September 2, 2014 8:45 AM | By Jeremy Sinek for MSN Autos

2015 Honda Fit first drive



2015 Honda Fit EX (© Jeremy Sinek)
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2015 Honda Fit EX

The best subcompact gets even better

2015 Honda Fit EX (© Jeremy Sinek)

Toronto, Ont. -- The last time MSN attended a new-car launch in Toronto, the subject vehicle was the 2015 Cadillac Escalade. This time the object of our attention is a much better fit for the congested canyons of high-rise downtown. That said, this particular subcompact hatchback has always been more than just another city-size runabout for people who can’t afford a “real” car. The Honda Fit is the small car that lets buyers down-size their car’s footprint without shrinking its capability.

That the original Fit also introduced new levels of fun-to-driveness to the subcompact segment was icing on the cake. After its North American launch in 2006, the Fit joined Car and Driver’s annual 10 Best list, and has never dropped off since. Even more remarkable is that by the time the first-generation Fit started making waves in North America, it was already five years old: it first went on sale in 2001 in Japan, where it was often the best-selling model.

Why was the Fit never a bigger seller in Canada? For the longest time, Honda Canada couldn’t get enough of them. And the built-in-Japan car was relatively expensive for a corner of the market where every dollar counts.

Production moves closer to home

2015 Honda Fit EX interior (© Jeremy Sinek)

The pricing problem improved somewhat a couple of years back when production for Canada shifted to China. And with the debut of the third generation, supply should no longer be an issue, either: the reinvented 2015 model comes from a new plant in Mexico that will also manufacture next year’s HR-V, a crossover based on the Fit’s all-new architecture.

But the Fit still isn’t priced to kill. Honda Canada chose to hold MSRPs close to last year’s level (at $14,495 the base DX is down $140) but add content. Even the DX now includes a rear camera, USB/Aux, Bluetooth, five-inch colour screen and keyless entry, to name but some of the added amenities.

The car itself preserves or even enhances what was best about the old design while buffing away its rough edges. In a welcome reversal of traditional “size creep” the 2015 actually has a slightly smaller footprint than its predecessor (despite a 30-mm wheelbase stretch, it’s 41 mm shorter overall) yet interior volume has expanded marginally.  The big change is how the space is divvied up between people and stuff: led by a huge stretch in rear knee-room, passenger volume expands from an already generous 2,572 L to 2,710 L; seats-up and seats-down cargo volumes both shrink by about 120 L, but remain best in class.

Fuel tank still under front seats

2015 Honda Fit EX interior (© Jermey Sinek)

All the elements that made previous Fits so voluminous and versatile -- extremely low floor, flat-and-flush folding rear seats, and the ability to tip up the rear-seat bottom cushions to accommodate tall objects (e.g. pot plants) upright behind the front seats – are still present.

Mechanically, the engine still displaces 1.5 litres, but it’s a new architecture with double overhead camshafts and direct injection; maximum outputs grow to 130 horsepower from 117, and to 114 lb.-ft. of torque from 106. Combined fuel consumption is trimmed by five percent with the new six-speed manual gearbox, or 16 percent with the optional continuously-variable automatic (previously, both gearbox options were conventional five-speeds). The Fit automatic is more economical than all rivals except the three-cylinder Mitsubishi Mirage and the (manual-only) Ford Fiesta 1.0.

The remaining mechanical ingredients feature new hardware but the basic formats are unchanged: MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear suspensions; front disc/rear-drum brakes; and electrically assisted rack and pinion steering.

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