With the new Civic coupe and sedan, Honda has finally cottoned on to the importance of the customizing movement. After years of all but ignoring the wellspring of cheap-as-free publicity that reputable tuners can provide, the automaker finally got with the program and distributed advance copies of its newest model to aftermarket tastemakers prior to the vehicle's introduction, ensuring plenty of coverage at shows like SEMA and this week's Tokyo Auto Salon.

Likewise, the company is keen to advance the tipping point on its forthcoming sub-Civic entry, the Fit. And if the Sport example seen here in Honda Factory Performance regalia is any indication, they've got a fighting chance. Modestly updated with attractive gunmetal eight-spoke 16" alloys (wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza RE750 rubber), a bespoke HFP exhaust system and a more aggressive grille the Fit is tastefully sporty, without suffering the heavy-handed aero kits and the St. Louis Arch wings that tend to dog the genre.

[More photos/info after the jump]

 

While the interior won't put budget-minded fashionistas on notice, the Fit reveals a surprising wealth of space, a pleasant consequence of its airy greenhouse, upright bodystyle, and clever packaging. In fact, occupants front and rear will likely find more useable space than in the outgoing Honda Civic Si (EP), a car with which it shares more than a few visual similarities. In fact, there's acceptable room in the back for those above 6', even if drivers are of average build. Interior plastics, fabrics and fit seem a cut above the class, and seating/storage flexibility is outstanding, courtesy Honda's so-called Magic Seat™.  General fit-and-finish seems to outpoint new competitors like Dodge's genre-defying Caliber, and Chevrolet Aveo.

Performance won't completely mimic Honda's outgoing Si, an admittedly 'luke'-hatch. With motivation courtesy a 1.5L four-cylinder, the Fit will trundle about with 109hp/105 lb.-ft. of torque, and be paired with a five-speed 'box for accomplished cogswappers, or a five-speed slushbox for those too busy fiddling with their iPods. The Fit Sport will augment the latter with steering column resident paddle shifters, a first in this segment.

While pricing has yet to be determined, expect base Fits to ring in around $13,000-$14,000 when they hit dealer forecourts this spring as 2007 models.



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