EX-L trim levels. A small spoiler set above the rear hatch lends a sporty touch.
The front end doesn't look vastly different, although it's been completely resculpted, with headlamp lenses stretched horizontally and covering halogen lights. And the longer wheelbase and diminished overall length conspire to reduce front overhang, and that, plus the sleek, wedgy profile, also contributes to a sporty persona.
The 2015 Honda Fit benefits from upgraded materials, soft touch surfaces, and enhanced telematics. Controls and instruments are typical of Honda, attractive, simple, and intuitive. No need to dig out the owner's manual to figure out how to change radio stations.
The biggest news inside for 2015 is the adult-size second-row seating, big-adult size seating. Here's a five-passenger subcompact that's actually capable of accommodating five passengers and is very comfortable for four. Honda achieved this in part by a redesign of the fuel tank, which rides amidships, beneath the floor. The new tank looks like a misshapen potato, but helped the design team gain space.
The designers also reapportioned interior volume, paring a little from the rear cargo area, which shrinks by 4.0 cubic feet to 16.6, and devoting it to the second row passengers. If that sounds a bit severe in terms of diminished capacity, note that 16.6 cubic feet is bigger than a good many mid-size sedan trunks, and that the Fit's passenger volume and total cargo volume are best in class. Exploiting that 53 cubic feet of total cargo volume is easily achieved by pulling one lever, whereupon the rear seatbacks fold down to create a flat load floor, replete with cargo tie-downs in higher trim levels.
Although we continue to prefer sedans in this country, hatchbacks are far more versatile, and in this class the Fit is the versatility champ.
Honda Fit's all-around usefulness, wedgy good looks, and fuel economy are at or near the top of the subcompact charts, but its most compelling attribute is its athletic soul. The previous generation was best-in-class in terms of quick responses, and the new Fit raises the agility index. It's quick on its feet, handling rapid transitions without a hint of hesitation, keeping body roll to a minimum by the standards of this class.
The new electric power rack-and-pinion steering system could be better in terms of tactile information, but it's sports car quick at 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, and accurate once the driver has logged some seat time on a winding back road. We experienced a fair amount of this on mountain highways east of San Diego during the Fit's press preview program, and emerged with a very positive impression of this car's dynamic credentials, including ride quality and its disc/drum braking system.
We were also impressed by the performance of the new 1.5-liter engine. A gain of 13 horsepower (versus the previous 1.5-liter) may not sound like much, but it represents an 11-percent increase, and adds tangible urgency to the Fit's green light getaways, as well as its passing power on two-lane highways.
As noted, the Fit's new (and only) automatic option is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Honda continues to improve the operation of this transmission type, reducing those occasions when the engine and gearbox seem to be out of sync, although the phenomenon persists when the driver tramps hard on the throttle from a stop or at low speeds. Using the CVT's paddle shifters activates steps in the system's program, simulating actual shifts, and the Fit's best EPA fuel economy numbers are achieved with this transmission.
However, for drivers who really enjoy driving, the new 6-speed manual is the way to go. It replaces the previous 5-speed, and is typical of Honda manuals: short throws, crisp engagements, enhancing the sense of partnership between driver and machine.
Two caveats to the foregoing. One, Honda limits the manual transmission to the Fit's lower trim levels, LX and EX, which means if you want to shift for yourself you won't be sitting on leather and you can't have a navigation system.
Two, while the availability of six speeds allows the driver to keep the engine in its powerband sweet spot, for some reason Honda chose not to change the final drive ratio. In other words, in sixth gear the new Fit is turning the same rpm as the previous Fit in fifth. As a result, the engine is pulling a lot of rpm at freeway cruising speeds, well over 3000 at 70 mph.
The interior of the new Fit is quieter than its predecessor, but even so 3600 rpm at 75 mph gets a little buzzy.
On the other hand, we achieved over 40 mpg with the 6-speed manual during our driving, and would readily trade the leather and navigation options for the engagement that goes with the manual transmission. Garmin anyone?.
As more and more luxury options trickle down to the small car sector, subcompacts become more and more plausible as all-around transportation, rather than cheap-as-possible commutermobiles. The new Honda Fit is an outstanding example of this phenomenon, eminently affordable, inexpensive to operate, well equipped, amazingly roomy, versatile, and exceptionally fun to drive. The new Fit takes up where its predecessor left off, at the head of the subcompact pack.
Tony Swan filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of Honda Fit models in the mountains east of San Diego.
Honda Fit LX ($15,525), LX CVT ($16,325); EX 6M or CVT ($17,435); EX-L CVT ($19,800); EX-L Navi CVT ($20,800).
Options As Tested
Honda Fit EX ($17,435).
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