Redesigned 2015 Honda Fit, how much is it? New clever packaging.

Small car grows up a bit with new features and more safety

Published: April 09, 2014 05:00 AM

If "Star Trek"’s Mr. Spock needed to buy a car, it would logically be a Honda Fit. Economical, reliable, inexpensive, and cleverly designed, the Fit has always done a lot right. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for a little bit of growth or a touch of added refinement. Based on our time behind the wheel, the third-generation Fit matures the successful concept.

The basics remain the same. To use another science-fiction analogy, like "Doctor Who"’s Tardis time machine, the Fit seems larger on the inside than it is on the outside. Stacking the gas tank under the floor beneath the front seats allows for a super tall cargo area. Fold the rear seats down and two bicycles can stand up inside. Lifting the rear seat bottom cushions opens up a lot of cargo area immediately behind the rear seats—great for carrying shopping bags or a cooler.

But it’s not just stuff that fits in a Fit. Somehow another inch of wheelbase grew into nearly five more inches atop the already generous rear seat leg room, making the Fit’s backseat especially accommodating for two adults. Front seat passengers weren’t forgotten, either. There’s somewhat more left foot room for the driver, a perennial Fit sore point, although we wish the telescope steering wheel pulled out further.

Honda claims that the new Fit scores a Good in the difficult Insurance Institute for Highway Safety small offset crash test—that would be a big improvement from the Poor showing of the previous version.

While the Fit was always economical, progress had left it behind in the fuel economy wars. Some much-larger sedans, including the thrifty Honda Accord, could match the tiny Fit’s fuel economy. Honda worked to fix that with a totally new powerplant. Although it still displaces 1.5-liters, the new direct-injected four-cylinder now makes 13 more horsepower for a total of 130. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but most buyers will opt for an automatic. Following other recent Hondas, the automatic is now a continuously-variable-transmission, and this one has seven predetermined ratios for manual overrides, if you are so inclined.

This new powerplant improves not only fuel economy—we saw 38 mpg according to the onboard computer in mixed driving—but also performance. There’s no question that this Fit feels more sprightly than before. Previous Fit automatics were particularly sluggish, bordering on underpowered. Of course, formal instrumented fuel economy and performance numbers will wait until we purchase our own test car.

While the added power makes the Fit more enjoyable to drive, the revised steering subtracted some driver feedback. The old Fit felt a bit like a go-kart; the new one feels less engaging and more isolated.

Not all of the Fit’s other previous traits were endearing. Road noise was near-deafening and the ride was choppy. There’s progress on both fronts, but loud engine noise during acceleration with the CVT takes the place of the road noise, fighting for your unwanted attention. Likewise, the ride is better but certainly not plush.

Clearly, the Fit doesn’t drive like a luxury car. But you can now equip it with upscale features that were unimaginable in previous versions. We drove a loaded EX-L press car, rented for a fee from Honda. For the first time, heated leather seats are an option. Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot camera system is standard on high-end models; all Fits have a standard rear camera.

Other high-level features include a push-button ignition and Honda’s touch screen radio with HondaLink smart phone compatibility. We’re impressed by the number of playback options from this audio system, but overall usability is lacking. Likewise, cabin finish is upgraded with a section of padded material on the dashboard, but there’s still plenty of hard plastic.

But maybe the Honda Fit sets us up to expect too much. Once again, it gets a lot right with abundant space in a compact and economical footprint. Better fuel economy, improved ride, and new features just made it more appealing.

Tom Mutchler


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