The Honda Fit is a bit of a mystery in the automotive world. Seeming to offer everything customers could want in a sub-compact hatchback, sales of the Fit have lingered mid-pack over the years.
|Engine: Power comes from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 130 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque. Transmission: Six-speed manual or a CVT automatic. Fuel Economy: 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway for the Fit LX CVT. Price: The Fit begins at $16,315 after destination charges, while a fully loaded EX-L with navigation retails for $21,590.|
With odd styling, no sedan version and a less than ideal supply chain, many factors have contributed to the Fit’s lackluster sales. Hoping to turn things around this year, Honda has completely redesigned the car from the ground up.
For its third generation, Honda has built on the Fit’s key strength of having an incredibly usable interior space for its rather diminutive size. Thanks in part to a wheelbase that grew by 1.2 inches, overall passenger volume increases by 4.9 cubic feet. Rear legroom is up by 4.8 inches, bringing the total to 39.3; a number that rivals many mid-size sedans. To gain the extra space for passengers, cargo room behind the rear seats has diminished by four cubic feet, now totaling 16.6. With the seats folded down, space shrinks as well to 52.7 cubic feet. That’s still a lot of space. For example, it’s slightly more spacious than the Crosstour.
The Beauty of the Magic Seats
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Of course, this impressive cargo capacity has a lot to do with Honda’s “Magic Seats” that have the ability to fold flat into the foot well or up into the seatbacks. Comfort has not been sacrificed for that flexibility and we like the large adjustable headrests. However, headroom is a bit lacking for taller passengers at only 37.5 inches in the second row.
Up front, seat comfort is acceptable and sight lines are great all around. Honda has improved the material quality inside and we like the new optional seven-inch Display Audio (also found on the 2014 Civic) set-up. There are a few items though that still sit on the cheap side like some of the switchgear and the hard plastic door mounted armrests. While on the topic of armrests, we find the center mounted one is too low for taller drivers to use.
Now Less Weird Looking
Despite the Fit’s increased interior volume and longer wheelbase, the new car is actually 1.6-inches shorter than the old model. Styling hasn’t been revolutionized, but updated with a more modern and less obscure look. The new grille and headlights have been grafted into one cohesive design element. Honda upgraded the materials used in both the front and rear lights to give them a more premium look and it worked. At the right angle, the taillights actually have a bit of a Volvo resemblance to them.
But not all of the Fit’s exterior enhancements are strictly for aesthetic appeal. Some have been incorporated to improve the car’s fuel economy through aerodynamics. On the ultra-efficient Fit LX, a front lip spoiler, engine under-cover, center floor cover and shrouds around the rear suspension have all been added.
New Engine, New Transmissions
Under hood, all 2015 Fits feature a new direct injection 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. With a higher 11.5:1 compression ratio, that’s an increase of 13 horsepower and 8 lb-ft of torque compared to the old 1.5-liter engine. That may not sound like much, but the engine is paired to a set of new transmissions designed to get the most out of the four-pot.
Replacing the old five-speed automatic is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is 16 percent lighter. In the most efficient edition of the Fit, the LX, this transmission is good for 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. Step up to the EX or EX-L model and efficiency drops to 32 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway thanks to greater weight and a lack of the LX’s aerodynamic add-ons. Honda chose to not include these aero tweaks on the EX and up models because it would add cost to the Fit and not improve efficiency the same way it does on the lighter model.
Like the CVT featured in the Accord and Civic, the unit in the Fit is unobtrusive and keeps the car at an acceptable rev range in normal driving to balance power and efficiency. Like virtually every modern CVT, the one in the Fit has preset stepped “gears” to simulate the feel and behavior of a regular automatic transmission. We found it worked well enough until climbing small mountain hills, at which point the CVT holds the engine at higher rpms to stay in the optimal power band. The normally sedate engine is unexpectedly loud and unpleasant at this rev range, but does return to normal once the road levels out.
More Power, Same Speed
With more torque, a wider gear range and similar curb weight to the old model, we expected the new Fit to be faster in a straight line. However, with the CVT, it never felt that way. Response and acceleration were similar to the old car and we have a feeling a lot of this has to do the new car being engineered more for efficiency than speed.
If you want a little more fun behind the wheel, the manual transmission option lives on in LX and EX models. New for 2015, the manual now features six-speeds and offers short, crisp throws like any good Honda manual. The clutch pedal feels overly soft, but precise and the car as a whole feels far more responsive with the six-speed. Some of this is due to gearing as even in sixth gear at 70 mph the engine is pulling nearly 3,500 rpms. The down side to the manual’s responsiveness is a worse fuel economy as these cars are only rated at 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
Smooth, Less Twitchy Ride
The biggest improvement Honda made to the Fit though may be in ride quality. With a stronger body structure and longer wheelbase, highway stability is noticeably improved. Even with somewhat skinny 185-mm wide tires, the Fit tracts straight on the highway with minimal corrections. The ride is even tolerable on broken concrete interstates. Even with a longer wheelbase, the Fit’s turning radius has shrunk slightly, but at 34.1 feet, it’s still worse than the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris. This makes city parking a bit of a chore.
The base 2015 Fit LX manual starts at $16,315 after destination charges and includes Bluetooth, hill holding and a rearview camera. The fully loaded EX-L with navigation and the CVT starts at $21,590 and features options like push-button start, a moonroof, leather seats and Honda’s LaneWatch camera.
The added content and improvements Honda made to the Fit may not mean much in the grand scheme of things. A limited supply to North American dealers is – at least in part – to blame for the Fit’s sales rank. But Honda is addressing that issue by moving production to its new plant in Celaya, Mexico. With increased capacity and less shipping costs, consumers should have an easier time getting their hands on a new Fit. And they should because it isn’t just an improvement over the old model, but a front-runner in the subcompact segment.