SAN DIEGO -- In the subcompact segment, small can no longer mean cheap. It's not only price but a product's execution that makes the difference between a sale and a walkaway. With the 2015 Fit, Honda looks to be leading the pack -- at least on the execution side.
The basics: Honda's new Earth Dreams direct-injection 130-hp engine, when combined with a continuously variable transmission, makes the Fit the segment's fuel economy leader.
Continuously variable transmissions get a lot of grief from purists, who complain about the rubber-band feeling of power delivery. But each CVT evolution gets better, and Honda's simulated shift points feel almost like a traditional automatic.
There is still some hunting for optimum CVT range during kick-down acceleration, but for the most part, the unit is pretty responsive and accurate. With the CVT whirring at its most efficient, 80 mph only requires 2,500 rpm from the engine. For the true purists who demand to shift their own gears, a six-speed manual is available.
Perhaps more important than the powertrain is Honda's packaging magic, which adds 5 inches of rear-seat legroom and fold-flat rear seats. Some might accuse Honda of merely making the Fit larger to create that added space, but that's incorrect: Although the Fit gains 1.2 inches of wheelbase, its overall length is 1.6 inches shorter than the 2013 model it replaces.
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.