Honda grows Fit

  • 07-Aug-2008 04:07 EDT

The Fit’s development team, led by Chief Project Engineer Kohei Hitomi, continues to base the car’s architecture around a centrally located fuel tank, which is said to be key to its impressive packaging.

Introduced in Europe and Japan seven years ago and in the U.S. in 2007, Honda’s “world car”—the B-class Fit—has been a blockbuster success for the company. More than 2 million units have been produced by plants in five countries.

As the Civic grows in size and price, Fit’s role is to give Honda an even more fuel-efficient, smaller, and less expensive offering—as the Korean OEMs (and eventually, the Chinese) increasingly enter the entry-level market segments.

The all-new 2009 Fit was developed to address customer feedback regarding interior room, ride, and handling, Dan Bonawitz, American Honda’s Vice President of Corporate Planning and Logistics, told AEI.

“We’ve moved the windshield forward approximately five inches,” he said. The feel from the driver’s seat is one of a cabin that’s nearly as roomy as the much larger Civic. Contributing to this aura are additional triangular side windows in the forward front doors and an optional panoramic sunroof. According to Bonawitz, many customers said the A-pillars of the current-generation Fit obscured visibility.

The general look and tactile qualities of the new Fit’s interior trim appear improved versus the current model. The new instrument panel configuration has a “softer,” less-hard-edged appearance, and there’s a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel in the new version.

Honda’s development team, led by Chief Project Engineer Kohei Hitomi, continued to base Fit’s architecture around a centrally located fuel tank—key to the car’s packaging, said Bonawitz. The all-steel structure has been completely re-engineered to where it now wears Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) certification. Structural rigidity improved by a claimed 164% is due mainly to reinforced door sills, vertical stiffeners mounted inside the D-pillars, and much stiffer floorpan and firewall.

Wheelbase has been increased 2 in (51 mm) to 98.4 in (2499 mm), and overall length is up by 2.2 in (56 mm) to 153.5 in (3899 mm). At 70 in (1778 mm) wide, the new Fit also gains 0.8 in (20 mm) in girth. Front and rear track are increased by 1.4 in (36 mm) and 1.2 in (31 mm), respectively.

The car’s modest dimensional growth added 22 lb (9.9 kg) to the base Fit’s curb mass. But the longer wheelbase provides a useful 1.6 in (41 mm) of additional rear legroom. Also, elimination of Fit’s spare tire, likely to be controversial with some customers, boosts cargo capacity by 1.5 ft³ (42 L) to a total of 14.2 ft³ (402 L).

Interior utility and function are increased with an improved rear seat that now features one-motion dive-down operation—the seat can be folded flat while the front seats are in the rearmost slide position, without removing the rear head restraints.

Larger-diameter front suspension bushings, revised steering geometry, and 0.8 in (20 mm) additional travel in the rear torsion-beam suspension (along with the car’s wider track and longer wheelbase) help improve ride and handling. Standard active safety equipment includes ABS with front ventilated discs and rear drums, plus EBD (electronic brake-force distribution).

Japanese and European-market Fits will be powered by either a 1.3-L or an all-new 1.5-L four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a CVT with seven available fixed ratios and paddle-shift controls. U.S. versions, which are based on the Japanese-market RS model, will get only the larger engine with i-VTEC variable valve timing and electronic throttle control and either the manual gearbox or a five-speed planetary automatic.

Rated output for the U.S. 1.5 L will be 118 hp (88 kW) at 6000 rpm—an increase of 9 hp (7 kW). Maximum torque, 107 lb·ft (145 N·m) at 4800 rpm, is increased by a significant 21 lb·ft (28 N·m).

Infotainment options include factory-installed Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation with voice recognition and USB audio interface compatible with current-generation MP3 players among other storage devices.

Since its debut at the New York show, Honda recently announced a Fit Hybrid model, to feature the company’s new Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) mild-hybrid system and nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Honda believes the price difference between the hybrid and non-hybrid Fits must be less than $2000 to win over potential hybrid customers.

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