2015 Honda Fit: New best subcompact?

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2015 Honda Fit: New best subcompact?

Dan Jedlicka

The 2015 Honda Fit is among the top best cars in the U.S. for less than $20,000.

It looks like Honda has hit another bases-loaded home run with its new 2015 Honda Fit.

The feisty subcompact was love at first sight to many when it arrived for 2007. It was affordable, economical, nicely sized and — importantly — fun to drive. The redesigned 2015 Fit four-door hatchback tops the first and second-generation Fit models and doesn’t cost much more than the 2014 Fit.

List prices for the more refined LX, EX and top-line EX-L models range from $15,525 for the base LX with a new six-speed manual transmission to $19,800 for the better equipped EX-L with a new CVT automatic transmission. Add a navigation system and the EX-L stickers at $20,800.

New, improved interior

Standard items in the more upscale interior include supportive seats, soft-touch materials and stylish blue backlit instrument dials. The dashboard has the usual gauges, but also and easy-to-read digital gas gauge that seems out of place. Climate controls are large, and front seats have good thigh and side support in curves.

Many buyers now want upscale features in small cars. Thus, there’s first-ever Fit heated leather seats in the EX-L. The EX (which starts at $17,435) and EX-L have a standard power moonroof with a tilt feature, push-button start, power windows, cruise control tilt/telescopic wheel and rear-window defroster.

All models have air conditioning, a rearview camera and Bluetooth hands-free link. The LX has a 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with four speakers and a five-inch color LCD screen. The EX and EX-L have a seven-inch touch screen 180-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers.

The 2015 front-drive Fit hatchback has a fresh look and a new, sophisticated 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower (up 11 percent from 20014)) and 114 pound-feet of torque (up 7.5 percent). The Fit only weighs approximately 2,600 pounds, so acceleration is lively. Honda put a curious “Earth Dreams Technology” label on the engine. Huh?

The high-revving, generally smooth engine works with a closer-ratio six-speed manual transmission or the CVT automatic.

Estimated Fit fuel economy sparkles. It ranges from 29 miles per gallon in the city to 37 on highways for the LX with the manual gearbox to 33 city and 41 highway for the LX with the CVT. Only regular grade gasoline is needed, and the fuel tank holds 10.6 gallons.

My test car had the manual transmission. It was a bit notchy, but could be shifted quickly. The soft clutch with a rather long throw took some getting used to. With only a 1.5-liter engine, you need to be in the right gear for the best performance, which soon should be especially second-nature for those familiar with stick shifts.

Acceleration was quick in town and during 65-75 m.p.h. passing, but a downshift from sixth to fourth or third gear was necessary for the fastest passing. Most Fit buyers are expected to be younger folks who order the CVT because they’re not familiar with a manual shift transmission. No matter, the CVT hardly affects performance.

Moreover, I found the Fit won’t protest if you feel lazy and just leave it in fourth or fifth gear in town around 30-35 m.p.h., although third gear is best for fast moves in urban traffic.

Honda says the Fit has “class-leading interior space and versatility” with its center-mounted fuel tank and versatile rear 60/40 split “Magic Seat,” which folds flat or out of the way vertically for cargo. Actually, I found while loading a fair amount of groceries that cargo space is decent for a subcompact with the rear seats in their normal position.

Occupant roominess is a strong feature of the new Fit. This Honda is about 2 inches shorter at 160 inches, but has a 1.6-inch longer (99.6-inch) wheelbase. This helps allow a roomer backseat, or a 4.8-inch increase in rear seat leg room, compared to the previous Honda Fit. There are a good number of cabin storage areas.

Dual front cupholders are set rather low ahead of the console, but Honda thoughtfully has provided the Fit driver with a separate cupholder just to the left of the steering wheel on the dashboard.

The center of the rear seat is too stiff for anything but short trips, but all doors open widely to allow easy entry and exit.

A new body structure and all-new chassis create a more rigid and lighter subcompact platform. Improvements to front and rear suspensions and the steering system enhance driving fun and provide a more settled and stable ride. The electric power-assisted steering is quick.

The interior is quieter, although my test car generated noticeable wind noise on a near-windless day.

Did we say “fun to drive?” Indeed. The Fit, which has a supple ride, possesses nimble handling, helped by vehicle stability assist and traction control systems. The anti-lock brakes have electronic brake distribution and brake assist for surer stops. The brake pedal has a comfortable linear action.

Safety features include the usual front seat air bags and side curtain air bags with a rollover sensor. There’s also a “Honda Lane Watch” for the EX and EX-L.

The hood needs a prop rod to hold it up, instead of a more convenient hydraulic strut, but it’s easy to check the engine oil level and washer fluid container in the neatly designed engine compartment.

The new Honda Fit should stay in style and be competitive for quite some time.

Pros: Edgier stye. Roomier. More power. Better equipped. Upgraded interior. Added fuel economy. Fun to drive.

Cons: Somewhat notchy manual shifter. Downshifts needed for fast highway passing. Some wind noise.

Bottom Line: The redesigned 2015 Honda Fit may be the new best subcompact.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

Article Last Updated: March 5, 2015.

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