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Fun, flexible, and compact, the Honda Fit is among my favorite cars. The second generation, in particular, stood out as one of the best cars in its segment. But the B segment has gotten much more crowded over the years and the Fit faces stiffer competition than it did upon introduction.
For 2015, Honda has introduced the totally redesigned third generation Fit. It's got a new look and the next generation of Honda's dashboard tech. The new model also retains much of the flexibility I loved about the earlier models. With a new powertrain, it remains to be seen whether the new Fit will retain the driving character of its predecessors. I hopped behind the wheel of a 2015 Honda Fit EX-L with navigation to find out.
Beneath the 2015 Honda Fit's truncated hood is a 130-hp, 1.5-liter Earth Dreams engine. What is "Earth Dreams," you ask? Well, it's like Mazda's SkyActiv or Nissan's Pure Drive: a vague collection of fuel efficiency technologies and, more specifically, a marketing term.
The four-cylinder engine makes use of the automaker's trademark i-VTEC variable valve timing tech and direct injection to produce a respectable 114 pound-feet of torque. Output isn't overwhelming, but this is a lively little mill that revs happily. There's a suitable amount of power for an efficient, lightweight compact car, where driving quickly becomes a matter of momentum rather than muscle.
That engine is mated, at the entry level, with a standard six-speed manual transmission that sends power to the front wheels. At our EX-L trim level, an optional Sport CVT (continuously variable transmission) becomes the only available transaxle. I'm not a huge fan of CVTs, but the Fit's Sport CVT is not terrible. Around town, the transmission doesn't attract attention to itself, smoothly and smartly selecting ratios to deliver the best blend of torque and efficiency.
However, the CVT features Sport and manual shift programs (with steering wheel paddles) and this is where things get less than ideal. When really pushed, the CVT's manually selected ratio changes have a rubber-bandy feel that lacks immediacy and the automatic Sport program does a lot of hunting for the right ratio, which dulls a bit of the throttle response when, for example, looking to add power on a corner exit. We weren't able to test it, but I've got a feeling that the manual transmission is the better choice for enthusiastic driving.
The engine itself feels (and sounds) zippy and eager enough, and the chassis retains the excellent Honda sport compact dynamics that I've come to expect from previous generations of the Fit. The steering is responsive, despite losing a bit of its communication in the switch to this generation's electric power steering. Even with the CVT, the 2015 Fit feels like a fun little economy front driver.
Our 2015 EX-L with Navigation is a top of the Fit's line, featuring keyless entry and a big red Start button on the right side of the steering wheel. On the other side of the wheel, all Fit models feature a big green ECON button that activates the hatchback's Eco Assist feature, which remaps the throttle curve for better fuel efficiency and illuminates a green backlight in the instrument cluster to let me, the driver, know when I was driving as efficiently as possible.
As equipped, Honda estimates that our 2015 Fit will do 32 miles per gallon in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 35 mpg over a combined cycle. This EX-L with navigation model is also the heaviest example in the lineup; drivers looking for the best fuel efficiency will want to look at the entry level LX trim level with CVT for an estimated 41 mpg on the highway and 36 mpg combined. During my testing, which consisted of about half sporty mountain driving and half freeway cruising in moderate traffic, I averaged 34.6 mpg.
One of the Fit's coolest features has always been its "Magic" rear seat. This 60/40 rear bench has seat-backs that fold flat to accommodate bulky, long items. What makes the seat unique is that its seat bases also flip up and lock into place, opening a massive space, from the flat floor to the ceiling, behind the rear seats that can accommodate taller objects. With rear doors that open wide to give excellent access to this second row space, it becomes remarkably easy to fit things into the Fit.
From the driver's seat, the Fit offers the driver very good visibility with a low dashboard and very thin A pillars. I find it nice to see that automakers are moving away from claustrophobic, high-waisted design. In fact, the Fit's side windows dip downward slightly, putting yet more glass in front of the driver.
Augmenting the excellent forward visibility is a standard rear camera that helps watch your backside. EX and EX-L models also feature dynamic guidelines when reversing that swing with the steering angle to predict the path of the vehicle.
EX and EX-L models also feature Honda's LaneWatch system, a small side camera that hangs off of the bottom of the passenger wing mirror, pointing into the vehicle's "blind spot." When the driver activates with the right turn signal or pushes a button on the turn signal stalk, the dashboard displays a feed of the car's blind spot. This is very handy as an extra check when merging in heavy traffic and for measuring parallel parking spaces with its distance markers.
At the center of the dashboard is the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which is a bit of a mixed bag where usability is concerned. The interface is organized well enough with three distinct modes of interaction: phone, navigation and audio. The driver can quickly toggle between these buttons with a tap of a steering-wheel button. There's also a capacitive "Home" button that brings up an icon-based home screen with shortcuts to the various areas of the interface.
Just to the left of the screen is where you'll find that capacitive Home button, along with a volume slider and a Menu button. The configuration of these buttons can change depending on what you, the driver, are doing. On one hand, this helps consolidate and simplify the dashboard. On the other hand, I'd rather have a simple volume knob; I never got the hang of accurately tapping and swiping to crank up my tunes.
Audio sources for our navigation-equipped model include standard Bluetooth for audio streaming, hands-free calling, and messaging. There's also USB connectivity, CD playback, satellite and HD Radio and an assortment of "next-generation" HondaLink Connect streaming services powered by Aha Radio and the HondaLink Connect app (iPhone only).
The 2015 Honda Fit starts at $15,650 for the base LX model with a manual transmission. Honda takes a trim level approach to the Fit's packaging, rather than individual options, so our top of the line EX-L with Navigation model is fully loaded at $20,925. Add $820 for destination fees and charges to reach our as-tested price of $21,745.
In the Australian and European markets, the Fit is better known as the Honda Jazz and will be configured and packaged similarly to the North American model. However, pricing for these markets is not available at publication time.
These days, the smaller end of the market is now full of strong competitors, so the Honda Fit has its work cut out for it if it wishes to rule the B segment. Ford's Fiesta, for example, is more fun to drive (especially in ST trim). Meanwhile, premium/luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz are starting to press down into the segment with their own small-car offerings.
The 2015 Honda Fit sticks with the formula that made me fall for the previous generations. It's flexible, fun and well-made. In the quest for efficiency, the Fit has lost a bit of its sport edge, but it also presents itself as a more mature city compact. And there are few cars that boast this much big flexibility in so small a package. Whether you're making an Ikea raid or a Costco run, there's not much that you can't fit into the Fit.