Honda Fit (Jazz)


Debut: 2013
Maker: Honda
Predecessor: Fit Mk2 (2008)



 Published on 16 Apr 2014 All rights reserved. 


Mid-life crisis is something everyone should face. Car makers are the same. Honda enjoyed some wonderful years during the 1980s and 1990s thanks to a string of innovative products, high-tech applications and motorsport success. Its business as well as reputation grew at an amazing pace. Then the domestic bubble economy burst, and it fell back to the ground. To survive the hard winter its cars got conservative and mediocre, losing the advanced image earned earlier. When the domestic market stabilized, its overseas market share became threatened by the fast-rising Korean and the rebounding Detroit. As a result, Honda could not earn enough profit to support its ambitious R&D. A return to full fitness seemed no longer possible. It had to think smartly how to spend its limited budget on things that matter to most consumers. The result was the first two generations Fit, or Jazz in some overseas markets.

To Honda, the Fit is a rare success in recent years. It is not only a smash hit in Japan but also quite popular in Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. It is one of the few true "world cars" in Honda's line-up, thanks to the fact that B-segment has become global standard. The biggest asset of the car is undoubtedly its highly space-efficient packaging, which is made possible by its unique positioning of the fuel tank (underneath the front seats) and the flexible rear seats. Besides, it is also versatile in other areas – performance, fuel economy, ride and handling, styling, build quality, usability, affordability… none are quite class-leading but they are more than average in the class. Most important, it ticks all the boxes customers care without costing a lot of money. Buyers should think their money wisely spent.



Enough history. Now let’s go straight to the new, third generation Fit. In essence, it retains the same philosophy of the old cars. This is still a compact hatchback majoring on versatility and space efficiency. While the more angular shape might be harder to appreciate (especially that odd crease line running across the doors), the packaging is hard to fault. It is small outside yet big inside. How small outside? Measuring just shy of 4 meters in length and 1.7 meters in width, it is on the smaller side of the segment. How big inside? It offers plenty of room for adults front and rear. Not just that, the rear legroom is claimed to exceed that of the Accord, believe or not! How is that achievable? Apart from the usual monospace shape and a high-standing roof, Honda stretched its wheelbase by 30 mm to 2530 mm and shortened the trailing arms of the torsion-beam rear suspension. This allows the rear seat to be mounted an incredible 120 mm further back. It goes without saying such a limo-like rear legroom is unparalleled in the class!

Get on board, you will find vast of head and knee room. The cabin's plastics and switch gears are still on the cheap side, and the dash design is hardly inspiring, but the functioning is generally flawless. The center console is now angled slightly towards the driver for ease of use. New infotainment screen and instruments look more sophisticated. As before, the fuel tank locates underneath the front seats instead of the rear seats. This frees up the space underneath the latter, allowing the 60/40-split rear seat cushions to be flipped up and release a deep cargo area to place especially tall luggage (up to 128 cm). Alternatively, the rear seat backrests can be folded down to reveal a flat and large cargo bay. The front passenger seat may fold down to place long items, such as a surf board. When both front seats recline, a double bed can be formed together with the rear bench. This is still the most MPV-like cabin in the supermini class.



As fuel efficiency becomes increasingly important, Honda developed 3 new “Earth Dreams” engines for the Fit. At the bottom is a 1.3-liter engine running Atkinson combustion cycle. Normally this kind of engines is weak on power, but Honda compensates it with DOHC and i-VTEC – the latter combines VTEC dual-cam profiles switching and VTC variable cam phasing. The result is a respectable 100 horsepower output and decent amount of torque.

If you want more performance, the new 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC engine will be more satisfying. Compare with the old engine it gains another camshaft, VTC and direct fuel injection, yielding another 12 horsepower and 7 pound-foot of torque while lowering fuel consumption. Further fuel can be saved by opting for a new CVT which replaces the outgoing automatic. Mind you, the CVT is neither fun nor refined. It tends to rev the engine hard in acceleration and amplifies the engine noise. Its 7-steps manual mode is slow and reluctant to take your commands. The new 6-speed manual gearbox is much more pleasant to use. Its gearshift has the typical slickness of Honda, and the closely stacked ratios aid acceleration, though it doesn’t help to calm down the engine in high-speed cruising.

Speaking of noise, Honda's powertrains are a bit noisy compared with the downsized turbocharged engines of some rivals, because they lack bottom-end torque thus need to be revved harder to extract the same performance. Moreover, for the sake of weight saving the Fit sacrifices some sound deadening materials you would expect on its European rivals. This explains why you can hear more engine, road and wind noise in its cabin.



The most interesting powertrain is the new Hybrid i-DCD (intelligent dual-clutch drive). It combines a 110 hp 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson-cycle engine, a 29.5 hp electric motor and a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Electric power comes from a lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the boot floor between the rear wheels. The thin, ring-shape electric motor is elegantly incorporated into the transmission casing, housed around the first gear of the dual-clutch transmission to save space (otherwise it would have been impossible to fit into the small car). This also necessitates the first gear to be converted to a planetary gear. The electric motor is attached to the end of the odd gear shaft thus it provides power through 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th gear. The engine can work on all gears. The whole thing is quite innovative.

Why does it employ DCT? Because the twin-clutch design allows the engine to be disengaged when running in EV mode, so it does not waste electric power to turn the idling engine. This means Hybrid i-DCD is significantly more efficient than the previous IMA hybrid system. The more powerful electric motor, which has its output more than doubled from the old Fit Hybrid, also contributes to improved efficiency as the car can run in EV mode more of the time, especially when commuting in town.



While fuel economy has taken a big step forward, driving pleasure is not so lucky. Honda has adopted a more civilized approach on its chassis tuning. The suspension now employs a dual-path mounting and the new shock absorbers incorporate blow-off valve to decrease damping at higher speeds. Both lead to a more civilized ride, but the suspension’s softer tuning and the deletion of rear anti-roll bar bring more body roll and understeer into the equation. Furthermore, the electrical power steering gets a slower ratio and lighter effort, losing the precision and quick turn-in of the old car. Neither does it deliver as much feel. For a family hatch with a strong emphasis on practicality this might not be a big problem, but to keen drivers it is no longer an alternative to Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio and Peugeot 208.

The new Fit does not look as versatile as the Mk1 and Mk2 models when compared with class rivals. Its driver appeal has taken a backward step. Its sound insulation and cruising refinement are not good enough. Its new exterior styling wins few praises. However, if cabin space and cargo-carrying capacity are crucial to you, there is still nothing can beat it.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine

Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power

Max torque

Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Fit 1.3i
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3955 / 1695 / 1525 mm
2530 mm
Inline-4 Atkinson-cycle

1317 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
-
-
100 hp

88 lbft

5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/60HR15
1020 kg
-
-
-
Fit 1.5i
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3955 / 1695 / 1525 mm
2530 mm
Inline-4

1496 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
-
DI
132 hp

114 lbft

6-speed manual (CVT)
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/55VR16
1060 kg (1080 kg)
118 mph (c)
8.0* (8.5*)
23.2* (26.4*)
Fit Hybrid
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3955 / 1695 / 1525 mm
2530 mm
Inline-4 Atkinson-cycle, electric motor
1496 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
-
-
Engine: 110 hp
Motor: 29.5 hp
Engine: 99 lbft
Motor: 118 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
185/55VR16
1160 kg
-
-
-




Performance tested by: *C&D





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