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Honda Fit back with a vengeance after a year’s production hiatus

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2015 Honda Fit

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After skipping the 2014 model year, the Honda Fit is back for 2015, and the company’s engineers and designers seem to have made good use of their time.

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Entering its third generation, the subcompact hatchback offers a unique combination of driving experience, comfortable ride, technological features, and hauling capacity in a fuel-efficient package at a relative bargain price.

Imagine getting an attractive, versatile vehicle with such features as navigation with a 7-inch display screen, satellite radio, rear-view camera, leather trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, one-touch moonroof, and keyless operation in a car that carries an MSRP of under $22,000.

And for that you even get Honda's LaneWatch system that, with the aid of a camera mounted on the passenger side mirror, gives you a view of the blind spot on your right side when the right turn signal is activated. Or you can push a button at the end of the stalk and you get the same view.

That’s all standard equipment on the top-of-the-line EX-L NAVI trim Fit that lists for $21,590, including the $790 destination and delivery charge.

The Fit also comes in three other trims -- LX, EX, and EX-L. All four models feature a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 130 horsepower at 6600 rpm and 114 pound-feet of torque at 4600 rpm.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on LX and EX trim, and the EX-L and EX-L NAVI comes with a CVT as standard. The CVT, also available as an option on the LX and EX models, comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters that mimic a seven-speed shiftable transmission, which boosts driving experience.

At an impressive 33 miles-per-gallon city and 41 highway, the CVT increases mileage by 4 mpg over manual models, all on regular unleaded fuel without sacrificing much in the way of get-up-and-go. If not sports-car-like, the FIT at least delivers impressive performance for its class.

Inside, the Fit offers good passenger room, including 39.3 inches of legroom (nearly two inches more than the Accord sedan) and 52.6 inches of shoulder room in the backseat. That reduces storage capacity slightly to 16.6 cubic feet behind the second row, but folding the 60/40 split second row increases cargo space to nearly 53 cubic feet.

Configuration for stowage is flexible as well because of the Fit's “Magic Seats.” In addition to the backs of the second row folding flat, the seat cushions also flip up, providing room for taller items, such as a bicycle. The front passenger seat also folds flat to handle longer items. (The driver’s seat also folds back flat, but it makes it kind of difficult to drive)

In addition, Honda has graced the Fit's cabin with quality materials and lots of technological features like HondaLink, especially on the upper trims. giving the Fit the feel of a more expensive automobile.

Designers also gave the dash a nice clean look by the elimination of as many knobs as possible. There are three, all to run the climate control system. Other features, like the radio, run off the touchscreen, leaving a flat surface for a clean appearance.

It’s almost like two different people designed the upper and lower areas of the center stack, one who liked knobs and one who didn’t.

But although the elimination of knobs (you turn on the audio by pressing a small button at the top of the screen) makes for a nice clean look, it results in a system that complicates some of the simplest functions, like surfing the radio dial. Setting the presets also is unnecessarily fussy. The only duplicate audio buttons are on the steering wheel, allowing the driver to change modes, scan presets, or adjust volume.

Overall, though, those are minor peccadilloes when looking at the Fit’s overall package. And, frankly, the generation that the Fit is likely to appeal to — it would make a great first car for a teen — is apt to like the ability to tap, swipe, or pinch the screen to perform various tasks, just as they might do with their smartphone.

For a quick look at the 2015 Honda Fit, which has been on sale since the spring, along with more specs and features, check out the accompanying slide show.

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