What changes make it different?
Almost everything. Redesigned for the first time since model-year 2009, this subcompact hatchback gets sleeker styling, more power, better fuel economy, and additional features. It retains its mini-wagon profile and the aptly named “Magic Seat,” the flip-folding rear bench that has contributed to a blend of passenger room and cargo versatility unparalleled in this class. It’s just as much fun to drive as before, and gains exactly what it needed – a dose of refinement.
Why should I wait for the 16 Fit?
You shouldn’t, not if you need a brilliantly packaged economy car leagues ahead of anything in its competitive set. Being all-new for ’15 means substantive changes to the ’16 model are highly unlikely.
Should I buy a 2015 Fit instead?
Yes. You’ll tap into its charms sooner. You’ll avoid the almost inevitable model-year price inflation. And the difference in resale value down the road will be negligible.
Is the styling different?
Yes, it’s less toylike. While key competitors come in sedan and hatchback body styles, this car return as a hatchback only. There technically was no 2014 Fit, other than the limited-distribution pure-electric EV version. But compared to the 2009-2013 generation, the new car is slightly wider and has a aggressive new grille and a more sculpted front fascia. A strong character line gives greater definition to the body sides And LED taillamps and full-width brightwork highlight a more substantial-looking rear end. Retained are a stubby nose and tall roof in deference to the car’s small-on-the-outside, big-on-the-inside creed.
Indeed, the ‘15 is as tall as before but 1.6 inches shorter bumper to bumper, trimming it to roughly the length of rivals like the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta hatchbacks. Its wheelbase, however, grows 1.2 inches, giving it one of the longer such spans in the class. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and critical to interior space. Sure enough, rear leg room increases a remarkable 4.8 inches. enhancing what already was the most commodious back seat in the subcompact class.
Some of that passenger-pleasing expansion comes at the expense of cargo volume: it’s down by 4.6 cubic feet. Still, at 52.7 cubic feet, this remains among the most luggage-friendly cars in the segment. Sonic and Fiesta max out below 48 cubic feet, for example, with only the near-compact-class Kia Soul topping this Honda, with 61.3 cubic feet.
Fit’s celebrated space-proficiency owes much to that wily rear seat, which can fold virtually even with the unusually low load floor or flip to create a transverse channel behind the front seats big enough to stand a large-screen TV. The Magic Seat is again standard in a cabin updated with a more contemporary new dashboard that better integrates the central audio/navigation screen.
The 2015 lineup consists of four grades: the base version is now called the LX, the dressier midrange model is the EX, replacing the Sport edition; and topping the line is the EX-L and the EX-L equipped with a navigation system.
External differentiation is subtle. All have LED brake lights and body-colored mirrors, though EX-L mirrors incorporate turn-signal indicators. EX and EX-Ls also have standard fog lamps and 16-inch wheels versus 15 inchers with wheel covers on the LX.
Any mechanical changes?
Most everything is new from the ground up, including a new body-chassis structure that’s lighter yet more rigid. A few rivals offer more than one engine (some are even turbocharged), but this Honda again relies on one naturally aspirated four-cylinder of 1.5 liters. This is a new, more modern engine, however. It has a dual- instead of single-overhead camshaft design and the efficiency advantages of direct fuel injection. Horsepower is 128, up from 117. Torque – the true muscle behind acceleration – increases to 114 pound-feet, from 106. Both now peak at lower rpm, and Honda says the new engine is lighter, too.
A manual transmission returns as standard on LX and EX models. But Fit joins the class leaders with a six-speed stick instead of a five-speed. And replacing a five-speed automatic transmission is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s optional on LX and EX and standard on both EX-Ls.
Increasingly popular in the compact- and midsize classes, but relatively rare in this subcompact set, CVTs perform the duty of conventional automatics but deliver power like a rheostat instead of through stepped gear ratios. The idea is to optimize engine speed for acceleration and gas mileage. As with the previous automatic-transmission Sport versions, EX and EX-Ls with the CVT get steering-wheel paddle shifters that enhance response by imitating manual-type gear control.
There is no hybrid version, but Honda’s plans could include one. It’s discontinuing the dedicated-hybrid Insight subcompact four-door hatchback and reportedly is considering offering a gas version of the sleek but slow CR-Z two-door hybrid. It also will follow up the pure-electric version of the previous-generation Fit with one on the new platform, probably as a 2017 model. It could also be a limited-production model like its predecessor, and offered on lease to meet emissions requirements in California, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
Pure speed has never been this car’s strong suit, but the latest increases in power and torque elevate acceleration from near the back of the class to at least the middle, especially with the manual transmission. And while it’s usefully faster, the dynamic hallmark remains sporty handling. Nothing else in this price range feels so precise or composed. Credit the new structure as well as astute suspension tuning that delivers the additional compliance over bumps and sharp ridges this car needed. But the most satisfying advance is greater isolation from wind and tire noise and mechanical vibration. What once was best considered a city and suburban runabout is finally a conveyance for long drives at highway speeds.
