Honda has been a company defined by innovation and spirited performance. As it has moved more mainstream and grown in popularity, it often seemed to the buying masses that the company shunned its origins in hopes of challenging Toyota for the best-selling Japanese brand in the land.
One constant that hasn’t changed is the Honda Fit, which has been on sale in the U.S. since 2006 and sold all over the world since 2002. The subcompact car was among the first to show that being light of wallet didn’t mean you had to suffer with a miserable tin box. In fact, the Honda Fit quickly helped reshape the segment with its big interior in a small car and sports car-like handling despite its modest power and pedestrian design.
The car continued into a second generation, and now the third version of the Honda Fit is on its way. Yesterday, we revealed our First Look at the 2015 Honda Fit, which will be hitting the U.S. in mid-2014 as a 2015 model. Today, we’re doing a little deeper dive on the new car’s underlying technology.
After 4 million sold, the next Honda Fit will be made in a new factory in Mexico to keep prices stabilized. The models we’ve gotten here have been manufactured in Japan, which, up until lately, were intentionally limited in the U.S. as the yen forced small profit margins on the car. Honda could allocate Fits elsewhere and command greater money, and it did. The 2015 Honda Fit looks to far exceed its annual 57,000-unit sales by way of new variations including a hybrid version. A crossover previewed by the Urban SUV concept and a sedan are also reportedly in the works for the U.S.
The 2015 Honda Fit has a two-inch longer wheelbase at about 100 inches long, but the Fit remains nearly identical in overall length and width, suggesting that the passenger space will become a little more ample (Note: The North American Fit has a longer nose than the international version to better meet federal crash standards. This may continue with the next model as well.). Power will come from a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine as a base engine that may or may not make it to the U.S., a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that’s almost a given for our market, and a 1.5-liter hybrid, which is of great intrigue to us. The Japanese market has gotten a hybrid variant of the Fit for some time, but the new one has a very slight chance of making its way to the U.S., proving peppy with 135 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque.
It will be paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that should help it net more than 55 mpg in the real world. Why a dual-clutch? Heck, what is a dual-clutch transmission, you ask? A traditional automatic uses hydraulic pressure to smooth out shifting from gear to gear, creating plenty of friction and drivetrain efficiency losses. A dual-clutch transmission operates like a manual transmission, using a dry clutch plate, er, two dry clutch plates to pair up the engine to the transmission. Why two? It speeds up shifts and makes them less perceptible, one being used for the odd gears and one being used for the even gears. The result should be a power delivery that’s both smoother and more efficient.
The system is part of Honda’s Earth Dreams Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive (i-DCD) system, which can run on all-electric power, gas power, hybrid mode, or none of the above if the car is comfortably cruising. Honda estimates it will achieve 35-percent greater fuel economy than its current Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system employed in the Insight, Civic Hybrid, and CRZ. That system acts as a mild booster to the engine, but never fully runs in an electric mode.
If all that technology isn’t your thing, the 1.5-liter four-cylinder will still be available with a six-speed manual transmission. That’s the way we’d take it.
The Honda Fit has always been a solid all-arounder, able to chip away at your favorite roads, driving a slow car fast, and having more fun than the guy next to you in his 500-horsepower sports car. All the while, it can still haul plenty of cargo, seat four people comfortably, and fit into the smallest of parking spots. We’d rather not call it a vestigial Honda that’s still based on the principles of yore. Rather, it’s the lead-off hitter for the brand and should set the pace for innovation to come.