2015 Honda Fit
Honda’s American heritage of selling small, roomy, fuel efficient cars, that last for almost forever, is well known. Right from the first civic forty years ago, Honda’s subcompact and compact cars have always provided more in less. But, today, it’s the Honda Fit that carries the banner of maximizing everything but its shadow. And, while the all-new 3rd generation has changed a lot, it’s more “fit” than ever.
We’ve always considered the Honda fit to be a small car that thought outside the traditional subcompact box. Its five-door shell surrounds an unusually airy interior that has proven to be as versatile as a small utility. Plus, driving the fit was not only economical but fun. An attribute most rivals lack.
Well, that formula is more than intact with the all-new third generation fit. In fact we’ll say the 2015 fit actually expands on itself.
That “moreness” starts with additional power. There’s still a 1.5-liter i4 in place, but it’s a new direct injected mill with 130 horsepower, 13 more than before. Torque is cranked up 8 to 114 lb-ft. It joins the Honda “earth dreams” lineup with updated transmissions. The standard manual is now a 6-speed and the automatic is now a CVT.
That dream is realized in better fuel economy at 33-city, 41-highway, and 36–combined for the CVT, tops for its interior size.
This hatchback’s exterior theme remains the same, but the shape has been hit heavily with a buffer. It’s smoother with more sculpting to the up-sweeping bodysides, giving an overall sleeker, more dynamic look.
As for its shadow, there’s more wheelbase and width, but overall length is actually less by an inch and a half. The rear now sports a thick, full width chrome strip connecting the led tail lights; with red reflectors up both sides of the back glass to a hatch-top spoiler. A very aggressive looking rear bumper lies below. Standard, are 15-inch wheels; ex riding on 16s.
While that’s unchanged, the fit’s “more fun-to-drive than it should be” quotient actually grows. The unibody adds rigidity, and while the basic front strut and rear trailing arm suspension design remains, it has been totally reworked with updated components and geometry. Along with more precise handling, ride comfort also takes a turn for the better.
Honda claims a big improvement in overall driving refinement. And, after our initial drive at Honda’s press launch in San Diego, California, we concur. Except for maybe the new CVT transmission. Unlike the CVT in the accord, which operates pretty quietly, in the fit is just makes for a lot “more” noise as you move up to speed.
On the other hand, we found the 6-speed manual a great improvement, with short throws and a sporty feel.
But, the biggest uptick in the new fit is the additional interior room. While you do get a sense of it up front, it’s really apparent in the rear. A 1.2-inch gain in wheelbase expands to over 4-inches more leg room, with additional headroom. You have to sit in it to believe it.
The fit’s signature, multi-folding magic seat remains. It has always been one of our favorite fit features, allowing for some unique storage and seating options.
But, something had to give. The added legroom does cut cargo space by 20% to 16.6 cubic feet when all seats are filled. Still, seats flat, fit’s max cargo room of 52.7 is hard to beat with anything that’s not a crossover.
A 3-dial gauge setup carries over, but the center speedometer is larger and all information is presented more clearly.
Though the interior presentation is still monochromatic and not overly inviting, there’s plenty more when it comes to standard features, with a multi-view back-up camera and bluetooth included. And definitely more luxury and safety options with lane watch, 7-inch display audio and push-button start all available. You can even get your new fit with leather!
Hondalink allows for even more smart-phone integration, and you do it more seamlessly. Iphone users can even talk to Siri. But we’ll need a little more time with it to see how much better it truly is. As before, analog controls are large, logically placed, and easy to use.
Much was publicized about the previous generation Fit’s “poor” IIHS score due to the new small overlap frontal crash test. Well, Honda took that as seriously as potential buyers and expects this fit’s new ace body structure with additional high strength steel to “ace” that test without a problem.
Honda has made significant investments in the new Fit, bringing assembly to North America at a brand new plant in Mexico. But, even with that expenditure they’ve contained base prices. It’s barely increased to $16,355 for a manual. The top-line EX-L Navi goes for $21,630.
The 2015 Honda Fit is indeed more “fit”, and will truly “fit” into many more lifestyles. It provides great versatility and practicality, along with a surprising splash of fun, and now even more so. And, aside from that loud CVT, the 2015 Honda Fit has the “fit”ting formula for even more success.
