Driven Honda Fit 1.5 e:HEV CVT

I’ve just driven the new Honda Fit, and if you’ve ever played Gran Turismo you already know that that’s another name for the Honda Jazz. Let’s talk about that.

How does it look?
Well, as though they’ve actually designed it – in that whilst its looks still screams ‘Jazz’, it doesn’t feel as derivative as the third model. This is the 4th gen and retains what made the previous cars so popular. That is its ‘small car outside, big car inside’ balance of compact practicality. Add comfort to that and it’s a winning formula that has earned it its appeal among the young and old. The latter especially. This one clearly looks more youthful with its cute, smiling face, and comes in seven colours including the quite alright, opal white.

What about living with it?
It’s larger (88mm longer) than the car it replaces, and features a minimalistic cabin that really favours natural light. To quantify that, it features a 90-degree panoramic field of view across the windscreen where the old car had 48 degrees. Even the A-pillars are half as thick now, for more roominess and outward visibility. Generally, it’s airy and pleasant and constructed of flat geometric shapes. Even the visor over the instrument cluster has been removed allowing the bright 7-inch TFT cluster gauges and numbers to bathe in natural sunlight. Lovely. I even love the two spoke helm. And it really is roomy, complete with Honda’s Magic Seats arrangement allowing it to swallow bicycles and farming implements whole. A 9-inch touchscreen takes centre stage on the dash and features Advanced HMI. Or Human Machine Interface ie user experience with seamless connectivity and clever smartphone interfacing including wireless Apple Carplay, featuring all the usual swipes and pinches you’re used to.

Safety and Comfort
The reinforced body forms part of the vehicle’s inherent collision safety with greater (doubled in fact) strength of the high tensile steel frame. You can add to that six airbags, stability assist, ABS with EBD, hill start, seat belt pretensions and Isofix for a very safe B-Segment hatchling. NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels are tip-top too, with separated panel sleeves for lowering resonance, greater implementation of resins plus thicker glass overall. There’s also a clever new seat technology for greater comfort and lumbar support. Trim levels are extensive from the Comfort (15-inch steel wheels and fabric cloth) to the Elegance (16inch alloys, LEDs, premium fabric and 9 inch HMI), the Executive (different 16inch alloys plus leather trim) and the flagship Hybrid e-CVT with identical spec with blue-tinted badges.

How does it go?
Powertrains come in two flavours, firstly the naturally aspirated 1.5l DOHC Vtec petrol unit with 89kW and 145Nm (5.5l/100km) paired to a CVT ‘box. Then, for R80k more than the Executive, you can get the hybrid. It’s Honda SA’s first e:HEV, a different take on the hybrid formula. Here the engine produces power for the electric traction motor (one per front wheel) to generate an electric drive. In numbers, it looks like this; 72kW and 127Nm from the 1.5l engine, combined with both motors to create a maximum of 80kW and 253Nm. This is good for a (theoretical) super-frugal 3.7l/100km plus a respectable 9.4sec shuffle to 100kph, and a greenhouse gas payload of 88g/km. There’s no need for a gearbox and that in turn reduces mechanical friction. Honda dub this setup I-MMD, or Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive – a system capable of switching between petrol, hybrid and EV on the fly based on your driving conditions.

The Fit Hybrid also benefits from Honda Sensing, another raft of safety features including a wider angle from the front-facing camera, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and collision mitigation plus auto headlamps. Overall, the Fit boasts a firmer suspension, lower friction for more stability and reduced pitching and rolling with minimal transmission vibrations. During my drive, did I experience all of this? If I’m being honest, I came away feeling as though the Executive and Hybrid models both felt planted, pliant and overall enjoyable to drive. The CVT (and e-CVT) both deliver the power that’s on offer in typical fashion, so loudly and with little urgency.

Should you buy one?
Full disclosure, I’m not a big hybrid fan. Especially in South Africa where the government does little to subsidise green transport. It’s an R80k premium taking a friendly B-segment hatch precariously close to the half a million Rand mark with very little benefit. The pricing, in general, is marginally dearer than its rivals and the transmission makes it feel sluggish. The cabin however is a truly pleasant living space, and its looks make me smile. The pick of the litter for me in terms of value is the Elegance at R359k – losing out only on leather and the perks of the hybrid model. If you’re a fan of the now-fit Jazz, it’s the one I’d recommend.

Honda Fit 1.5 Comfort CVT    R319,900
Honda Fit 1.5 Elegance CVT   R359,900
Honda Fit 1.5 Executive CVT  R389,900
Honda Fit 1.5 e:HEV CVT       R469,900

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