Key to the revamp, which introduces Honda's new design language with a new interior and boldly creased sheet metal, is a newly developed one-motor gasoline-electric drivetrain.
While the United States is not expected to get the hybrid version of the standard Fit five-door, hybrid versions of a Fit-based small crossover and sedan are planned for the United States. Those vehicles are expected to arrive as early as next year.
The new hybrid system, dubbed Sport Hybrid Intelligent-Dual Clutch Drive, greatly boosts fuel economy over the current integrated motor assist system. Honda has been using the outgoing integrated motor assist system for years in such cars as the Insight.
The new Fit is a Honda milestone for several reasons. It showcases Honda's attempt to rejuvenate its styling. And the car is the first product of a revamped global product development strategy that aims to better tailor vehicles to local markets and regional manufacturing abilities.
Finally, the hybrid version pumps up Honda's competiveness in the small hybrid segment. Cars such as the Insight and CR-Z hybrids have failed to gain traction in the United States, even while rival offerings such as Toyota's Prius C successfully carved out a niche. Sales of the Prius C subcompact climbed 27 percent to 20,575 units through June.
The U.S. version of the standard Fit and its crossover variant will be sourced from Honda's new assembly plant in Celaya, Mexico. That factory goes online in spring 2014. Honda expects the plant to produce 200,000 Fits and Fit crossovers for the North America annually.
Globally, the gasoline-powered Fit will be offered with a 1.3-liter port-injection or 1.5-liter direct-injection version of Honda's new Earth Dreams engine, combined with the company's new Earth Dreams continuously variable transmission. The United States is expected to get only the bigger powerplant. Both engines will be offered with a manual transmission in some markets.
The hybrid gets a 1.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle engine with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. Electric power comes from a 22-kilowatt electric motor and lithium ion battery.
The gasoline-powered Fit sold just 25,541 units in the first six months of 2013, up 5 percent from the year before.
And Honda's U.S. hybrids tallied a paltry 9,011 units sold through June, down from 10,712 vehicles in the same period of 2012.
The new hybrid Fit hatchback achieves fuel economy of 36.4 kilometers per liter, or 86 mpg, under Japan's testing regime. That marks a 30 percent improvement over the hybrid version of the current Fit, which sells big in Japan but never made it to North America.
Those fuel economy figures don't translate directly into U.S. EPA ratings because the testing cycle differs in Japan.
But the Fit's Japanese rating edges the 35.4 kilometers per liter, or 83 mpg, rating for the Prius C here. The Prius C, known as the Aqua in Japan, was this country's second-best selling car for the first half of 2013, trailing only the standard Toyota Prius hatchback.
The new Fit has not yet received an EPA fuel economy rating. But fuel savings from Honda's new small-hybrid system are big enough to warrant its U.S. introduction, Jiro Yamaguchi, managing officer in charge of global vehicle development, said at a recent test drive event for the Fit five-door at Honda's Hokkaido proving ground in northern Japan.
"I was not that confident with the previous model, but this model would absolutely sell well in America," Yamaguchi said.
Launch timing has not been decided. But Yamaguchi said hybrid variants likely will be introduced around the time that the standard gasoline version goes on the market, by next summer.