Arriving here during the second quarter of next year as a 2015 model, the all-new third-generation Honda Fit has just been revealed in Japan. While these official images all depict right-hand-drive domestic variants that go on sale there in September as 2014 models, the basic design of their U.S. counterparts will be largely identical -- save for a strategic repositioning of the steering wheel.

Visually, the new Fit has a bolder, more sophisticated exterior appearance that ushers in what Honda is calling its new "Exciting H Design" language. Save for a slightly longer wheelbase, the Fit's overall dimensions are believed to be largely unchanged. However, edgier sheetmetal cues and more intriguing front/rear detail elements definitely crank up its curb appeal. The Fit's roomy, flexible passenger compartment benefits from the same kind of focused attention and boasts enhanced materials as well as improved fit and finish. Centerpiece of the effort is a cool new blackout display screen on the restyled center stack.

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There's equally big news to be found under the hood of the Gen III Fit. Honda has confirmed it will be the first vehicle fitted with the new
Sport Hybrid Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive (i-DCD) system, a package developed under the automaker's Earth Dreams Technology umbrella. This setup matches a new 1.5-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine with a single integrated high-output electric motor and an intelligent power unit with a built-in lithium-ion battery, all driving the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The package also incorporates a new electric servo brake system that increases electrical regenerative efficiency and a fully electric air conditioning compressor that reduces engine load.

Although many specifications have yet to be released, Honda says the compact and lightweight i-DCD system does yield a 35 percent improvement in overall fuel economy on the domestic cycle compared to a current IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) hybrid system. That translates to nearly 86 mpg on the less-stringent Japanese cycle and will make the new Fit the most fuel-efficient non-plug-in model you can buy there. The new i-DCD also is capable of seamlessly and automatically changing between gasoline/hybrid/EV power modes as driving conditions dictate. Sadly, there are no plans at present to offer i-DCD in the 2015 U.S. Fit. We anticipate a more fuel-efficient direct-injected upgrade of the current i-VTEC 1.5-liter gasoline engine will be the sole motivator initially. However, Honda has confirmed that i-DCD will play a significant role here in the future, serving as the replacement for the current IMA system in its next generation of smaller hybrids, including the Civic and Insight.  

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Production of the North American 2015 Honda Fit line will take place at Honda's new assembly plant currently under construction in Silao, Mexico. The facility, which opens next spring, also will turn out a new Fit-based crossover based on the Honda Urban SUV Concept that was shown in Detroit last January. For the record, there will be no 2014 model-year Fit. Honda plans to extend the run of 2013s imported from Japan until the all-new 2015 Fit hits the showrooms.

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