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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist


New Honda Fit plays right tune as Jazz replacement

Name change the result of Honda viewing the Fit as a step-up from the Jazz.


It would be fair to say rather than assume that Honda has been experiencing a tough last few years on local shores.

A quick glimpse at the monthly NAAMSA sales figures paints the rather gloomy picture with the reasons for the marque’s worryingly rapid decline being open to speculation from not only the media but also current owners.

The marque is not giving up though and with the unveiling of the long awaited all-new Jazz in Cape Town last week, it also deemed it, uhmm… fit to introduce one of its most popular and highly regarded models under a new name.

New name but why?

Despite having carried the moniker since the first generation in other markets, the Fit, notwithstanding the large number of grey imports roaming local streets, is still a relatively new name to South Africa with Honda attributing the reasons to the newcomer not only being brand-new, but also as a way of dispensing with the stigma of the Jazz as an “old person’s car”.

New Honda Fit

No more jazz here.

The changes have not been limited to replacing the Jazz badges with Fit ones either as the newcomer is 88 mm longer overall and 13 mm lower dimensionally than the Jazz, while being nine kilograms lighter thanks to using lightweight ultra-high strength steel in addition to be being equipped with a new suspension.

Familiar but new face

Outwardly, the Fit will more than likely be viewed as an evolution over the Jazz than an all-new model as the basic silhouette is unchanged, yet modernised with a puppy-like face that is neither off-putting nor bland.

New Honda Fit

Same silhouette but a more angular rear facia.

Viewed from the rear, the taillights are angular and reminiscent of the Odyssey minivan sold in North America, while the C-pillar is ticker and the rear window wider than on the Jazz. It is however the interior where the Fit stands out.

Interior no longer old aged

In addition to Honda having put the A-pillars on a diet and reduced the thickness from 116 mm to a measly 55 mm in order to aid forward visibility, the Fit’s dashboard sport a thoroughly modern minimalist design with the standard fitting of a smart looking seven-inch TFT digital instrument cluster on all models.

New Honda Fit

Interior a quantum leap over that of the Jazz. e:HEV model pictured.

Backing this up is the new nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system also on all bar the Comfort that rates as a massive step-up from Honda’s current systems in that it is easy to scroll through, logically laid out and equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Conforming to the principle of yoo no bi that is said to represent beauty and function, the biggest standout is the grippy two-spoke steering wheel taken out of the all-electric e that incidentally won’t be coming to South Africa, as well more premium feeling materials backed-up by a dual glovebox setup and a wireless smartphone charger in front of the gear lever.

I’ll show my space

Like with the Jazz, the Fit’s pièce de résistance remains its space utilisation. Along with impressive rear head and legroom, the boot loading lip has been lowered with Honda claiming a boot space of 309-litres and 298-litres for the hybrid, which expands to 1 210-litres and 1 199-litres respectively with the rear seats down.

New Honda Fit

Magic Rear seats up.

Speaking of seats, the Fit retains the multi-talented Magic Seats that can be lowered or flipped-up to house bigger items, as well as brand-new front chairs with 30 mm longer cushions.

Specification

In addition to the mentioned Comfort, the Fit range comprises three other models with the hybrid doing without a trim grade designation.

Riding as standard on 15-inch steel wheels, the Comfort, as mentioned, goes without the new infotainment system but boasts the following:

  • body colour door handles and mirrors;
  • height adjustable driver’s seat;
  • five-inch LCD display;
  • automatic air-conditioning;
  • Bluetooth with three USB ports;
  • auto lock/unlock doors;
  • keyless entry;
  • all around electric windows;
  • electric mirrors;
  • front armrest
  • four-speaker sound system;
  • ABS with EBD;
  • Hill Start Assist;
  • six airbags;

Upping the ante, the Elegance swaps the steel wheels for 16-inch alloys in addition to also receiving:

  • LED fog and headlights;
  • leather covered steering wheel and gear lever;
  • rear armrest;
  • a second USB port at the front;
  • reverse camera;

Reserved for the next step-up Executive are;

  • heated front seats;
  • silver mirror caps
  • front and rear parking sensors;
  • push-button start

Sitting at the top of the range, the hybrid mirrors the Executive but adds Auto High Beam Assist and Honda’s Sensing range of safety and driver assistance systems consisting of:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking;
  • Adaptive Cruise Control;
  • Road Departure Mitigation;
  • Lane Keep Assist

The drive

New Honda Fit

Honda Fit e:HEV

For South Africa, the Fit is offered with two powertrains; a conventional 1.5-litre petrol and the aforementioned hybrid that pairs the same engine with a pair of electric motors. Both are matched to a CVT as the previous manual gearbox has been dropped entirely.

Out on the launch route that took in the Cape Winelands as well as some of the best passes in the country such as the Franschhoek Pass, the Fit offers a compliant and very comfortable ride with the handling being a welcome surprise on the twisty bits.

New Honda Fit

e:HEV still rides on 15-inch alloy wheels, but with a model bespoke design.

Despite exhibiting very little body roll and offering impressive grip levels, the drivetrain is a somewhat of a let-down as the 89kW/145Nm provided by the free-breathing 1.5 is hamstrung by a CVT that drones too much and robs the unit of power when you need it most.

Typical of the ‘box though, it is smooth and slick in city conditions, though unlike the Jazz, no paddle shifters are provided regardless of the trim level. Making better use of the drivetrain is the hybrid which debuts the e:HEV moniker on local shores.

New Honda Fit

e:HEV name debuts in South Africa with the Fit.

Hooked to an electronically controlled CVT with a fixed ratio, the ‘box shifts a lot smoother and despite the drone still being present, it is less of an annoyance than in the petrol in that it sports a shift quality similar to a torque converter but without the drop in grunt with each change.

Outputting a combined 80 kW of power and a substantial 253 Nm of torque, the e:HEV, unsurprisingly, feels a lot more spritely than the petrol and additionally offers a choice of three driving modes; EV, Hybrid and Engine Drive with the latter largely depended on the petrol engine that can however direct power back into the battery via the on-board generator, which makes its presence known rather too audibly at slower speeds.

Conclusion

Honda has made no secrets of the fact that the Fit rates as one of its most important models locally given the success of the Jazz with the added hope of luring new buyers to what has always been a reliable and stellar space success in need of more funk.

Despite pulling this off with success outside and certainly inside despite the disappointing petrol engine and CVT as well as the rather hefty price tag attached to the admittedly well-equipped e:HEV, the Fit will still have to work to convince buyers it has put on a totally new suite instead of a singing the subtly revised version of the same tune.

Price

In total, the Fit has a choice of seven colours; Opal or Platinum White, Lunar Silver Metallic, Meteoroid Silver Metallic, Rose Gold Metallic, Midnight Blue Metallic and Crystal Red Metallic with all models being covered by a five year/100 000 km warranty as well as a four year/60 000 km service plan.

Fit 1.5 Comfort CVT – R319 900

Fit 1.5 Elegance CVT – R359 900

Fit 1.5 Executive CVT – R389 900

Fit 1.5 e:HEV e-CVT – R469 900

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