Although it’s been available in Japan since 2001, and currently marketed in over 100 countries – some of which know it as the Jazz – the Honda Fit is an all-new model to North America for 2007. It becomes Honda’s entry-level vehicle below the Civic. The Fit is sold strictly as a four-door hatchback and the company says it has no plans to introduce any other configuration.

The subcompact Fit’s unique seating configuration is its so-called “Magic Seat”, a 60/40 folding rear seat combined with a lowered floor, made possible by relocating the fuel tank to an otherwise unused midsection of the chassis. The Fit’s interior can thus be put into “utility” mode, with the rear seat folded flat; “long” mode, with the rear seat and front passenger seat folded to form a cabin-length flat cargo space; “refresh” mode, with the front seats reclined to form leg-rests for rear-seat passengers when the vehicle is parked; and “tall” mode, with the rear seat flipped up. This mode creates a storage area on the floor that’s up to 126 cm high.

All Fit models use a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine (with timing chain), mated to a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. U.S. buyers get either Fit or Fit Sport trim lines, but three lines are offered in Canada: DX, LX and Sport.

The base DX includes anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution, side and curtain airbags, 14-inch steel wheels, intermittent wipers, rear wiper/washer, Magic Seat with fold-flat front passenger seat, maintenance minder, CD player with two speakers and auxiliary input jack, cargo area light, power windows and tilt steering wheel.

The LX adds CD player with four speakers and auxiliary jack, air conditioning, power locks with remote driver’s side switch and power mirrors.

The Sport adds 15-inch alloy wheels, 200-watt CD/MP3/WMA player with six speakers, rear spoiler, body-coloured skirt kit, cruise control, front fog lamps, keyless remote entry, leather-wrapped wheel and security alarm system. As well, the optional five-speed automatic includes wheel-mounted shifter paddles on the Sport.

The Fit is one of several new or redesigned hatchbacks in the subcompact field, including the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent, along with the Chevrolet Aveo and Pontiac Wave. It’s priced somewhat higher than some of its competitors, but is the only one to offer ABS and six airbags across all trim lines, and its handling is sharper than most. Its throttle response has been tuned to North American preferences, so it feels peppy off the line; its small engine strains a little when asking for passing power at highway speeds, but it’s otherwise a good match to this half-pint hatchback. The automatic transmission on the Sport can be kept in sequential manual mode, but when it’s in fully automatic mode, it can be temporarily downshifted using the wheel-mounted paddles; it will return to the appropriate gear after a few seconds, allowing for a quick burst of power without having to continue shifting. This is a “perfect fit” for those who want to stay in the Honda family at a downsized level.

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