2015 Honda Fit drive assessment: One of our favored (actually) modest automobiles will get a full makeover

One of our favorite (really) small cars gets a full makeover

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

Objects in photograph may be smaller than they appear. Especially the Honda Fit. Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

The interior’;s pleasant, if plastique. Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

Seriously, no. It’;s actually over an inch shorter than its predecessor. Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

The Fit’;s mirror offers a wide-angle edge. Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

You could pack a fair portion of San Diego into the thing and cart it through its own streets. Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

Light and Fit. Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

The Fit adopts Honda’;s corporate nose for 2015 Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

The Fit’;s sides are straked with all manner of indents Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

Yes, you can get one with a Sunroof. Photo by Honda.

2015 Honda Fit Photo by: Honda

Yes, the Fit’;s rear is that cavernous. Perhaps even more cavernous than that. Photo by Honda.

What is it?

The previous Honda Fit had been with us since the 2009 model year. Since then, Ford’;s brought the Fiesta over from Europe (and subsequently refreshed it), Chevrolet’;s launched its first real B-segment contender, Toyota’;s redesigned the Yaris, Fiat’;s returned from exile with its idiosyncratic little 500, Nissan’;s given us the Versa Note and along the way, Hyundai/Kia discovered a little thing called styling.

Despite myriad new contenders and pretenders, the Fit’;s stellar rep kept the units moving; demand so outstripped supply that Honda built a new plant in Celaya, Mexico to churn out all the Fits Americans care to consume. The facility will also build its utelike sibling, the HR-V (sold elsewhere as the Honda Vezel).

If the transition from the first-generation car to the second seemed evolutionary, the new subcompact seems nearly radical. It adopts Honda’;s corporate face, slashes at the sides with character lines aplenty, visually widens the rear with a broad chrome bar. The car seems bigger; it’;s a cybernetic pony keg.

The thing is, despite the visual heft, the new Fit is only really larger on the inside. The new car is 1.6 shorter. The one dimension that’;s seen a significant increase passenger-compartment volume, it’;s up 4.9 cubic feet. Perhaps even more staggering is the 4.8-inch increase in rear legroom, a remarkable feat in such a small car. It’;s more fuel efficent and more powerful, now making 130 hp.

What’;s it like to drive?

Reduced thirst and more ponies are generally a recipe for more cheap fun, but it seems as if Honda’;s put their engineering might into the packaging of the Fit and skimped on the driving enjoyment.

The steering is direct and precise, if uninspiring. Throttle tip-in is on the jumpy side, but it’;s nothing that an owner wouldn’;t get used to quickly. Honda claims the more rigid body structure reduces noise, but we found the wind irritatingly audible at freeway speeds.

If you’;re the sort who prefers rowing his or her own gears, you’;re stuck with the lower-spec LX and EX models. Uplevel EX-L Fits are only available with a CVT. Neither gearbox is particularly thrilling. The CVT’;s not up to the level of the excellent unit in Subaru’;s new WRX (now the gold standard for all transmissions of the type), though it’;s not the worst we’;ve sampled. The paddle shifters hold “gears” well in hilly terrain, the better to listen to the 1.5L i-VTEC 4 wind out.

As for the manual? The clutch is about 3 shades too light, as is the 6-speed’;s action. We’;d accept a modicum of rubberiness in trade for a measure of positive engagement. Brakes are easily modulated and provide segment-appropriate stopping power.

Do I want one?

The refreshed Fiesta is more fun to drive. The Koreans are more stylish. The Fiat 500 only comes in a 3-door configuration and the Yaris pairs the Fiesta’;s compromised practicality with an uninspired interior and desultory dynamics.

For frugal practicality in a new car, the Fit remains your choice. If you were previously charmed by its just-right combination of low-power athleticism and band-beating cargo capacity, you might be a mite let down. Your rear-seat passengers, however, will treasure their newfound legroom.

On Sale: April 2014

Base Price: $ 16,315

Powertrain: 130hp/114 lb ft 1.5L I4; FWD, 6-speed manual or CVT

Curb weight: 2,513 (manual)

0-60: 8.5 (est)

Fuel Economy: 29/37/32 (manual) 33/41/36 (CVT)

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