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Car Review: 2015 Honda Fit EX-L by Carey Russ +VIDEO


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Honda Fit EX-L

The 2015 Honda Fit shows what Honda does best

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

          • SEE ALSO: Honda Buyers Guide


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Honda Fit EX-L

Honda's Fit has been a subcompact hatchback class benchmark since its introduction for model year 2007, and the competition will have an even harder time keeping up as the all-new third generation debuts for 2015. If the new styling is the most apparent change, what's underneath that has evolved as well.

While the wheelbase has grown 1.2 inches, overall length is down by 1.6 inches and width up by only 0.3. Minor? Perhaps -- but that translates to more interior space and easy parking in tight spots. Advances in materials and construction techniques mean less weight and a quieter interior. Direct fuel injection means increased power -- with improved fuel economy. The new model's 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque are a significant improvement over the old one's 117 and 106, respectively. Also benefitting performance and economy, the previous five-speed automatic has been replaced by a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Want manual? It's a six-speed now. And of course the defining and oh-so-useful rear Magic Seat® continues, adding useful versatility.

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2015 Honda Fit EX-L

Small hatchbacks can appeal to people with varying budgets for many reasons, fuel economy, efficient size, and price being the most common. The Fit has always been one of the better-equipped small hatches, with "class above" features and options, and furthers that now with the EX-L premium trim level. It features leather seating and steering wheel rim, a first in a Fit. It also has heated front seats, and an available navigation system bundled with Sirius/XM satellite radio. The EX-L is CVT-only, but the LX and regular EX can be had with the stick. Across the lineup, all important safety and convenience feature are standard, even a backup camera and cruise control. Don't be looking for windup windows…

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Honda Fit EX-L

I've been driving an EX-L with the navigation package for the past week. No, it wasn't as quiet inside as a real luxury car, nor was the comfort level to that standard. But at half the price of what passes as "entry luxury" today, no demerits for that. For a small car in the $15 to $20,000 price range, it's still at the head of the class. With much better fuel economy -- 33 mpg overall with minimal highway driving-- than all but maybe luxury hybrids, maybe, it should be inexpensive to keep fed. A stick would have been more fun, but the CVT worked well enough, especially with Sport mode and virtual-ratio manual shifting when absolute quickest acceleration was needed. The LaneWatch™ camera, mounted on the passenger-side rearview mirror and displaying a view to the side rear "blindspot" area on the central screen, is standard on the EX and EX-L and unavailable on luxury cars unless they're Hondas or Acuras. Actually seeing what's next to your car is far better than just getting a light in the mirror or windshield pillar. And when needing to transport people or packages or whatever, nothing beats the versatility of the Magic Seat.

APPEARANCE: This is the most highly-styled Fit yet. The wheels are near the corners of the car, with short overhangs. The grille and headlights are unmistakably Honda, even without the prominent H in the center of the piano-black grille. Chrome accents the bottom of the grille for an upscale look, and the detailing around the lower intake and foglamps, plus the newly-sculpted sides are much like the previous Sport model's "aero kit" look, but more mature. The-windshield and hood are nearly equal in rake, dispelling any boxiness and decreasing aerodynamic drag for improved fuel economy. At the rear, a visor-type spoiler overhangs the rear window, which is framed by high taillights. Faux "air ducts" in the rear bumper fascia and give a sporty look.

