2015 Honda Fit EX-L - Driven

In 2007, Honda rebadged its useful and popular Jazz model as the Fit and released it in America. Americans immediately took notice, as the unstable prices in fuel led us to start looking at smaller vehicles. What’s more, the debut Fit also had a massive 57-cubic-foot cargo area that no other compact hatchbacks could come close to. In 2015 — after a one-year break — the Fit returns with an all-new look, new cabin, updated engine, and a huge increase in rear-seat room.

I spent a week behind the wheel of the range-topping 2015 Fit EX-L — the first Fit to feature leather upholstery — and came away mighty impressed. The roominess was out of this world, the cargo area was incredible and the smattering of features were nice additions. As with most entry-level cars with leather interior, this was the sore spot in the whole thing. The leather seemed haphazardly slapped over cloth and hard plastic, leaving some fit and finish issues, and black leather is simply unbearable in the summer.

the real question is whether the iffy leather left a bad taste in my mouth or were the good parts of this compact hatch enough to make me overlook my problems with the cow hide?

Click past the jump to read my Driven review on the 2015 Fit and find out.

Exterior

Honda Fit EX-L - Driven
Honda Fit EX-L - Driven
Honda Fit EX-L - Driven

My tester came to me in a makes-you-wonder-what-they-were-thinking purple that Honda calls Passion Berry Pearl.

Just when you thought a compact city car couldn’t get much smaller, Honda did so by making the 2015 Fit 1.6 inches shorter than the 2013 model year. It does, however, retain the 60-inch height from 2013, plus it’s 0.3 inches wider and rides on a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase than the 2013 Fit. Other than these changes in size, the 2015 Fit also receives a completely redesigned body with sharper lines, angular headlights, and more aggressive wheel arches.

On a whole, the 2015 Fit is a much better-looking hatchback than it was in 2013. The new angles give it a sportier look, while the redesigned headlights help it fit in with the rest of the Honda Honda lineup. On the downside, the new, vertical taillights make the Fit seem awkwardly tall and the faux air outlets on the rear are simply tacky.

My tester came to me in a makes-you-wonder-what-they-were-thinking purple that Honda calls Passion Berry Pearl. It is not a bad color in some lighting, but it is too much purple and not enough "Plum Crazy" for me to be caught driving in the daytime. But I dealt with it took one for the team, so to say.

In terms of approachability, the Fit is acceptable for its class.

My test model came pretty well loaded, as it was the EX-L trim. It featured a set of 16-inch rollers with all-season tires, intermittent wipers, rear wiper, auto headlights, mirror-mounted repeaters, fog lights, LED taillights, and a Smart Entry System. All of these premium features helped me forgive the less-than-favorable hue.

In terms of approachability, the Fit is acceptable for its class. The front end is nicely styled and far from overdone. The profile view is acceptable, thanks to a deep shoulder line that stretches from the front wheel well back to the taillight, and the slight swoop to the roofline. From the rear. however, things kind of fall apart, as the previously mentioned taillights make it look disproportionally tall and the faux air outlets are just silly.

Overall, the Fit won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s also not going to make young children run in fear when it approaches. So, I’ll just say it is okay.

Interior

Honda Fit EX-L - Driven
Honda Fit EX-L - Driven
Honda Fit EX-L - Driven

So really, this is one of the few small hatchbacks that adults can sit in the back seat without complaining.

On the inside, I am happy with some features and scratching my head on others. The good stuff includes the 7-inch Display Audio System that has a clear, easy-to-read touchscreen with a multi-angle rearview camera and a blind spot camera. The gauges were bright and easy to read, and the buttons were all where they were supposed to be. Having built-in navigation was another lifesaver, but the EX-L trim is the only one to offer this as an option.

