Notable features: One reason for the added space for people and cargo is the re-engineering of the geometry and structures of the front strut and rear torsion beam suspension -- especially with shorter trailing arms in the rear.
The torsion beam itself is stiffer, allowing for more responsive handling for what is an admittedly crude -- but industry standard -- rear suspension setup. Compared with its predecessor, the Fit also provides more confident control during those panicky freeway braking events.
The body-in-white weighs about 44 pounds less than that of the previous model, but the overall vehicle weight is about the same because of added content and safety features.
Standard features include cruise control, trip computer, power windows, air conditioning, 15-inch wheels, three-blink turn indicators, alarm system with keyless entry, auto-off headlights, LED brake lights, five-inch monitor with 160-watt CD sound system, USB and Bluetooth access and steering wheel audio controls, and a rearview camera with three viewing modes. Tighter body seals and other soundproofing mean road howl and wind noise are significantly reduced from the outgoing model.
An optional display audio system allows for swipe, tap and pinch controls for music, weather, traffic, vehicle maintenance and Siri commands with an iPhone Bluetooth connection.
What Honda says: “We’re taking customers out of the penalty box of life in a small car,” said Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America. “We are amping up the fun in the small car arena.”
Shortcomings and compromises: For a budget car, the Fit is pricey. Although the price ladder hasn’t changed much, with a $16,315 base price including shipping, the Fit is about $1,500 more expensive than the Nissan Versa Note, $1,400 more than a Ford Fiesta and $900 more than a Hyundai Accent. Will price-sensitive consumers appreciate all the extra standard content that the base LX grade provides, or be scared off by the price?
The market: Subcompact sales account for about 650,000 annual units, but have a 4 percent annual growth target. The Fit conquests about 59 percent of its sales from other brands, and 55 percent of Fit owners stay with Honda for their next car.
Now that the Fit is made in Mexico and not restricted by the difficulties of Japan’s exchange rate, the United States should get as many units as it wants. Fit sales totaled 53,513 units last year, and Honda hopes they can climb to 70,000 units in its full calendar year.
The skinny: The Fit has replaced the Hyundai Accent as the highest content-per-dollar entry in the segment. But with all the bells and whistles, the Fit’s price can rapidly escalate past $21,000, perhaps too dear for shoppers looking at an entry-level subcompact.