The Honda Fit today is the oldest subcompact sold in the U.S., but there's an all-new one on the way.

Now Honda has released the first official photos of the entirely redesigned Fit for the Japanese market, though only so far in the form of the Fit Hybrid model not sold in the U.S.

The images show a more angular but otherwise recognizably all-new Honda Fit (also known in some markets as the Jazz).

While Honda released few specific details, the latest Fit will likely retain its "Magic Seat" folding and removable rear seat--the feature that makes the current Fit the most flexible and capacious subcompact on the market.

New small hybrid system

Equally important, though, Honda has released some details of its all-new Sport Hybrid i-DCD small hybrid system for subcompact and compact cars.

The new system replaces its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) mild-hybrid system, first used on the original two-seat Honda Insight in 1999, and subsequently revised in several iterations over the years.

The latest generation of the IMA system is still sold in today's 2013 Honda Insight, CR-Z, and Civic Hybrid models.

But as we detailed last November, Honda has been discussing its new small hybrid system for the past year or so.

New Honda Fit Hybrid (Japan-only model)

New Honda Fit Hybrid (Japan-only model)

Separate, second hybrid system

This is, we should note, a different system than the far more powerful two-motor hybrid system for larger vehicles--mid-size sedans and perhaps, one day, even minivans--now used in the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid.

That system will roll out nationwide in the non-plug-in (and much higher volume) 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid when it goes into production at Honda's Marysville, Ohio, factory this fall. (Plug-in models will continue to be built in Japan.)

The new, smaller hybrid system Honda has described for the next Fit will likely be seen in the U.S. in an updated Civic Hybrid, as well as replacement models for the current Insight subcompact hatchback and CR-Z sports coupe.

i-DCD replaces IMA

As detailed last fall, Honda's new hybrid system--to be known as Sport Hybrid Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive, or i-DCD--will feature a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, running on the ultra-efficient Atkinson Cycle.

A single electric motor, as before, will sit between the engine and transmission, with output of 20 kilowatts (27 hp) or more. The combined power output of the engine and electric motor is 134 hp (100 kW).

But now the i-DCD hybrid system will use Honda's first-ever dual-clutch automatic transmission, with seven speeds.That replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) previously used with the IMA hybrid system.

1.5-liter engine with Sport Hybrid i-DCD system used in Honda Fit Hybrid (Japan-only model)

1.5-liter engine with Sport Hybrid i-DCD system used in Honda Fit Hybrid (Japan-only model)

Honda says the new Fit Hybrid will be 35 percent more efficient on the Japanese test cycle than the previous Fit Hybrid model was.

It is rated at 85.6 mpg (36.4 km/liter) on the Japanese test cycle--which typically returns much higher fuel efficiency numbers than the U.S. EPA gas-mileage ratings.

Electric-only, at last

The new i-DCD system permits both electric-only acceleration from a stop and more efficient electric-only coasting.

Unlike the IMA system, it can decouple the engine and gearbox while using power from the electric motor, or regenerating it when coasting or braking.

On initial takeoff, low- or medium-speed cruising, and deceleration, the system operates with only the electric motor, decoupling the gasoline engine from the gearbox via a clutch.

During hard acceleration and high-speed cruising, the electric motor system adds torque to that of the engine, letting the engine run at higher and more efficient speeds.

New Honda Fit Hybrid (Japan-only model)

New Honda Fit Hybrid (Japan-only model)

Hybrid models get not only the now-standard electric power steering, but also electrically operated air-conditioning compressors and water pumps, meaning a beltless engine with no power-sucking accessory drives.

DI engine, CVT for other Fits

Non-hybrid models of the 2015 Honda Fit will have 1.5-liter direct-injection engines and a new CVT, as detailed last November. A six-speed manual gearbox will also be offered.

Honda suggests the CVT powertrain will boost gas mileage about 10 percent, while reducing acceleration times by about 15 percent, compared to the current Fit engine with the five-speed automatic.

The U.S. is less likely to receive the Fit Hybrid, which may not gain EPA ratings sufficiently higher than the regular Fit to justify its increased cost.

Expanded range, built in Mexico

While the new Fit will go on sale in Japan and other markets this September, it won't appear in the U.S. until the 2015 model year.

That's because it will be assembled for North America in a new factory in Mexico, now under construction.

Production of the latest Fit five-door hatchback--along with a Fit four-door sedan and a new crossover previewed at the Detroit Auto Show, both on the same underpinnings, is expected to start sometime next year.

So far, there's no word on whether there will be a new-generation Honda Fit EV to succeed the current low-volume compliance car sold for the 2012 through 2014 model years.


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