In the rear, the goodness continues with a super-spacious rear seat that offers up a midsize sedan-like 39.3 inches of legroom. That’s a whopping 4.8 inches more than the 2013 model. Honda pulled this off by moving the rear seat back into the cargo area slightly and pushing the wheels further out toward the corners. You also get 52.6 inches of shoulder room, which is 1.3 inches more than the 2013 model. So really, this is one of the few small hatchbacks that adults can sit in the back seat without complaining.

Honda Fit EX-L - Driven

With this expanded back seat comes a mild tradeoff in the form of less cargo room. Then again, the 2013 Fit led its class in cargo room — by a long shot — so there was a little wiggle room back there. Even with the reduction in cargo room in favor of legroom, the 2015 Fit can carry 16.6 cubic feet of cargo with the seats up and a massive 52.7 cubic feet with the seats down. This massive cargo hold is courtesy of the high roofline, flat folding seats and a revised rear suspension that allows for a lower cargo floor.

The only bad thing is that you cannot get navigation without the EX-L package.

The rear end also shows off its versatility with seats that not only fold flat, but the rear seat bottoms also pull upward to allow you to slide cargo under them, or for easy access to French fries or other bits that the kiddos may drop under there. Honda calls this feature the "Magic Seat," I simply call it "awesomeness."

As much as I can rave about the usefulness of the Fit’s cabin, there are a few sore spots, with the biggest being that the center console lid actually rubs against the driver’s seat. It’s not terrible, but enough to rub the cow hide raw over the years. Also, the black leather gets super-hot in the Florida sun, making parking in the sun something that you want to avoid if you don’t like third-degree burns on your legs and derrière. If you live in the Southern U.S., I suggest avoiding the EX-L and going with the less burn-prone cloth seats in the EX model. The only bad thing is that you cannot get navigation without the EX-L package.

Considering the insane usefulness of the Fit’s cabin, these flaws are very minor and ultimately avoidable by opting out of the EX-L package. Eventually, Honda will add the navigation system as an option on the EX, but that may not come until the 2016 model or later in the 2015 model year.

Drivetrain

Honda Fit EX-L - Driven

The 2015 Fit gets some mild improvements in the drivetrain area for this new generation. Under its hood is a 1.5-liter four-pot that delivers 130 ponies at 6,600 rpm and 114 pound-feet of twist at 4,600 rpm. This is an increase of 13 horsepower and 8 pound-feet when compared to the 2013 model, meaning a slight bump in straight-line performance. But don’t start thinking that this is some hot hatch, as the CVT pretty much kills it.

One good thing is that there is a Sport mode on the CVT that passes the range-changing duties to a set of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. This helps the 2015 Fit feel a little sportier than it does in the normal CVT mode, but it is still has the telltale CVT droning.

In term of performance, you’re looking at a roughly nine-second run to 60 mph. That’s not too bad for the class and is excellent considering it gets 32 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined. I can vouch for the ratings too, as I was at 35 mpg on the nose when I finished my week-long test of this peppy little hatch.

Pricing

Honda Fit EX-L - Driven

For a car that has the reliability of a Honda and the cargo room of a small SUV, the Fit is very aggressively priced. It starts out at only $15,525, which is just $1.,500 more than the base and very cramped Rio 5-Door, but the EX-L model climbs to an eye-watering $20,800. At this point, you are only $4k shy of the Golf GTI and $2k more than a base Golf — that is some pretty heavy-hitting company to be associated with. But for the features it includes, like the seven-inch Display Audio system, navigation, multi-angle rearview camera, blind-spot camera, and more, it really is a great deal. I only wish you could get navigation without the leather.

Driving Impression

Driving the Fit takes some getting used to, as it does not behave in a manner that relates to its looks. With the high roofline, you would think that body roll is abundant, but honestly it leans only slightly in turns. It’s quick-ratio steering is also very responsive, making it go right where you point it each and every time. Sure, the CVT kind of kills the joy of this rig, but with a manual gearbox, it would be an amazing little hatch to tinker around with on a windy road.

