The Honda Fit (or Honda Jazz) unusual but promising.
Spartan Prospect - Honda Fit
21 Sep, 2007
New Honda Fit (Jazz)
Why write about a mini-MPV? Well Civic is getting bulkier and bulkier, while Fit remains in fly-weight class (1010 kg even in the new version), while remaining class leading room and radical, yet understated, technology. A future type-R version would be an excellent finishing touch. A type-R version with any 1.6 or 1.8 type-R engine (with 100 hp specific output per litre), bigger brakes (discs all-round), some type-R weight reduction (tipping the scale at sub-1000 kg; lower sound insulation and luxuries, while enforcing pure driving fun) and the usual type-R stiffening would result in a devastating performance package. Since the current type-R civic weighs in at 1270 kg and has 201 hp, a Fit type-R at 1000 kg would only need 160 hp (1.6 Si-R/ VTi engine or 2.0 i-VTEC 160 hp) to equal the CTR's power to weight ratio.
1.3 rose from 85 to 100 hp and 1.5 rose from 110 to 120 hp, which means that both power plants are revvy high specific output units (Honda is renowned for this type of engines), although the latter mentioned 1.5 is currently the best bet.
P/W: 1.3 now almost hits the 100 hp/1000 kg barrier: 99 hp/1000kg
1.5 now gets 119 hp/1000 kg.
So let's start!
First a short but essential introduction to the current Fit/Jazz followed by a preview of the new Fit/Jazz.
Fit is the kind of car that comes quietly without sign. It looks ordinary - although pretty - but it is actually very radical. Its floorpan architecture is as innovative as Mercedes A-class, maximizing interior space without deteriorating crash protection (expect a 4-star Euro NCAP rating). Facing it, the latest Polo and Fiesta seemed hopelessly conservative. What a shame that European superminis have long forgotten what made the original Mini and Fiat 500 so innovative. They no longer pursue space efficiency as hard as the Japanese. In contrast, Honda worked hard in every department to squeeze out extra space rather than just stretching the body. Basically, Fit is very close in size to Fiat Punto (just 45mm taller, which is a predictable trend) while being smaller than most new rivals - Skoda Fabia, VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and Citroen C3 included. Nevertheless, its spacious cabin is bigger than all of them, even bigger than many C-segment cars. How can it achieve that? Firstly, Honda designed a very compact engine that occupies little space. This enable an unusually short engine compartment thus allowing the cabin to expand forward ("Cab-forward"). Secondly, Fit employs an innovative floorpan layout which places the fuel tank under front seats instead of rear seats. This frees up space around the rear axle and eliminates the central tunnel that occupies legroom. Thirdly, the rear seat is mounted higher than the front, not only gives passengers clearer forward view but also enables the seat itself to locate a few inches back without obstructed by wheel arches. No wonder rear passengers have so much knee and legroom. Lastly but not least, the tall roof (only eclipsed by Daihatsu YRV) provides generous headroom.
The special floorpan layout also gives the Fit strong advantage in luggage loading. As fuel tank no longer occupies the space under rear seat, the seat can be folded and dropped onto the floor, forming a completely flat load area together with the boot. The luggage area is big and deep enough to put a mountain bike or a big cabinet. Best of all, conversion is very convenient - unlike many MPVs that require detachment of seats or headrests. That said, the seating arrangement of Fit is cleverer than many real MPVs.
Although Fit is a supermini, it has strong resemblance to MPV. Big windows and high roof deliver a light and airy ambience. A lot of storage spaces and flexible seating plan (which can be arranged to form a bed or store a surf board or very tall things) give it versatility only matched by Yaris Verso. The cabin is also very satisfying to look. Facing the driver is a sporty 3-gauge instrument panel. Dashboard is made of good quality plastics - a welcomed improvement from Civic and Stream. Two-tone textile used in seats and door trimming looks fresh.
Packaging is a strong card of Fit, fuel-consumption is another. Its 1339c.c. i-DSI (dual sequential ignition) four-pot engine is the highlight of the mechanical side. Don't laugh at its sohc 2-valve-per-cylinder head, it is actually designed to achieve a world-beating fuel consumption for petrol cars. Unusually, the intake and exhaust valves are arranged in diagonal position of the combustion chamber, hence a cross-flow design (but requires the single camshaft to drive valves through rocker arms rather than directly). Twin spark plugs are placed at the adjacent diagonal positions of the chamber, ensuring quicker propagation of flame thus more efficient burning of air-fuel mixture. The combustion chamber and intake manifold are also shaped to generate swirl in air flow thus aid mixing of fuel. Moreover, piston skirts are impregnated with molybdenum to reduce friction. Mating with a CVT, Honda claims it achieves 51.4mpg for European combined cycle, easily being the most frugal supermini drinking petrol.
On the road, the i-DSI engine feels eager and refined. It produces 85hp at 5700rpm, matching the 16-valve Yaris 1.3, thanks to a high compression ratio of 10.8:1. On the other hand, torque delivery is in the best tradition of 2-valve engines, with a good 86 lbft appear at just 2800rpm. This give the car a spirited performance. Honda claims 0-60 less than 10 seconds.
The CVT transmission is similar to Civic's. Perhaps because the car is lighter or the program is improved, it works much refined. Starting from standstill, the CVT will lock up the ratio and let the car accelerate linearly rather than wasting time to search for a suitable ratio. Up to speed, it disables the lock-up and varies ratio to optimize fuel-economy.
After 6 years and 2 million units built, Honda Fit has entered the second generation. The new car follows the radical design language of the new Civic hatchback: the windscreen has been pushed further forward and steeply angled so that it becomes a monospace. Furthermore, sharper headlamps and front intakes make it more stylish, add to this the sudden drop of roof line behind the rear door as a signature feature. Moreover, front quarter windows have been added to reduce blindspots.
Summarizing: benefiting from a larger windscreen and full-length panoramic glass roof, the cabin should feel more airy than ever.
Size-wise, the new Fit is slightly larger than the old car - 55 mm longer (now 3900mm), 20 mm wider (now 1695mm) while the height is unchanged. Wheelbase increases 50 mm to a total of 2500 mm. It is thus about the same size as the new Mazda 2 and therefore smaller than Fiat Grande Punto, Peugeot 207 and Renault Clio. More importantly, attention to weight control means the new and bigger Fit is only 10 kilograms heavier than the old car! That means the base 1.3-liter car tips the scale at only 1010 kg in it's domestic market, very impressive for the vast interior space it offers.
Further elaborating on space, Honda would tell you the longer wheelbase provides 40 mm more legroom to the rear passengers. Luggage space is also increased by deleting the spare tire. As before, the Fit has its fuel tank positioned under the front seats to save space. This mean flipping it's rear seat will reveal a deep loading area. On the negative side, the new dashboard design is ugly and the plastic materials seemed lower grade than European standard.
On the mechanical side, the biggest improvement is the use of i-VTEC sohc 16-valve engines instead of the previous 8-valve i-DSI or 16-valve VTEC (without variable cam phasing). The base 1.3-liter i-VTEC produces a respectable 100 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 94 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. 1.5-liter i-VTEC generates 120 horsepower at 6600 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. Transmission is either a slick 5-speed manual or a continue variable transmission (CVT) with 7 manual steps. Most importantly, the Fit should be faster and more frugal than most other rivals. The lack of a small diesel engine could potentially hurt its sales in Europe, where it is called Jazz.
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