New & Used Honda Fit: In Depth
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The Honda Fit is a subcompact hatchback and a rival for vehicles such as the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, and Hyundai Accent. The Fit has been thoroughly revamped for a new third-generation model that arrived for the 2015 model year.
The first-generation Honda Fit was only sold in the U.S. for two model years, 2007 and 2008. The second generation ran from 2009 through 2013.
The first-generation Fit had been sold overseas as early as 2001, gaining notice for its excellent reliability, low running costs, and good resale value, before it landed on our shores for 2007. Both the first and second generations of Honda Fits were just more fun to drive than their competitors--though the Ford Fiesta and Chevy Sonic in particular closed that gap.
In its first generation, the Fit came with a 109-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine fitted with Honda's VTEC valve system. It was offered with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission sending power to the front wheels. Performance was sprightly if not downright quick, and its steering and suspension had a definite sporty tune to them, making the task of piloting the small inexpensive car a joy rather than a chore.
It's the so-called Magic Seat that has given all Fit hatchbacks their versatile and generous cargo space. The design allows the back seat to fold into several different positions, including both forward and backward. Owners can create a low, flat cargo floor or provide space for exceptionally tall cargo, like a potted plant or a mountain bike. The clever seat arrangement premiered on the original 2007–2008 Fit and has been carried over to all subsequent models.
The 2009–2013 Fit again offered a single engine: this time, a 117-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder, which could be ordered with a five-speed automatic transmission, but came standard with a five-speed manual gearbox. On Sport models, the automatic came with paddle shifters for manual control of gear selection, along with an optional touch-screen navigation system and better audio connectivity.
The lineup for each model year of the second-generation car included Fit and Fit Sport models, with the Sport in recent years adding alloy wheels, fog lamps, and a rear stabilizer bar, plus cruise control, keyless entry, and steering-wheel controls.
Safety has been a strong point for the Fit all along. The second-generation model came fitted with stability control for added peace of mind. Standard safety features included side and side-curtain bags as well as active head restraints. The Fit was one of few small cars to get top scores from the IIHS for frontal and side impacts.
Over the course of the second generation, the Fit saw only minor upgrades to equipment and features. Changes for 2012 included expanded steering-wheel controls and upgraded fabrics; there were no significant changes for the 2013 model year.
The 2013 Honda Fit EV all-electric model was offered only in very small numbers and only to customers in California and Oregon. Honda expected to lease only 1,100 of them for a three-year term, in order to comply with California zero-emission vehicle requirements for the carmakers with the highest in-state sales. With its light, eager driving feel, powerful electric motor, and EPA-rated range of 82 miles, it might have been a bigger success than the limited sales allowed for. Honda hasn't announced whether an EV model will return for the Fit's third generation.
Honda did not offer a Fit for the 2014 model year, instead beginning production early for the new 2015 model.
The new Honda Fit
The 2015 Honda Fit is the latest reworking of the model, and the first U.S.-bound Honda to be assembled in Mexico. Still a hatchback, it's powered by a direct-injected 1.5-liter engine that produces 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox is the standard transmission, but most Fits will arrive at dealerships with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that maximizes fuel efficiency, returning EPA ratings of up to 33 mpg city, 41 highway, or 32/38 mpg on upper trim levels. The manual is rated at 29/37 mpg.
Styling is one of the most obvious changes on the new model. While the first two generations wore cute and cheerful sheetmetal, this third version has morphed into a sort of robotic-looking angular design. It retains the same basic profile, with the very laid-back windshield and upright rear end.
The latest fit has a more grown-up ride than before, trading some of its sharpness and steering response for what seems to be a comfort-oriented calibration. It's less of a joy to drive, quite frankly. The Magic Seat and its many configurations returns for this generation, providing as much utility as before. We're actually somewhat surprised that no other automaker has tried to copy this masterpiece of space engineering.
The 2015 Fit earned the top IIHS safety rating of 'Good' in all tests except the tough small-overlap front crash, in which it received an 'Acceptable' rating. The NHTSA gives the Fit five stars overall.
About 12,000 Fits built through June 5, 2014, however, lacked later reinforcements in the front bumper bar that enabled the Fit to achieve that IIHS rating--the earliest 2015 Fits would have been rated as Marginal, just one step above the lowest Poor rating. Honda will replace the front-bumper beam on those early Fits, starting in September 2014. Owners of Fits built in June 2014 and before can call their Honda dealer to learn whether their car is eligible for the free update.
The Fit will be joined in the 2016 model year by the Honda HR-V. This subcompact crossover is based on the Fit and offers a similar interior layout with the Magic Seat, but it uses a larger engine and offers all-wheel drive as an option. It also has styling more in line with Honda's other crossover models instead of the Fit's angular edge.