The 2015 Honda Fit, unveiled for the U.S. in January 2014 and going on sale sometime in the spring, is a fully updated and all-new version of Honda's subcompact five-door hatchback. It packs more interior volume into the same footprint, and sports crisper, more aerodynamic lines and a new and more fuel-efficient powertrain. Most important, the Fit retain the "Magic Seat" rear seat that gives it simply unparalleled interior flexibility--but housed in a quieter and more comfortable vehicle that is likely to offer tough competition for other subcompacts on the market.
The Fit has always had a wedge shape, but the new 2015 model has a slightly more aggressive stance, with a pronounced side crease underscoring the rising beltline. With a steeply raked windshield at virtually the same angle as the short, stubby hood, the crease adds motion and a horizontal appearance to a tall, almost "one-box" shape riding on fairly small wheels and tires.
The Fit's characteristic triangular glass panel between the front door and the thin windshield pillar is larger and deeper than ever. But the side window in the roof pillar behind the rear door is smaller than in the last model, and it sits over a relatively small opening that limits rear three-quarter visibility from inside the car. Chalk that up to tougher roof-strength safety regulations. The new shape tapers both in height and width past the rear doors, ending in larger rear taillight units that continue up the sides of the rear hatch in an almost Volvo-like shape.
Thankfully, the designers stopped adding shapes and creases on the right side of being too busy--which can sometimes be a flaw in small Asian cars. Overall, we think it's a successful update that remains entirely identifiable as a Honda Fit. And this one looks less like a scaled-down minivan than either of the two previous generations.
Built for North America at a new plant in Mexico, the 2015 Fit will spawn several additional models--including a small crossover, and possibly a four-door sedan as well. Globally, however, the five-door hatchback remains the highest-volume Fit model.
The latest Fit is powered by a direct-injected 1.5-liter engine that produces 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. That's a boost of 13 hp over the previous model. A five-speed manual gearbox will continue to be standard, but new 2015 Fits for the U.S. will offer a new continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that maximizes fuel efficiency.
In a brief road test of a Japanese-market Fit, we found the response of the CVT to be good, if not rocket-quick. Honda's done a better job of making the CVT tolerable than Nissan does, although we still find Subaru's CVTs the best among small cars. At speeds well above any U.S. speed limit, the Fit manages to suppress most exterior noise fairly well. It's hardly the hush of a luxury car, but among small and affordable hatchbacks, the new Fit is noticeably more refined than its predecessor was.
Honda projects that the new Fit will achieve EPA gas mileage ratings of 36 mpg combined (33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway), which is the highest number achieved by any subcompact model with a standard engine and automatic transmission. That figure doesn't yet appear on the EPA website, but it vaults the new Fit to the top of the subcompact class--ahead of competitors that include the Chevrolet Sonic, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris.
Only the Ford Fiesta SFE model fitted with a 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged engine rates higher--at 37 mpg combined--and it remains to be seen whether that engine will deliver real-world results close to the EPA rating or not. Drivers of Ford vehicles fitted with larger EcoBoost engines have frequently reported real-world gas mileage considerably lower than their combined ratings. Regardless of the 1-mpg difference, the 2015 Fit's 36 mpg is a substantial 5-mpg improvement over the best previous Fit, and should give Honda some bragging rights in a segment where fuel efficiency is increasingly important.
The interior of the new Fit is less stark than the old one, with a large chrome-rimmed speedometer in the center of the instrument cluster and more sophisticated textures and materials than the last model. The standout flexibility of multiple configurations of the Fit's "Magic Seat" will continue, with a variety of ways to fold, stow, and even remove the rear seat that can turn the subcompact hatchback into a mini-moving van when needed.
In terms of features and trim levels, we expect Honda to offer something close to the current lineup: a base Fit, and a Fit Sport model with larger alloy wheels, some appearance items, and more standard features. The company has said that all 2015 Fit models with come with Bluetooth connectivity and a reversing camera as standard. A number of new options make their appearance, include heated front seats and side mirrors, leather upholstery, a moonroof, smartkey with pushbutton start, and the Honda LaneWatch system that shows an image of the car's blind spot on a central dash display. On the infotainment front, Honda will offer a 7-inch touchscreen display audio system, with smartphone connectivity via the HondaLink feature.
Honda says it expects the new 2015 Fit to gain top safety scores from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Its new body structure is 57 pounds lighter than that of the last Fit, but it uses more high-strength steel for greater rigidity. In fact, Honda says the new Fit should also earn the IIHS top rating of Good in all tests, including the tough new small-overlap barrier test, which would allow it to be designated an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2015.
The 2015 Fit hatchback will go on sale in the U.S. in the spring of 2014; until then, sales of the older 2013 model will continue (there's no Fit for the 2014 model year). Prices and final specifications for the 2015 Honda Fit will be announced closer to the time it goes on sale.
- Crisp new lines
- Interior flexibility
- 36-mpg combined rating
- Quiet at high speed
- Interior borders on busy
- Not yet rated for safety
- CVT less fun than manual