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Car Report

2015 Honda Fit Test Drive

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    Honda

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    Honda

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    Honda

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    Honda

The Honda Fit has been one of the most popular subcompact cars in America since it hit these shores in 2007, largely because it lives up to its name in many ways. The all-new 2015 version is more of the same.

With a starting price of $16,315 -- just a hundred bucks more than last year – it fits in most new car buying budgets; it’s smaller on the outside so it fits in parking spaces even better; but somehow it’s also larger inside, so you can fit bigger people and more stuff in it.

Cargo room is still best-in-class, and the load floor remains very low, but it’s a little smaller under the hatch than the old model because Honda divvied up 4.8 inches of additional legroom to the rear seats.

They fold forward, of course, but flatter than in most small cars, and the seat bottoms also flip up. This allows you to load tall items through the side doors. Honda calls them Magic Seats, and they pull off these neat tricks thanks to the gas tank being located below the front seats. I know, scary, but not a problem. Previous Fits used the same layout and the tanks haven’t caused any issues.

Drivers don't get any more legroom, which is unfortunate for six-footers like me, because it’s a little tight up there. I see no reason that the seat shouldn’t slide back further -- there’s plenty of room left behind it -- unless that dang gas tank has something to do with it! The surroundings are much more stylish, however, with soft trim on the dash and doors, and a new center console control panel that’s fashioned after a tablet, which first debuted on the Honda Civic.

As with most automotive touchscreen interfaces, it could stand a couple of knobs or physical buttons for tuning and volume (even an iPod has the latter,) but the flat bezel looks great and there are auxiliary controls on the steering wheel. The screen is reasonably responsive, however many functions get locked out when you’re moving and using voice commands to control them can be interminable.

A backup camera is standard on all Fits, and top trim levels also have Honda’s LaneWatch monitor -- a right side blind spot camera that displays a wide-angle view of what’s beside the car on the infotainment system screen. It takes some time getting used to, but then you can’t live without it. For those times when you’re stationary, and bored, there is also an HDMI input, so you can use the same screen as a monitor to watch videos or play console videogames. But the way the Fit drives, that won’t be too often.

The engine is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and other tweaks that pumps out 130 hp, a 13 hp bump over the outgoing car, while keeping with the less and more trope by delivering up to 41 mpg on the highway when fitted with an automatic transmission.

That’s for the entry-level Fit LX, which has low-rolling resistance tires and some aerodynamic tweaks. Other models with fatter rubber and slightly different bodywork are rated at 38 mpg. The transmission is one of those gearless CVTs that some people find annoying, but is one of the best of its type. Plus, if you switch it into Sport mode, you can use the paddles attached to the steering wheel to shift through seven virtual gears, which is one more than the actual 37 mpg manual has.

You’ll appreciate the auto in traffic and on the highway, because the stick has lower gear ratios and buzzes along in top gear at around 3,500 rpm at 70 mph, while the CVT dials that back closer to 2,000 rpm for quieter cruising. The Fit isn’t exactly a luxury car, but this plus some added sound deadening material has helped reduce the auditory assault.

At any speed, the Fit is great to drive. Its ride is far more comfortable on chewed-up city streets than you have a right to expect from a car this small, yet it’s nimble and lively when you need to avoid obstacles, or just have a little fun. It’s very much in the Honda way.

The only thing that comes up short compared to the old Fit is the cup and bottle holder count, which drops from 10 to seven … for the five passengers on board.

Stay thirsty, my friends. Just a little less.

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2015 Honda Fit

Base price: $16,315

As tested: $21,590

Type: 5-passenger, 5-door subcompact

Engine: 1.5L 4-cyllinder

Power: 130 hp, 114 lb-ft torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

MPG: 32 city/38 hwy