Compact cars have always been popular in Canada. The top selling car in Canada in 2013 was the Honda Civic versus the US market’s top seller, the Honda Accord. Even our number two top seller is the Hyundai Elantra, another compact car, versus the Toyota Camry in the US of A.
Whether it’s our higher fuel prices or slightly more frugal attitudes, us Canadians love our small cars. Honda is hoping to bank on this popularity with its totally redesigned 2015 Honda Fit.
Over the years, the Honda Civic has grown in size and price due to increasing consumer demand for comfort, performance, and space. It has been years since we’ve been able to buy a North American destined Civic in a hatchback variant, much to the chagrin of hatchback lovers. And here’s where the Fit fills in the void.
What’s new in this redesign?
Having been named a Car and Driver magazine’s “10 Best” vehicle every model year since its introduction to North America in 2007, the Fit remains one of Honda’s best selling vehicles globally with cumulative worldwide sales of over 4.87 million units.
The redesigned Fit therefore has some big shoes to fill. For the first time ever, the North American-market Fit is being produced at an all-new plant in Celaya, Mexico. Incidentally, this is Honda’s eighth and newest auto plant in North America. With the addition of this plant, 98 per cent of the Honda brand vehicles the company sells in America will be built in North America.
Building on its predecessor’s innovative packaging, flexible cargo capacity, and fun-to-drive character, there is new styling, more space, and a more refined interior with the 2015 Fit.
With an all new-platform equipped with Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure, Honda anticipates that the new Fit will also earn class-leading safety ratings.
Interestingly, the overall length decreases by 1.6 inches although you would never know it as the new car looks slightly bigger thanks to its more upright posture and increased glass greenhouse.
Does it look as good as its predecessor? To my eyes, perhaps not. The trick that many manufacturers use to make small cars feel big, including the Toyota Yaris and even the BMW 2-series, makes the Fit look slightly too tall and a bit cartoon-like.
However, I’m sure that most Fit customers will appreciate the fresh new exterior design with the slimmer headlights that integrate into a solid grille design and the more aggressive lower intake opening.
Fit owners have long raved about how their cars are packaging marvels and this new car is no exception. It really feels bigger on the inside than what it looks on the outside.
Combined with its taller greenhouse and bigger windows, the 2015 model feels significantly roomier than its predecessor. Even six footers can fit in the back comfortably, though the rear seat base cushion may feel a bit short to those with longer legs.
Thanks to the flat floor, two passengers will be comfortable in the back seat even on longer hauls. Three thin adults can fit somewhat acceptably for short durations.
The Magic Seat still retains its ability to fold the seat base upwards, creating copious usable space for tall items. You essentially have the entire 60-inch overall height of the car for tall but narrow items such as plants or small pieces of furniture.
Compared to the Toyota Yaris, one of the Fit’s main competitor, I found the driving position to be far more comfortable. And for the first time ever, you can even get the Fit with heated leather seats in the EX-L trim line.
A long list of new standard features include auto-on-off headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and a 7-inch touchscreen Display Audio with next-generation HondaLink. This infotainment system can be upgraded with a GPS satellite navigation system, another first for the Fit.
My only complaint with the unit was its finicky capacitive touch volume slider. iPhone-sensitive it ain’t, and a traditional volume knob would have been far simpler and more accurate.
The 7-inch unit also integrates Honda’s LaneWatch system, a terrific active safety feature that shows the passenger-side blindspot area via a live video feed from the wide angle camera mounted under the right-side wing mirror. Super imposed lines on the screen help drivers to determine if it is safe to make a lane change manoeuvre.
For me, LaneWatch was probably one of the most useful day-to-day features on the new Fit, and one of my favourite features in all newer Honda/Acura vehicles.
So how does it drive?
The 2015 Fit also raises the bar on acceleration fun and fuel efficiency with major advances to its powertrain. A new Earth Dreams Technology engine significantly increases power, torque and throttle response with support from two newly developed transmissions – a 6-speed manual and an all-new CVT with G-Shift Control.
The 1.5L DOHC 4-cylinder engine with i-VTEC+VTC valve and timing control features direct fuel injection, reduced weight and friction, increased compression ratio, and other changes to deliver an 11 per cent increase in peak horsepower to 130, and a 7.5 per cent increase in peak torque to 114 lb.-ft.
In order to ensure smoothness, Honda engineers doubled the number of counterweights in the engine from the usual 4 to 8. The new engine is smooth all the way to redline with the characteristic buzziness that one expects from small 4-cylinder engines.
My test car was equipped with the CVT transmission and although it is a vast improvement over other units that I’ve experienced (such as in the Nissan Sentra), it can feel a bit unresponsive at times even in Sport mode.
There are 7 simulated “gears” that can be accessed via the steering wheel mounted paddles, but at times, such as when flooring the throttle to pass, you still get a bit of that rubber band effect where there is a disconnect with the rise in engine RPMs versus the vehicle’s rate of immediate acceleration. Downshifting to a “fixed” gear before the passing manoeuvre does help to lessen this significantly.
With the combination of the new engine and transmissions, the Fit has an NRCan fuel-economy rating of 8.1/6.4/7.3 L/100km (city/highway/combined)1 for the manual transmission and 7.0/5.7/6.4 L/100km for the LX trim with CVT (an improvement of up to 16 per cent when compared to 2014 Fit with automatic transmission) and 7.3/6.1/6.8 L/100km for the EX and EX-L Navi trim with CVT.
I managed 8.2L/100 kms in mostly city driving on my EX CVT model.
When it comes to handling, the Fit’s electric power steering delivers accurate enough precision but feels numb. You don’t get a lot of communication as to what the front wheels are doing. In an effort to move the car a bit more mass market, Honda seems to have sacrificed some of the previous Fit’s fun-to-drive character for efficiency.
But at least the ride quality is decent, with the significantly longer wheelbase helping to reduce the choppiness on bad roads that one experienced with the previous Fit.
With its improved interior, new styling, and upgraded engine, Japan’s best selling micro car trundles onward and upward in North America on its mission to become the best selling subcompact hatchback in history on this continent.
Bottom line, the Honda Fit is a small car with big aspirations. For your dollar spent, you’ll get both the high level of Honda reliability and the resultant high residual value when it comes time to sell the car. And for many loyal shoppers, this formula is going to be a winner in their books.