The automaker expects the stiffer new structure to also help Fit earn top safety ratings in federal crash tests and in the more rigorous trials conducted by the underwriter-industry-sponsored Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Neither body had tested the redesigned model at the time of this review. The outgoing Fit earned four of a maximum five stars in government crash tests and was not among the IIHS top safety picks.
Does fuel economy improve?
Yes, across the board. EPA ratings are 29/37/32 mpg city/highway/combined with the manual transmission and 33/41/36 mpg with the CVT. By way of comparison, the top rating with the previous five-speed automatic transmission was 28/35/31 mpg and 27/33/29 with the five-speed manual.
The new car’s 36-mpg figure ranks among the highest combined ratings in the class, beating direct rivals such as the Soul, Sonic, Nissan Versa Note, and Hyundai Accent. For a non-hybrid with higher combined ratings you have to look to three-cylinder competitors such as the smaller Scion iQ and Mitsubishi Mirage or the new three-cylinder version of the Fiesta.
Does it have new features?
Yes, including a slew of first-time ones, such as a moonroof, heated front seats, a rearview backup camera, and the carmaker’s innovative – and surprisingly effective — LaneWatch blind-spot display.
All models come standard with Bluetooth phone linking and audio streaming; this previously was exclusive to the top-line Sport with Navigation model. Also making its debut – and standard on every version — is a rearview camera; it displays on a dashboard screen.
LaneWatch is standard on all but the LX and employs a real-time video-camera system mounted at bottom of the passenger mirror. Activated by the turn signal or a manual control at the tip of the turn-signal stalk, it provides an enhanced view of the passenger-side roadway.
Remote entry with pushbutton ignition makes its debut as standard on EX and above, as do heated side mirrors, an EX-L exclusive. The LX has a 5-inch color dashboard LCD screen used primarily to display audio settings EX and above get a 7-inch touchscreen interface with the HondaLink system of enhanced smartphone connectivity, plus Pandora compatibility and SMS text messaging.
The previous Fit was among the first in its class with a navigation system. Still a relative rarity among low-priced subcompacts, navigation returns as the defining feature of the EX-L flagship. However, custom smartphone apps are available that essentially turn the dashboard screen of lesser trim levels into a GPS navigation display with most of the factory system’s functions.
Continuing is a nice selection of standard features that includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, tilt/telescope steering column, antitheft system, and power locks and windows. All models come with a USB iPod interface; EX and above get two USB ports, plus an HDMI port.
The automaker hews to tradition by not offering individual factory options. So you’ll need to step up to an EX model to get a such perks as factory floor mats, cargo-area tie-down anchors, and six instead of four audio speakers. And to take advantage of this car’s first use of leather upholstery and heated front seats, you’ll need to spring for an EX-L.
As for the Magic Seat, the 60/40 split/folding rear bench can collapse nearly flush with rear floor for maximum cargo volume. Additionally, its cushion can hinge rearward to create a full-width channel behind the front seats. And the front passenger seatback can tip rearward to accommodate long objects like skis.
Beyond coming abreast of class leaders for standard and available convenience and connectivity features, the redesign erases another demerit with enhanced cabin decor. Soft touch and premium materials replace many of the previous generations’ budget-grade, hard plastic surfaces. And that bolsters the overall impression of refinement.
How are 2015 prices different?
With no 2014 model to compare, it’s laudable that prices increase only modestly over the 2013 version. Base prices here include the manufacturer’s destination fee, in this case, $790. The 2015 base-price range is $16,315-$21,590; the 2013 span was $16,115-$20,480
With manual transmission, the LX is priced at $16,315 and the EX at $18,225. With the CVT, the LX is priced at $17,115, the EX-L at $19,025, the EX-L at $20,590, and the EX-L with navigation at $21,590.
When does it come out?
Spring 2014. The first-generation of this car launched in Japan in 2001 and came to the U.S. for model-year 2007. It was redesigned for 2009. The 2015 version for the U.S.-market is the first to be manufactured in North America, at a new Honda plant in Mexico.
What’s a cool feature?
Owners of EX and EX-Ls can order a $59.99 app through the iTunes store and essentially duplicate many of the functions and graphics of the navigation system in the EX-L with navigation model — at far less cost. Enabled by this next-generation HondaLink telematics, the cloud-based app includes 3D mapping and continuously updated traffic information. It offers location search by point of interest, text, or previous locations. Routes can be pre-planned on a smartphone and be displayed on the 7-inch dashboard touchscreen. Turn-by-turn routing guidance is available through the audio system as well. The connection between the system and the user’s smartphone is made through the USB or HDMI interface. For iPhone 5, 5S and 5C, a HondaLink iOS cable kit is available for purchase through Honda dealers or online. The iOS cable kit includes an Apple Lightning digital AV adapter, an Apple Lightning-to-USB cable and an Apple-approved HDMI cable.