2015 Honda Fit Long-term Update: Praiseworthy powertrain
Now nearly two months into its year as part of the KBB long-term test fleet, our bright yellow 2015 Honda Fit EX-L continues to make an overall positive impression. Leather-lined and Navi enhanced, this top-of-the-line Fit has yet to complete an extended road trip. But with a couple thousand local miles now under its rising beltline, we're finding more and more to like about the accommodating nature of this roomy and versatile subcompact. We're also getting a decidedly positive vibe about its potential to match frugality with a fun-to-drive character.
Earth Dreams fulfilled
To complement its more sophisticated package and additional people space, the 2015 Fit redesign brief included more efficient powertrain elements starting with an all-new 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine from Honda's Earth Dreams portfolio. While retaining the automaker's signature i-VTEC (intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Electronic-lift Control), this new motivator benefits from reduced internal friction and adds VTC (Valve and Timing Control) to the mix while upping the compression ratio and introducing both dual overhead camshafts and direct injection. The Earth Dreams evolution also sees the pony count rise by 11 percent from 117 to 130 horsepower and peak torque by 7.5 percent -- from 106 to 114 lb-ft compared to the same-size engine in its predecessor.
On EX-L/EX-L Navi models, the Fit's new, slick-shifting 6-speed manual is supplanted by an equally new and standard continuously variable automatic (CVT) in place of the conventional 5-speed automatic used previously. Shared with the Civic but specifically tweaked for Fit duty, this new CVT further leverages the engine's output gains with a wider overall ratio range and reduced friction. In a state-of-the-art serendipitous synergy, these two key components not only help put a bit more snap in the Fit's responses but elevate each of the car's key EPA numbers by five, bringing those stats to 32/38/35 city/highway/combined mpg.
Right for the real world
Looking good on paper is one thing, but the street is where these upgrades really need to count. There, too, our new Fit has done an admirable job whether negotiating city streets or making its way through crowded L.A. freeways. While you won't mistake the new 1.5-liter for a small block V8 or even a Civic Si, this engine has plenty in hand to cope with the rigors of the road and is ably abetted by the commendably responsive CVT. Although we quickly discovered enthusiastic slice-and-dice moves are best executed with its G-Shift Control set in Sport mode and the driver prudently selecting one of seven "virtual" gears using the steering-wheel mounted paddles.
Stepping hard into the throttle and/or winding this free-revving 4-cylinder up towards its 6,800-rpm redline is accompanied by an appreciable although not really objectionable bump in decibel count. However, during most normal day-to-day duties, the Fit's engine sound fades into the background and the CVT lets it tick over at a mere 2,200 rpm when cruising along at 70 mph in Drive. The rebalanced ratios also contribute what has so far been an exemplary fuel economy number, with the car latest mixed-mode tank averaging 36.3 mpg. We'll see how well this early figure matches up with subsequent performances in the months ahead, but the news up front is definitely good.
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