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September 2, 2014 > Auto Review: Honda Fit: Same Recipe; Finer Ingredients

Auto Review: Honda Fit: Same Recipe; Finer Ingredients

By Steve Schaefer

The Honda Fit is brand new for 2015Ñand itÕs about as redone as a car could be in its third generation. On a new platform, the famously capacious subcompact boasts nearly 100 cubic feet of space inside, on a longer wheelbase but with a shorter overall body. ItÕs recognizable as HondaÕs entry vehicle, but is upgraded inside and outside.

IÕve always liked the Fit because of its do-everything, lively personality. ItÕs affordable, has great fuel economy, and can carry four (and possibly five) people in comfort, and holds an upright bass with ease. Although itÕs compact, it feels roomy, as proven on a couple of trips over the weekend of test week.

Since its arrival on these shores in 2006 as a 2007 model, the Fit has garnered a lot of praise from the car buff magazines for being sporty, despite its entry-level mission. I was expecting this new model to feel like the older ones, and it does, but still, thereÕs just a touch less exuberance than before. Perhaps itÕs the electrically-assisted power steering, or the new platform or the more serious interior design. Could it be the sober gray paint? Or perhaps itÕs the CVT continuously variable transmission, which moaned on uphill climbs trying to move the 2,600-pound car.

I started with great anticipation, but was slightly let down at first by the reality of HondaÕs attempt to avoid seeming cheap by over styling their base car. But over my eight-day loan, I warmed more and more to the little car. With mostly freeway travel, it delivered an impressively smooth ride and its firm suspension held things steady without much vibration. The handsome leather seats, the first to appear in a Fit, proved quite supportive. I noticed one day that the substantial, round speedometer directly in front of me boasted the cleanest, most traditional numbers you could ever want.

My tester was cloaked in a gray paint called Modern Steel Metallic that would have looked appropriate on a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan. The black interior flaunts plentiful silver accents, including some angular vents and C-shaped trim pieces scattered across the dash and doors. The body shaping is a preview of HondaÕs new, more expressive design theme, with compound curves and edges and a deep rounded gouge carved along the side. Expect to see some of this on the next Civic. TodayÕs car designs are getting busier, and Honda is no exception.

The 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine, with its 130 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft. of torque, earns nice numbers indeed. The EPA fuel economy figures are 32 City, 38 Highway, and 35 Combined. I averaged 35.9 mpg, which is just about where HondaÕs Insight Hybrid comes in. Very impressive. The Green numbers are a mid-pack 5 for Smog but a nice 8 for Greenhouse Gas.

The Fit has been built in Japan so far, but this new one is made in Mexico, and features an Indonesian transmission. Many vehicles sold in the U.S. are assembled south of the Border, and that has not hurt their widespread popularity, but it does save a lot on shipping costs. My tester still had a $790 Destination and Handling fee.

The total price for my top-level EX-L with Navigation system came to $21,590. That bought the leather and the rest of the stuff you expect in a car these days, from keyless entry to air conditioning to power mirrors and windows and locks. You also get a nice 7-inch touch screen in the dash center that was mostly easy to use. There are no knobs, however, but that is largely mitigated by easy-to-use ÒdonutÓ controls at the thumb positions on the steering wheel. Pick a station, raise or lower the volume, or set the cruise control with just a touch.

The upgraded six-speaker stereo in the EX-L sounded fine, and streamed music through Bluetooth. ThereÕs a USB port, too, down low on the center console, but itÕs not hidden in the glove box or console binÑalways a favorite spot to stash an iPod.

The second-row Magic Seat gives you tall, wide space in mid-car or you can flip the back seats forward for a long, flat cargo floor. The latter setting was perfect for bass carrying.

I never got the Fit out onto the curvy back roads, and I regret that. Dressed as a conservative banker rather than a festive partygoer made my test car seem more sober that it might have been if it had been my Fit, attired in Mystic Yellow Pearl with a manual six-speed. The LX model with manual transmission starts at just $16,315, including shipping. At that price, itÕs a compelling buy. And donÕt forgetÑin Japan, the Fit is known as the Jazz.

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