2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi first drive review: Refitted

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi

We’ve said it before, but he Honda Fit has a name that just seems to, well, fit. Is there another subcompact that packs so much utility into a give length of wheelbase? We can’t think of one. The Fit, with its reconfigurable rear seat, can fit everything from bicycles to big boxes from big box stores. The 2015 Fit, just going on sale, reprises its role, but in new from the ground up remake, filled with across-the-board improvements.

But consider first what has stayed the same. It’s still a five-door hatchback with a small but efficient four cylinder under a short hood, and its fuel tank under the front seats to allow the back seats—appropriately dubbed “Magic Seat” by Honda—to move in several different directions, depending on what one wants to fit in the Fit.

Enough of the Fit/fit jokes. Let’s talk about how the Fit has changed. One is that Honda stretched the wheelbase by 1.2 inches which allows rear legroom to dramatically increase rear leg room by 4.8 inches. Interior room is also increased by repositioning the radiator, decreasing the length of the engine bay by four inches. However, and that, along with reconfiguring the fuel tank and rejiggering the rear suspension, increases overall interior room by 4.9 cubic feet.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi center stack

The 2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi has a large 8-inch touchscreen multi-information display. (click to enalrge)

The 2014 Honda Fit is 1.5 inches shorter end to end, however, and that and all the other increased measurements have to go somewhere, and it’s in cargo volume, going from 57.1 to 52.7 cubic feet. That’s equivalent to a Miata’s trunk complete, but it’s a decrease on the order of somewhat less than a tenth percent over all. And something had to give.

The Fit is still able to hold any number of oddly shaped items. With the seat bottom raised, the Fit can accommodate tall items, such as a large plant, up to four feet tall, or two bicycles will fit in crosswise. Lower the seatback—the seat bottom moves to allow a flat floor in the cargo area— four bikes lengthwise with their front wheels removed. The extra two cyclists will have to find their own trnasportation, or perhaps the driver and front passengers are carrying spares, but the bikes are kept inside the Fit, safe and sound.

In what Honda calls the Long Mode, the front passenger seat can be fully reclined, and an object seven feet nine inch will go in. No more ladder hanging dangerously out the back with the hatch partly open.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi instrument panel

The speedometer of the 2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi has small lighted arcs on either side of the speedometer that change color depending on how hard the gas pedal is pushed. (click to enlarge)

It’s this Cirque du Soleil of seat settings that’s a major drawing point for the 2015 Honda Fit, but of course there’s more. Start with the engine. The displacement remains at 1.5-liters, but what Honda calls a “program of weight saving, friction reduction, technology application and clever engineering” means an 11 percent increase in horsepower, for a total of 130 horses, plus an increase of 7.5 percent in torque, which translates into a whopping 114 lb-ft. Direct fuel injection allows Honda to pump up the compression to 11.5:1 without going to premium fuel.

The venue of our first drive in the new 2015 Honda Fit was around Manhattan—New York, not Kansas—where the Fit can’t even use that modicum of power at full throttle very often. We’ll report on suburban performance when we get a longer drive with the fit.

The 2015 Honda Fit is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission on the base LX and mid-range EX trim with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) optional, standard on the top-of-the-line EX-L. Both transmissions are new with different gear ratios for the manual. The CVT in the Fit EX-L we drove wasn’t, at least in our low-speed taxi-dodging wasn’t objectionable. On the West Side Highway, where we could get some speed up, the CVT wasn’t objectionable, but we’ll like to try it other than just between the sidewalks of New York.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi cargo

The 2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi has rear seats that fold to leave a completely flat load floor. (click to enlarge).

Speaking of Manhattan streets, Honda increased the use of high strength steel in the Fit’s body and that pays off on pavement that’s not so much potholed as lumpy and bumpy. No creaks, no groans, no rattles. We decided not to test the Fit’s dual-path impact attenuation capabilities.

Honda also reworked the 2015 Fit’s suspension. The front strut suspension has a new element—a blow-off valve, for you techies—that allow the shocks to absorb harder impacts more quickly, smoothing the ride, and the layout is reconfigured for better control and steering feedback. The shock absorbers at the rear also got the blow-off valve, and the mountings front and rear were strengthened. No doubt this stuff works in normal environments, but Manhattan isn’t normal. We bottomed the shocks without trying…even when we weren’t trying…though anything short of a true sport-utility would do the same. It’s why New York cabs rattle like a maracas competition. And the Fit didn’t.

The 2015 Honda Fit received a number of electronics and convenience aids. Smartkey Entry and push-button start are standard on the EX and EX-L Fit. All trim levels have back-up cameras, though only the EX and EX-L get a big seven-inch screen. The LX makes do with only a five-incher. The LX, however, does get Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free link, plus MP3/Windows Media Audio (WMA) playback capability. The EX adds Pandora and Hondalink Next Generation, and the EX-L level adds the option of a navigation system with traffic and voice recognition.