2015 Honda Fit First Test
Honda's Nerdy Packaging-Know-It-All Has Learned to Hustle Like a Jock
Please don't read the above blurb and scroll right down to the spec panel. I promise you the middling test-track numbers will give you the wrong impression entirely. It's not until you unload the armoire or big-screen TV, kick all the kids out of the seatbelts, and fly down an empty, twisty road that you'll find yourself grinning incredulously and wondering aloud, "Why is this little sensible-shoes boxcar such fun to drive?"
Big credit goes to the corny-named Earth Dreams engine. Its bore and stroke are unchanged, but it is all-new, incorporating a redesigned die-cast block that's optimized for direct fuel injection. Incorporating DI paved the way for an 11-percent boost in compression (from 10.4:1 to 11.5:1), which brought with it a commensurate 11-percent bump in horsepower, from 117 to 130. The torque curve is broadened, with the peak up 8 percent from 106 to 114 lb-ft.
The Honda Fit is a 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year contender - find out soon whether it has what it takes to win.
Next up in the list of credits is a pair of modern transmissions replacing the hoary five-coggers. The six-speed manual offers a 5-percent broader ratio spread with a shorter first gear for livelier launches. The CVT we love so much in the Civic replaces the old five-speed automatic, boasting a wide 6.19 ratio spread -- way up from the 5.43 spread of the old five-speed, although here Honda optimized for fuel economy, with the lowest gear ratio almost 19 percent taller than in the five-speed, and the highest one some 35 percent taller. On the plus side, shift paddles let you easily grab a lower (virtual) gear ratio to make it easier to jet out of a tight corner or decelerate into a turn.
We almost universally approve of Honda's strategy of letting the CVT select a ratio near the power peak and vary to keep the engine there when the driver's foot is flat on the floor, rather than dithering through pretend gears as so many others do today. The downside is that this engine is a trifle noisy, and you hear a lot of racket when you accelerate like that. (Some among us feel Honda has yet to fully come to grips with the NVH challenges that come along with gasoline direct-injection.)
The net result of all this is a dramatic 1.1-second drop in zero-to-60-mph acceleration for the automatic (from 10.2 to 9.1 seconds), and a quarter-mile time that's 0.8 second and 9.1 mph quicker, tripping the lights in 16.8 seconds at 85.8 mph. The manual manages to shave 0.3 second off both the 60-mph and quarter-mile times, and 3.1 mph off the quarter-mile trap speed, reaching the mile-a-minute mark in 7.9 seconds and the quarter in 16 flat at 86.4 mph. Those times are quite competitive amongst the Fit's B-car competition, with the manual edging out a Chevy Sonic 1.4 turbo by 0.2 second to 60 mph, and the CVT edging out the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, and Nissan Versa Note automatics by 0.4, 1.2, and 1.3 seconds respectively.
But trust me, the new Fit is more fun to road race than it is to drag race -- not that anybody does either. It's just that the handling seems more remarkable than the acceleration. New rear shocks, revised suspension geometry all around, and improved bushing tuning make this a surprisingly fun car to hoon through a series of esses. Our braking, max lateral acceleration, and figure-eight lap times don't back up these impressions -- they're practically on top of the previous model's -- but temperature conditions at our test track were extremely hot, and the SAE hasn't devised a weather correction formula for Motor Trend's figure-eight test. (Simply scaling against corrected quarter-mile times suggests the lap times could have read slow by a half-second for the manual and more than a second for the CVT.)
Some editors found the manual shifter and clutch to feel a bit "feminine" in effort and take-up, but not off-puttingly so. The CVT's S driving mode is pretty astute about quickly selecting the appropriate ratio for a corner exit, but most of our team availed themselves of the shift paddles to control that transmission on our handling circuit. (We're slightly control-freaky that way.)
We have yet to test a base LX model with the smaller 185/60R15 footwear (our EX and EX-L testers wore 185/55R16s), so we can't tell you how much cornering fun those kill, but we can pretty heartily endorse the ride/handling/comfort/packaging prowess of the Fit EX, which strikes us as a pretty good bargain at $18,225. The value proposition of the equally fun $20,590 EX-L hinges on how much you value things such as navigation and leather covering the seats, steering wheel, and shifter. And before you decide, check out the EX's cloth fabric, which is kind of funky/cool. We highly recommend the $236 dealer-installed rear package shelf, which should attenuate some of the road noise sneaking in via the rear wheelhouses.
Between the greatly improved dynamics, myriad upgrades based on the Civic (like the new HDMI-ready infotainment system, steering wheel, and CVT), the even more impressive interior packaging (the exterior shrunk while the passenger space increased), and the fact that the Fit should no longer be capacity constrained (plenty of them are now being built in Mexico, so maybe you can make a deal on one), now may be the ideal time to start working out and get a Fit.
|2015 Honda Fit (EX-L)||2015 Honda Fit (EX)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$20,590||$18,225|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||1.5L/130-hp/114-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4||1.5L/130-hp/114-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont. variable auto||6-speed manual|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2637 lb (62/38%)||2578 lb (61/39%)|
|WHEELBASE||99.6 in||99.6 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||160.0 x 67.0 x 60.0 in||160.0 x 67.0 x 60.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.1 sec||7.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.8 sec @ 85.8 mph||16.0 sec @ 86.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||130 ft||130 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.6 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)||28.3 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||32/38/35 mpg||29/37/32 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||105/89 kW-hrs/100 miles||116/91 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.56 lb/mile||0.60 lb/mile|