The ride is a little harsh and the noise level inside the cabin is a bit intrusive, particularly under heavy throttle, but that is what you get with a $15,000 car wrapped up with cow hide. It is built to be light and nimble, not smooth and quiet, and I have to give Honda credit for not trying to overdo it and price the Fit out of the market.

There is a little bit of fun to be had when you drop the gear shifter into Sport mode and let your hands do the gear changing. But even that feels a little numb after a while.

Where the Fit really excels is in a parking lot. It’s quick steering makes easy work of swinging into a parking space, and its short body makes fitting into any space a breeze. The steering ratio is so quick that you may find yourself undershooting spaces the first few times you drive it.

Truly, this is a purpose-built hatchback with a touch of sportiness. It really harks back to the olden days of Honda.

Competition

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatch

Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is likely the Fit’s biggest rival, but they are suited for totally different people. Whereas the Fit is more of a super-small SUV without the ground clearance, the Fiesta is more of a "hot-hatch" type of car. The Fiesta’s sporty design and swooping roofline play to this focus and the addition of a 197-horsepower ST model delivers the goods.

The Fiesta drastically lacks cargo room with only 12.8 cubic feet with the seats in place and 25.4 cubes with the seats folded — less than half of the room in the Fit. The Fiesta does have a slew of engine options going for it, including the base 1.6-liter engine with 120 horses and 112 pound-feet of torque, the optional 1.0-liter EcoBoost with 123 horses and 125 pound-feet and the raucous 1.6-liter EcoBoost with 197 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of twist.

With the base 1.6-liter, the Fiesta Hatch gets 28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 13 mpg combined with a manual, and 27/37/31 with the automatic. The 1.0-liter engine pushes the numbers to 36 mpg combined, while the ST drops to 29 mpg combined.

The Fiesta Hatch bases at $15,425 and peaks at $22,295 in its ST garb.

2014 Kia Rio 5-Door

Kia Rio 5-Door

The Kia Rio is another alternative to the Fit that simply caters to a different crowd. Kia has tuned its smaller cars toward the younger, first-time car buyer by including funkier cabins, more features and lower prices. Where the Rio falls on its face is roominess, as it has just 31.1 inches of rear legroom, but it does rival the Fit with 49.8 cubic feet of cargo room with the seats folded and 15 cubes with the seats upright.
The Rio is one of the more powerful hatches — sans the Fiesta ST — in the class with its 1.6-liter engine that cranks out 138 horses and 123 pound-feet of twist. Despite the extra power, the Rio is about average at just under 10 seconds to 60 mph. The Rio is also slightly under the Fit in terms of fuel economy at 31 mpg combined.

The Rio’s $14,000 price tag gives it a lot of wiggle room to add features. With leather, the Rio comes in at just under $19k, and with all of the option boxes ticked, it runs $21,445 with delivery.

Conclusion

Drawing a conclusion on the Fit EX-L is pretty tough, as the looks are not up my alley — it’s a little too tall for my liking — but its is likely one of the most useful compact hatchbacks ever built. With a massive cargo hold, sedan-like rear seat room and a smattering of features that make me smile, it really is a nice package.

Choosing the Fit EX-L over the other well-equipped hatchbacks in its class is a decision that will have to be based upon your personal preference. I will take a sportier look over a useful cargo hold and big rear seat, but some folks with larger families who need the extra space may take function over form and choose the Fit. If you choose the Fit, I suggest avoiding the leather seating, unless you live in a cooler climate, as the hot sun on the black leather is a recipe for toasty buns. I also advise opting for the six-speed manual transmission for those of you who like a better driving experience.

LOVE IT
  • Great fuel economy
  • Plenty of peppiness for around town
  • Handles well for its high roofline
  • 52.7 cubic feet of cargo room, are you kidding me?
  • Handles well for the class of vehicle
LEAVE IT
  • High roofline is a little awkward when combined with vertical taillights
  • CVT kills any ounce of fun
  • Some minor fit and finish issues
  • No navigation without leather

What is your take?

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