- Engine: 1.5-liter
- Horsepower: 130
- Torque: 114 lb-ft.
- EPA: 33 mpg city/ 41 mpg highway
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined
2023 Lexus UX 250h
More Fun Than Premium, But That’s Just Fine With Us
Entry-level models are always tough for luxury brands to pull off well. You can’t deliver the full experience, but you have to give buyers enough of a taste so they’ll eventually trade up for more. Well one marque, Lexus, has been very successful at doing just that, and this week we look at their latest starter SUV, the UX.
This Lexus UX arrived for 2019 as the brand’s smallest SUV yet. Priced in the mid-30s, it delivered a heck of a lot of the Lexus experience for a modest amount of money. And with capable handling, easy maneuvering, and thoughtful features, it was an affordable entry-level luxury ute that was easy to love. For 2023, Lexus makes this little premium runabout even better.
For starters, the UX is strictly hybrid now as the previously standard naturally aspirated 2.0-liter is no more. And while the Hybrid used to be exclusively all-wheel-drive, Lexus has now made a front-drive version available with AWD an option.
Lexus Hybrid Drive pairs 2 electric motors to a 2.0-liter I4 for a total combined output of 181-horsepower. All-wheel-drive versions add an additional motor in back to drive the rear wheels.
Front-wheel-drive versions get an improved Government Fuel Economy Rating of 43-City, 41-Highway, and 42-Combined; all-wheel-drive versions remain 41-City, 38-Highway, and 39-Combined. We averaged 39.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular in our all-wheel-drive tester.
That’s a much better than average Energy Impact Score of 7.6-barrels of oil consumed yearly with 3.7-tons of CO2 emissions.
If there was any shortfall of the original UX, it was that it was a tad noisier, with perhaps not quite as refined a ride as what we were used to from Lexus. Well, for ’23, they have enhanced the body structure with more welds, and quieted down road noise with new tires. One thing that didn’t need changing is that its small size makes it a real joy to whip in and out of traffic…
…or the cones of our handling course at Mason Dixon Dragway, stopping just short of sport sedan territory with quick steering and excellent feedback.
Overall handling is very neutral, with minimal body roll, and it seems to know where you want to go before you move the steering wheel.
That’s courtesy of the F Sport Handling package which adds an Active Variable Suspension with performance dampers, as well as additional bracing for the steering system.
On the acceleration front, there’s a nice little jump off the line, but economy is definitely the priority, with a slow and steady trek to 60 of 8.1-seconds; though that is 2/10ths quicker than the Hybrid we tested in 20-19.
No fake CVT shifting, just consistent high-revving throughout the ¼-mile; though there are paddle shifters on the wheel to select through 10 simulated gears if you choose. Our best time was 16.2-seconds at 87 miles-per-hour.
A good firm pedal and ample feedback made panic braking above par for a luxury utility. Some nosedive, but stops of 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour were stable and consistent.
Despite being the brand’s entry-level SUV, it doesn’t look much like a traditional utility vehicle, appearing more like a sleek overachieving hatchback, especially with F Sport Design upgrades.
Visibility is somewhat compromised by the minimal greenhouse, but that’s what we have cameras and sensors for these days.
With the F Sport Handling Package’s heavily bolstered sport seats, the front cabin experience is not quite the plush high-end Lexus we’re used to either. Still, we loved it.
Granted, rear seat room is really only adequate for pre-teens; but the total interior experience is well above typical entry-level expectations.
Thankfully, the UX joins the rest of the Lexus lineup in eliminating the frustrating Remote Touch Interface and upgrading to a touchscreen in standard 8 or optional 12.3-inch sizes.
Pricing starts at $36,490 and reaches $43,920 with F Sport Handling. All-wheel drive is now a $1,400 option with all trims.
While it’s an even better gateway into the Lexus SUV family than before, with its considerably handling performance and hatchback vibe, it does seem to be more of a global or urban effort than one designed for wide-open American highways. But that’s okay with us too. The Lexus UX is a fun little utility with great fuel economy, and just enough of the Lexus treatment to make you want to come back…and step up…for more.
- Engine: 2.0-liter I4
- Horsepower: 181
- 1/4 Mile: 16.2-seconds at 87 mph
- EPA: 41 City / 38 Highway / 39 Combined
- Transmission: CVT
- 0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 39.9 MPG (Regular)