Getting Jazzed Over the Honda Fit

November 2, 2014 Updated: November 2, 2014

By most standards, the Honda Fit has been a surprising success in the U.S. In a tough market that includes fantastic competitors like the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, and Hyundai Accent, Fit has earned a reputation for durability, versatility, and drivability. There’s something special about the Fit, which is causing drivers to get all jazzed up about the third generation.

The Fit has always been a weird little car that is just normal enough to be lovable. The dramatic sloped nose and soft curves of the last model have been replaced by an edgier and more dynamic design. A grille insert, slimmer headlamps, chiseled bodysides, sportier grille, foglamps, 16-inch alloys, and color-matched spoiler give the car a more planted stance and angrier attitude. I think the rear, with horizontal chrome and lamp pods, is especially fetching.

Interiors are more spacious with an additional 4.8 inches of rear legroom. And, they’re more luxurious with stitched vinyl on the dash, available heated leather seats, silver door handles, and stylish seat fabric. Fit’s rear flip-up “Magic Seat” remains to cross-load bicycles, flower pots, or a haul from the outlet mall. Bluetooth, USB inputs, and auto headlamps come standard. Check additional boxes for a one-touch power moonroof, keyless entry/start, premium audio, and touchscreen.

Honda’s old touchscreen design was not ideal, but the new flashier one, even with iPad-style gesture recognition, is a pain to use. Just give me a knob to tune the radio and adjust volume. Seriously. At least the screen is perfect for watching the rearview camera and Lane Watch system that uses a camera on the passenger side to show drivers what they’re missing when they flip the blinker. Of course, that also flips away whatever you’re doing on the touchscreen every time you turn right. Fit is best enjoyed when looking straight ahead.

Revving out the powertrain is a delight. Employing Honda’s “Earth Dreams Technology” that includes variable valve timing and direct injection, the 1.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine spools out 130 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft. of torque. A sport-shift, continuously-variable, automatic transmission is available; but our car came with the slick-shifting six-speed manual. The light clutch goes well to make city driving less cramp-inducing. Fuel economy is rated 29/37-MPG city/hwy.

Light weight, quick steering, and a sprightly chassis keep the Fit from being a bore. In fact, like most Hondas, it feels like engineers actually cared about the driving experience, no matter the car’s price and purpose. You find yourself looking for the long, curvy way home just to rev out the engine and toss it into a corner. And, I hope you enjoy listening to a revving engine, because you’ll hear it plenty. A longer wheelbase improves ride comfort and handling, giving the car a more stable feel. The re-engineered body structure is noticed in the car’s quietness and solidity, but should also help Honda ace NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) crash tests.

Success shouldn’t be surprising as the Fit continues a long Honda tradition of building simple, well-engineered cars that are functional and efficient—all while causing owners barely any trouble. Long-time Honda drivers will be reminded of early Civics. The car is everything you need, and little you don’t. Europeans will soon see the redesigned Fit, called Jazz across the pond, at the Paris Auto Show. I predict, they’re going to like it.

A base price of $15,525, or $18,225 as-tested, is a great value. The Fit will be produced for the first time in North America at an all-new plant in in Celaya, Mexico.

2015 Honda Fit EX
Five-passenger, FWD sub-compact
Powertrain: 130hp 1.5-liter, 6-spd manual trans
Suspension f/r: Ind/Torsion beam
Wheels: 16-in./16-in. alloy f/r
Brakes: disc/drum fr/rr with ABS
Must-have features: Space, powertrain
Fuel economy: 29/37 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Celaya, Mexico
Base/as-tested price: $15,525/$18,225