If the transition from the first-generation car to the second seemed evolutionary, the new subcompact seems nearly radical. It adopts Honda’s corporate face, slashes at the sides with character lines aplenty, visually widens the rear with a broad chrome bar. The car seems bigger; it’s a cybernetic pony keg.
The thing is, despite the visual heft, the new Fit is only really larger on the inside. The new car is 1.6 inches shorter. The one dimension that’s seen a significant increase passenger-compartment volume, it’s up 4.9 cubic feet. Perhaps even more staggering is the 4.8-inch increase in rear legroom, a remarkable feat in such a small car. It’s more fuel efficient and more powerful, now making 130 hp.
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What’s it like to drive?
Reduced thirst and more ponies are generally a recipe for more cheap fun, but it seems as if Honda’s put their engineering might into the packaging of the Fit and skimped on the driving enjoyment.
The steering is direct and precise, if uninspiring. Throttle tip-in is on the jumpy side, but it’s nothing that an owner wouldn’t get used to quickly. Honda claims the more rigid body structure reduces noise, but we found the wind irritatingly audible at freeway speeds.
If you’re the sort who prefers rowing his or her own gears, you’re stuck with the lower-spec LX and EX models. Uplevel EX-L Fits are only available with a CVT. Neither gearbox is particularly thrilling. The CVT is not up to the level of the excellent unit in Subaru’s new WRX (now the gold standard for all transmissions of the type), though it’s not the worst we’ve sampled. The paddle shifters hold “gears” well in hilly terrain, the better to listen to the 1.5L i-VTEC four wind out.
As for the manual? The clutch is about three shades too light, as is the six-speed’s action. We’d accept a modicum of rubberiness in trade for a measure of positive engagement. Brakes are easily modulated and provide segment-appropriate stopping power.
Do I want one?
The refreshed Fiesta is more fun to drive. The Koreans are more stylish. The Fiat 500 comes only in a three-door configuration and the Yaris pairs the Fiesta’s compromised practicality with an uninspired interior and desultory dynamics.
For frugal practicality in a new car, the Fit remains your choice. If you were previously charmed by its just-right combination of low-power athleticism and band-beating cargo capacity, you might be a mite let down. Your rear-seat passengers, however, will treasure their newfound legroom.
2015 Honda Fit price and specifications
On Sale: April 2014
Base Price: $16,315
Powertrain: 130hp/114 lb ft 1.5L I4; FWD, 6-speed manual or CVT
Curb weight: 2,513 (manual)
0-60: 8.5 (est)
Fuel Economy: 29/37/32 (manual) 33/41/36 (CVT)