Hondas new hatchback, more Fit for the task

Written by New York Times | Updated: Jan 18 2014, 17:43pm hrs
Honda sub-compact hatchbackHonda Fit is an indispensable springboard to more expensive and profitable Honda models.
What is it

The third generation of Hondas sub-compact hatchback is one of the few greenish cars at the Detroit auto show.

Is it real

Very much. Production begins next month at Hondas new plant in Celaya, Mexico. And since 62% of Fit owners buy another Honda, the Fit is an indispensable springboard to more expensive and profitable Honda models.

What they said

Honda has not had the production capacity to take full advantage of the market, but that is about to change with the new plant in Mexico, said John Mendel, executive vice-president for auto sales at American Honda. The new plant will make it possible for Honda to produce the high-value, high-quality subcompact vehicle that we need to attract a new generation of buyers. And as the new Fit served as a backdrop for 20-somethings meeting in the park, playing guitars and surfing, there was little doubt about the demographics of that new generation.

What they didnt say

When the Fit was introduced, its competitors included the Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris. Now, add the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent and you can see Honda needs to make some serious improvements to remain competitive. The company needs to cinch this remodelling, not repeat the mistakes it made with the initially underachieving last-generation Civic.

What makes it tick

The Fit gets an all-new, direct-injected 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine from the Earth Dreams family, which helps it to achieve better fuel economy. Horsepower is increased by 13 to 130. The 5-speed automatic and manual are replaced by two new transmissions: a continuously variable automatic and 6-speed manual. The Fit gets more of everything than the departing modelmore power, more miles per gallon and more interior space. But it weighs lessby 57 poundsbecause of Hondas next generation Advanced Compatibility engineering body structure. Honda estimates fuel economy ratings of 33 city/41 highway for models equipped with the continuously variable transmission.

How much, how soon

This car is scheduled to go on sale in the spring. But pricing will be announced later.

How does it look

Still wedge-shaped but more aggressive, at least as sub-compact hatchbacks go; looks a bit like the Volvo C30 from the rear.

- Cheryl Jensen