COMFORT: More inside (as in another 4.9 cubic feet of volume and increases in every passenger dimension), less outside, what's not to like? Materials and fit and finish are first-rate, and the dark, textured plastic atop the dash minimizes glare despite the vast expanse of windshield. Bright satin-"aluminum" trim offsets the otherwise dark interior. All models have a tilt-and-telescope adjustable steering wheel with auxiliary controls on the spokes. All also get cushion height adjustment for the drive's seat, ensuring an optimum driving position to improve control and safety. In CVT-equipped cars, the speedometer is flanked by the Eco Assist display -- areas that glow green when the driver is saving fuel, and blue when not, a subtle way to condition drivers to save fuel. All models get a useful trip information display. AM/FM/CD (including MP3 and WMA), Bluetooth® streaming audio, and USB and jack connections are found in all; the EX-L With Navigation gets HD and Sirius/XM radio as well. So even the LX has more than the basics. The rear seat is what distinguished the Fit from the competition. Not only is there an additional 4.8 inches (!) of legroom, it's the Magic Seat. When in the normal position, there is storage space underneath. Need to fit something large in through the hatch? It's split 60/40 for seatback folding. And also to leave the seatback in place and flip the cushion(s) up to put tall things sideways in the rear seat area. There is a space-saver spare tire under the rear cargo floor.




SAFETY: The 2015 Fit was designed and built for the highest safety levels, starting with its Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ unibody structure. Dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags, SmartVent® front side airbags, and side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor add more passive passenger protection. Active safety starts with good handling characteristics, augmented by the Vehicle Stability Assist™ system, traction control, and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A lighter, more rigid unibody structure provides a solid foundation for a redesigned suspension. It's still the class-standard independent MacPherson struts in front and torsion beam axle in the rear. The front geometry, dampers, and bushings have been revised to improve agility, stability and comfort, with similar changes at the rear. The electrically-assisted power steering system is now "motion-adaptive", working with the VSA stability system to help the driver steer correctly in surprise situations. The result is a car that is fun to drive, and has good road feel through the steering. Ventilated discs in front and drums in the rear work well enough for everyday use. Need more than stock for suspension or brakes? The tuner aftermarket can be your friend.

PERFORMANCE: Displacement of the Fit's transversely-mounted 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine hasn't changed, but nearly everything else about it has. The new cylinder head replaces the old single overhead cam (SOHC) design with dual overhead cams (DOHC) for improved valve control. There are still four valves per cylinder, two intake and two exhaust, but they are now larger for more gas flow. The i-VTEC valve control system has separate cam lobes for high-speed and low-speed operation, and variable cam phasing to optimize both fuel efficiency and power output. Most importantly, fuel is now injected directly into the combustion chamber for more efficient combustion for more power and lower emissions. This also allows a higher compression ratio, now 11.5:1, for further efficiency -- and it still runs on unleaded regular. Reduced rotating mass means quicker response and more efficiency. Horsepower is now 130 (at 6600 rpm), up from 117, with torque now 114 lb-ft (at 4600 rpm), up from 106. Both the six-speed manual and CVT transmissions are optimized for improved acceleration and efficiency. Compared to the previous five-speed automatic, the CVT has a 14 percent wider ratio range and weighs 16 percent less. It's programmed for optimum fuel efficiency, and works well in D and "eco" mode most situations. When the absolute quickest acceleration is necessary, get out of eco mode, place the shift lever in Sport, and use the paddles mounted on the steering column in EX and EX-L models. It's a Honda, it likes to rev. But the i-VTEC and direct injection also mean that there is useful mid-range torque, so it doesn't absolutely need to be redlined. EPA mileage estimates are 32 mpg city, 38 highway. With minimal highway driving and maximum fun mode I got 33 for the week.

CONCLUSIONS: Bigger inside, smaller outside, with more power and better fuel economy? The 2015 Honda Fit shows what Honda does best.

SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Honda Fit EX-L with Navigation

Base Price $ 20,800

Price As Tested $ 21,590

Engine Type DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder, aluminum alloy block and head, i-VTEC® variable cam phasing and lift control and direct fuel injection

Engine Size 1.5 liters / 91 cu. in.

Horsepower 130 @ 6600 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 114 @ 4600 rpm

Transmission CVT

Wheelbase / Length 99.6 in. / 160.0 in.

Curb Weight 2642 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 20.3

Fuel Capacity 10.6 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P185/55 R16 83H Bridgestone Turanza

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / torsion beam axle

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 32 / 38 / 33

0 to 60 mph est 8.7 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Destination and handling $ 790


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