With a two car household, it’s possible to own vehicles that can serve different purposes. For example, a compact fuel miser can be paired with another that’s big enough to take on Costco, IKEA and the farmers’ market without breathing hard.
But with only one car, the task becomes more difficult.
Of course, those who have been paying attention—such as reading the title of this review and looking at the lead photograph—will likely surmise that we have a car in mind a car that can handle disparate tasks. And their surmising would be correct.
It’s the 2015 Honda Fit. Or more specifically in this case, the 2015 Honda Fit EX.
CarBuzzard took a look and a short drive around Manhattan in a Honda Fit EX-L before the new Fit’s official debut at the New York International Auto Show last spring, and we subsequently compared a similarly-equipped Honda Fit to a Ford Fiesta. As the EX-L trim level, those Fits came equipped with the Honda continuously variable transmission (CVT) and were fully kitted out. For this review, however, our test vehicle was the 2015 Honda Fit EX with the six-speed manual transmission that’s standard on the base LX and mid-grade EX.
The six-speed manual replaces the five-speed of the prior generation. Honda says the benefit of the sixth speed is, as might be expected, to make the range of available ratios wider. What we didn’t expect, however, is that the top gear ratio—fifth on the old gearbox, sixth on the new—is unchanged. First gear is lower, allowing a quicker shot off the line.
But highway speeds have the engine turning at more than 3000 rpm in sixth gear, which would seem not to be good for fuel economy. Whatever we think, however, we’ll have to trust the Honda engineers knew what they were doing.
The transmission didn’t just get an extra gear. The stroke of the gear lever was shortened by ten percent for quicker shifts, and a 25 percent reduction in shift cable sliding resistance allows smoother shifting and improved feel.
The engine continues as a 1.5-liter four, and although the engine makes 11 more horsepower than 2014’s, that’s still only 130. It has been significantly tweaked, however, with direct injection with multi-hole injectors, and new variable valve timing and lift on the intake valves.
The intake port and piston face have been shaped for increased “tumble” of the intake charge, and to increase airflow, Honda made room for bigger valves by a smaller spark plug smaller. Direct injection allowed compression ratio to be raised from 10.4:1 to 11.5:1, for improved volumetric efficiency while also still requiring only regular fuel.
The engine, however, isn’t mellowy smooth but rather growls as it accelerates and even at highway cruising speeds. It’s not ear shattering but it’s definitely audible.
While finding more horsepower, Honda engineers also lightened the Fit engine’s assorted internal parts for more responsiveness as well as reducing overall vehicle weight. Lightening the 2015 Fit—curb weight is less than 2,600 lbs—makes for spunky if not neck snapping performance.
We were disappointed with the fuel economy of our test 2015 Honda Fit EX with the manual transmission. At 29.4 mpg, it was right at the EPA city estimate of 29 mpg, though with our own exurban driving we had expected something closer to the EPA combined rating of 32 mpg, even if nowhere near the 37 mpg highway estimate. As we’ve noted before, however, in a test venue that includes short steep hills, requiring full throttle from small cars uphill with braking downhill, small-engined cars typically fall shorter of their estimates than do those with bigger engines.
Although if one is more interested in mileage than, well, driving a manual transmission, the CVT in the Honda Fit LX provides a 33/41/38 mpg rating, and the Fit EX/EX-L is rated at 32/39/35 mpg.
The body of the 2015 is all-new, and while stronger than its predecessor, the Fit’s weight has been reduced by 44 lbs, with another 6.6 lbs coming out of the doors. It’s not at the cost of safety. Thanks to what Honda calls “a network of connected structural elements-with an improved design and a greater use of high-tensile strength steel-to distribute crash energy more evenly throughout the front of the vehicle,” the 2015 Honda Fit scored a “GOOD” rating—the highest available— in four Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test modes and an “ACCEPTABLE” in the Insurance Institute’s new small overlap frontal crash test. Honda says no vehicle in its class does better, and it warranted the IIHS’s “Top Safety Pick” rating.
The 2015 Honda Fit continues with the typical-for-its-class struts up front, though with a new link between the suspension and the anti-roll bar, and a twist beam rear axle. The Fit uses new shock absorbers with “blow-off” valves for a smoother ride over large bumps. The special valves allow quicker wheel movement when bigger bumps are encountered.
Getting techy, but Honda says the 2015 Fit’s roll center has been raised—via suspension geometry—which from a driver’s standpoint means the car tends to lean less in corners. The Fit still feels however like it’s running on small wheels, even with the 16-inch alloy wheels on the Fit EX.
Honda added a new torque sensor to the electric power steering system, however. It measures both steering angle and how fast the steering wheel is being turned to vary the assist for a smoother change in boost.
The Honda Fit electric power steering system is also enlisted into the car’s stability system. The driver-assistive Motion-Adaptive system “automatically initiates steering force that prompts the driver to steer in the correct direction” to help keep the car from spinning or washing out in slippery conditions.
The 2015 Honda Fit’s light weight allows Honda to get away with less expensive drum brakes on the rear axle, something used more often than not on cars in this class. The new Fit, however, has electronic brakeforce distribution, and also hill start assist, new for 2015, to make it easier to pull away when facing uphill.