Saturday Road Test – Jazzy New Honda Fit

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2015 Honda Fit

A Jazzy Fit

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Honda’s smallest offering is all new from the wheels up, but it was something that dates back almost to the first automobile that made this little gas sipper a blast to drive.

In an era when auto enthusiasts are making a concerted effort to retain manual gearboxes, Honda put a five star six speed stick in this week’s test car.

From the first shift into reverse out of the test car driveway, it felt like a gearbox and clutch that you had driven for, oh say, the last decade or so. Then you start to think about all the changes that made the Fit some much better for 2015.

In its third generation, the Fit got bigger and smaller. It now offers a healthy 4.8 inch increase in rear seat legroom despite the fact that the car is 1.6 inches shorter than last year. Various factors went into this including a slightly longer wheelbase, flatter fuel tank, different rear suspension along with a narrower, single fan radiator that contributes to an engine bay that is over 4 inches shorter allowing for more occupant room.

If you want to play the numbers game, the new model rides on a 99.6 in wheelbase, is 160 inches long, 67 inches wide and 60 inches high. Cargo volume is 16.6 cubic feet with the seats up and 52.7 cubes with the rear seats down and that in total is more than its competitors. Passenger volume is up 4.9 cubic feet.

The 60-40 split “Magic Seat” carries over allowing for a variety of cargo and people carrying chores. Four tie downs are included in upmarket models.

Honda claims the space can accommodate two mountain bikes with their front wheels removed or one heck of a big dog – Your St. Bernard need not stay at home this winter.

The amenities list is longer with heated leather seats available on the top of the line EX-L for the first time. Available options include push button start, one touch operated moonroof, 7-inch touchscreen audio display on EX and EX-L models and a 5 inch LCD screen on the LX. A multi-angle rearview camera is standard with Honda’s excellent LaneWatch blind spot detection camera on the EX models and above.

Fit and finish were excellent and it was clear that interior materials were upgraded. Two six foot tall adults will easily fit in the rear seats with no complaints, but one said head room was a bit shy.

Something called Eco Assist Lighting is included in the instrument panel and is said to measure how economical you are as an operator. But it switched to the not so good blue range every time the accelerator was depressed so make of that what you will.

Another display gives you current estimated fuel economy, time, outside temperature, fuel gauge and transmission gear position on the CVT.

Under the hood is a refined little four good for 130 hp @ 6,600 rpm with 114 lb-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm. Of course it takes regular unleaded.

With the manual tranny, the test car was rated at 29-37 mpg by the EPA for a combined 32 mpg and that’s where I came in for the week.

It is worth noting that when an early model of the Fit received a Marginal score in the IIHS offset front crash test, Honda modified the front bumper structure and came away with an Acceptable score, a good rating for a subcompact.

A base LX with a six speed manual starts at $15,525 with a $20,800 base price for the EX-L model with navi and a CVT.

The test car was a mid-range EX that Honda expects to be its best seller in the lineup. With zero options, the car carried an MSRP of $18,225 but had enough standard equipment to make it a more than acceptable choice.

On rural roads, the Fit was a fun drive with the manual allowing the operator to extract all 130 horsepower.                                                   While not Miata like, little red’s handling was more than acceptable for a subcompact while the suspension absorbed most of the bumps and bruises on the many county roads that are torn up for late in the season repaving.

Its compact size made it a snap to park anywhere on errand running marathons, yet the total package would be more than acceptable for long trips.

I had to give ten demerits for the designer who thought it would be a good idea to put the audio volume control on a slider on the center stack screen where it was so small it was virtually impossible to hit with your finger while driving. Fortunately there were redundant controls on the steering wheel.

The overall feel is that of a much more expensive set of wheels and with the fun that comes from the six speed stick, the Fit moves to the top of the list in my Gas Sipper category. Factor in Honda’s reputation for long life, the 2015’s slick new styling and low price, and you end up with a tailor made Fit. Although I still like the overseas name for this car – Jazz.

 

 

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