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Fit-ness: Honda's Subcompact Hatchback Is a Picnic Basket of Potential PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Maynard | Creative Syndicate   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 20:24

Photo Credit Creative Syndicate

The Honda Fit is now sold in four trim levels, with pricing that ranges from $16,315 to $21,590.

Honda put its 2015 Fit through a major re-engineering with new engines and transmissions, chassis and some needed refinement and comfort. And along its threeyear gestation it, likely, put the engineers through a few fits in making this subcompact hatchback a little more roomy and efficient.

The engineers concentrated on three main areas: packaging, fuel economy and driving performance. And most Fit owners will tell you the old model needed three improvements: better fuel economy, more power and better seats.

The Fit fandom will get all those and more. The 2015 Fit just went on sale last week, so cars on dealer lots could be limited.

The new body is just millimeters larger than before, but it is the engineers' packaging of the interior that carved out incremental elbow room, 2 inches more front shoulder room and another 4.8 inches of rear legroom to make this a more people-friendly subcompact.

The 2015 model also debuts Honda's new Earth Dreams direct-injection, 1.5-liter fourcylinder with 130-horsepower and 144 foot-pounds of torque at 4,600 rpm. And there are new transmissions, a six-speed manual and continuously variable automatic, which replace five-speed versions.

Instead of just two trim levels, there are now four choices and price steps. Starting prices range from $16,315 with six-speed manual transmission to $21,590 for the loaded EX-L with navigation, leather and continuously variable automatic transmission. Pricing includes the $790 freight charge from the new factory in Celaya, Mexico.

This is a scrappy subcompact segment with seven hatchback contenders, including the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic and Nissan Versa Note. The main purchase motivation is getting the most bread for the least dough.

The base 2015 Fit is about $100 more than before but with $1,000 in new standard equipment, Honda says. Some of those extras are a rearview camera, height-adjustable driver's seat, front armrest console with storage, map lights, soft-touch dash pad and a three-blink signal to pass. These add to the existing list that includes cruise control, remote locking, power windows-mirrors-locks, air conditioning and two 12-volt plugs and USB port.

The new midrange EX includes Honda's very helpful LaneWatch camera in the right side mirror that activates when the turn signal is used. It gives a clear view of the bike lane -- and the lane cheaters. Also included are smart-key locking and push-button ignition, 16- inch alloy wheels, fog lights and floor mats.

The EX also allows iPhone users to integrate Apple's Siri Eyes Free mode. Siri connects with your (late model) iPhone and can be used through the car's voice command system. She will send simple text messages and e-mails, read incoming texts and emails, set up calendar entries, check the weather, sports scores and stocks or give turn-by-turn navigation. And the system is easily updated.

The top-line EX-L Navi, today's test car, adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, turn-signal mirrors, navigation with traffic routing and a moonroof.

While all models have the same engine and transmission choices, it is the entry LX model with CVT ($17,115) that gets the top mileage rating of 33 mpg city, 41 highway and 36 mpg combined, on the recommended 87 octane. That's 4 mpg better than the LX with six-speed manual and just slightly diminished from the midrange EX at 32/38/35 mpg. The LX is a bit more aerodynamically sleeker because of underbody panels that aren't added to the EX, which is 60 to 129 pounds heavier with its added features.

The 1.5-liter is the same size as before, but it gets the secret sauce of direct-injection, double overhead camshafts, i-VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) and the added electronic sophistication of Variable Timing Control.

For users, that means 13 more horsepower at the same 6,600 rpm as before and eight more foot-pounds of torque at a lower 4,600 rpm. While those numbers don't translate to tirechirping power, the engine has some high-revving kick that was harder to reach before.

The manual has easy shifting action and a light clutch. The CVT is pedestrian in performance -- even with its paddle shifters. It minimizes most of the "motorboating" effect as the small engine catches up with the power demand. It's a workable package under most conditions, but in hilly conditions the engine moans loudly and the transmission struggles to hold a constant speed.

In mileage-conscious driving, the performance is geared to sip fuel. But the engine and either transmission hit a sweet spot at about 4,000 to 5,000 rpm and just scream to go have fun.

The front-wheel drive layout and suspension will support athletic driving, though the Fit won't be the king of the autocross. Front disc brakes and rear drums have the stopping grip and refinement of four-wheel discs.

The Fit's more impressive performance may be in its flip and fold functions. There are 16.6 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row (more than most big sedans) and 52.7 cubic feet with the back seat folded. There's length to carry a nine-foot surfboard with the front passenger seat reclined and still room for a couple of short boards. And the space is wide and flat, so it will work for a bicycle, dog crates, camping or helping friends move.

The driver area is better organized for a quick read of essentials. The seats have more support without excessive side bolstering. Sightlines are OK, but complicated over the front fenders by the long, forked windshield pillars. The cab-forward structure also creates a large dashboard area -- but a conventionally angled windshield would make it look like a boring station wagon.

The raised second row is fairly comfortable and the seatback reclines, which may be necessary for tall occupants to have enough headroom. Back seat legroom is notable at 39.3 inches, if the front seat is pushed forward. Large door openings ease entry to the back seat.

Much attention was given to soundproofing throughout the body structure, though there's still cabin noise at Interstate speeds. But the doors don't sound hollow when slammed shut.

The Fit is a picnic basket of nifty stuff. Just look at what Honda put into it and what you can get out of it.

Mark Maynard is online at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 20:39