The little Honda Fit first came to the U.S. as a 2007 model, after being very popular overseas, where it is sold as Honda Jazz; it got a redesign just two years later.Now, this versatile, economical, sporty subcompact hatchback enters its third generation for 2015 in the U.S. market.Six trim levels are available, with prices ranging from $15,525-$20,800 (plus $790 freight) before options. There are two LX models, two EX models, and two EX-L (leather) models, one with navigation.LX and EX models come with a choice of a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic transmission. CVTs come with manual-mode paddle shifters on the steering wheel.All models have front-wheel drive, and come with a new 1.5-liter in-line four-cylinder engine producing 130 horsepower and 114 foot-pounds of torque.The models with manual transmissions (LX, $15,525; EX, $17,435) are EPA rated at 29 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The base LX CVT version ($16,325) is 33 city/41 highway, and the EX CVT ($18,235) model is 32/38, the same as the EX-L CVT ($19,800) and EX-L Navi ($20,800), which includes navigation.Using ECO mode, driving about evenly on the highway and neighborhood streets with some idling in fast food lines and parking lots, I averaged approximately 37.1 mpg on my EX-L Navi CVT tester. With this complete makeover, the Fit is now 1.6 inches shorter than last year’s model, with a 1.2 inch longer wheelbase.The longer wheelbase and a revised interior with the rear seat moved back 3.1 inches gives the Fit 4.8 inches of additional rear legroom – at 39.3 inches, that’s nearly an inch more than the Accord.With the extra room, two passengers sit very comfortably. But because the Fit is narrow, the middle passenger in the rear seat may not be so comfortable.Front passengers get 41.4 inches of legroom and 38 inches of headroom. The front seats are manually adjusted, as is the tilt/telescopic steering wheel.There is satin-finish metallic trim on the upper door panels, door handles, upper air vents, gauges, mid dash, climate control knobs, shift surround and the lower steering wheel spoke, along with the soft-touch dash overlay. It all gave the cockpit of my Fit EX-L a little more-luxurious feel. The chassis has also been revised and widened, and the Fit has more standard interior features than previous generations, including Bluetooth, a rearview camera, and a Magic Seat in the rear.Magic Seat quickly and easily folds flat in one motion in a 60/40 configuration by lifting a lever at the outer edge of the seat back (reached from the side door or the rear hatch), without removing the headrests or moving the front seats forward. The seat bottoms lift up to allow taller items to fit into the rear footwells. There is also plenty of space under the seat bottoms for stowing personal items when they are in the lowered position. Magic Seat may be my favorite Fit feature.The cargo floor is flat, low and easy to load, with total cargo space of 52.7 cubic inches with the seat backs folded. With the seat backs upright, the cargo area is still substantial at 16.6 cubic feet. The front passenger seat also reclines nearly flat to accommodate long items such as lumber or sports equipment. In a pinch, remove the front headrest, recline the seat and stretch out.Even the base models have Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, USB ports, 15-inch steel wheels, keyless entry and a trip computer. The base models have standard cloth upholstery. Options for all trims range from no-cost for protection packages, cargo liners, and seat covers, to $509 for a remote engine starting system. The EX adds 16-inch alloy wheels, moon roof, LaneWatch blind-spot system (another excellent feature), pushbutton start, paddle shifters, seven-inch display audio, and fog lights. EX-L gets a little fancier with the leather upholstery, heated front seats and side mirrors with expanded view driver's side, leather-covered steering wheel. The EX-L Navi brings navigation with real-time traffic, HD radio and satellite radio.LaneWatch uses a camera integrated into the passenger-side mirror to send an image of the area behind the right side of the vehicle to the navigation screen. It is activated when the driver uses the right-turn signal or by pressing a button on the turn-signal stalk.I especially like this feature to check for approaching bicycles, cars attempting to pass on the right shoulder (yes, they do), pedestrians, or tire-damaging curbs/medians (yes, I have) when turning right.Most of the controls were simple, well located, and easy to use. However, the climate control knobs weren't as precise as digital control buttons, not a serious problem.The audio system comes with a five-inch screen with Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition on the LX and a seven-inch touch-screen with HondaLink on the EX trims.HondaLink allows access to Aha Internet radio and Facebook via the owner's iPhone. HondaLink also allows any smartphone to play Pandora Internet radio through Bluetooth audio streaming, using voice command, touch screen or buttons located on the steering wheel.Bluetooth also allows SMS text messaging with certain phones. A navigation application is available for $60 and can be connected to the vehicle via smartphone without adding an internal navigation system. The Home Page screen provides access to navigation, phone, info, audio, settings, and HondaLink folders, and a button on the steering wheel allows priority access to the navigation, phone and audio folders. Navigation was simple to program and verbal instructions were easy to follow, although I didn't find a volume/mute button. Audio functions have become overly complex, in my opinion, and the Fit is no exception. I didn't find any way to enter the station number manually, and scrolling or scanning is frustrating and time-consuming.The 180-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with six speakers was adequate, though not concert quality. My Fit had two USB audio interface ports, MP3/Windows Media audio playback capability, the Radio Data System, and speed-sensitive volume control.The Fit EX-L was a sharp looking vehicle, with unexpected angles and curves, starting with the grille, which is solid piano black with a chrome Honda shield, and curvy chrome trim on the upper lip above the curvy vent opening and front bumper with a honeycomb vent. The headlights start where the hood crease meets the grille and wrap around the top of the front quarter panel. A deep groove runs from the back edge of the front wheel well, sweeps up slightly under the door handles to the edge of the taillights on the rear quarter panels. The lower door panels are also deeply curved near the bottom.In the rear, faux vents accent the outer corners of the angular rear bumper, geometric taillights extend up to the top of the hatch, and chrome dresses up the bottom edge of the hatch glass.My Fit was also fun to drive, handled well in curves and turns (unless you push it too hard), and had enough power for most traffic conditions and cautious passing.There was some engine noise, more on acceleration, and some road noise at higher speeds.The tester came with the Modern Steel Metallic exterior and had a gray headliner and door pillars, with a black interior from the shoulder down. There was very good exterior visibility from the driver’s position.Standard safety features include side-curtain air bags with rollover sensors, and connections for child seats, with anchors on the outboard rear seats and tethers on all rear seats. For buyers looking to save gasoline while driving a practical, roomy, flexible, attractive and fun vehicle, the Fit fits the bill.With freight, total sticker price of my top-end Fit EX-L Navi was $21,590.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.