The 2015 Honda Fit subcompact is an entirely new model, and for North America, it's built in a new plant in Mexico.

That means that its launch was necessarily slow and cautious--in fact, it was delayed two months--and then a bumper upgrade to reinforce crash-safety welds hardly sped up the schedule.

DON'T MISS: 2015 Honda Fit: Quick Gas Mileage Drive Of All-New Hatchback (Apr 2014)

But now the 2015 Fit is getting up to speed, and we've had a chance to spend a long weekend with a high-end model to test its gas mileage.

Honda now uses an EarthDreams direct-injected 130-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the latest Fit, and its EPA ratings have soared from the previous generation.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

For 2015, the Fit with the CVT is rated as high as 36 mpg combined (33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway), although that ratings applies only to the base 2015 Fit LX with the CVT.

The mid- and upper-level Fit EX models, however, are 86 pounds heavier; they receive a rating of 35 mpg combined (32 mpg city, 38 mpg highway).

A six-speed manual gearbox is available on the base Fit, but those models will likely be rare on the ground--especially since their gas-mileage ratings fall to 32 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 37 mpg highway).

Given that cars easily vary 10 percent from their EPA combined rating (and sometimes more), we were curious to see if a 2015 Fit in normal use could average 40 mpg.

2015 Honda Fit 5dr HB CVT LX Dashboard

2015 Honda Fit 5dr HB CVT LX Dashboard

The answer: For us, using a mix of the Econ setting and Normal mode, not quite--but close.

Over 387 miles on our usual test cycle, which is about two-thirds highway and one-third urban and suburban stop and go, we averaged 39.0 miles per gallon on the car's trip computer.

MORE: 2015 Honda Fit - full review

And the memory function allowed us to see the three previous trip averages as well: 37.8 mpg over 300 miles, 36.1 mpg over 17 miles, and an anomalous 20.3 mpg over a 12-mile trip.

Our conclusion, then, is that a 2015 Fit driven conservatively in the Econ setting at lower speeds, along with using the cruise control on highways, could likely return 40 mpg, though numbers from 34 to 38 mpg seem more likely for regular use.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

Spending more time with the new Fit than our test drive in April permitted, observations over the long weekend included:

  • Front occupants sit very upright, and the driver's toe board is somewhat closer to the seat, giving a knees-raised driving position
  • The rest of the cabin benefits, however, with far more room than smaller subcompacts like the Ford Fiesta--and an all-but-flat floor in the rear compartment
  • The upgraded seats with leather trim not only felt more comfortable but gave the entire cabin a nicer and more upscale feel than the grim black nylon cloth seats in lower-trim models--a difference far more apparent than in most cars
  • The car's default setting is now the Econ mode (though we forgot to check whether that could be changed in its settings by the driver)
  • That said, we're not sure if Honda has retuned its Econ settings, but the Fit's Econ mode was entirely tolerable, if slightly sluggish--but far from the unusable setting on its now-discontinued Insight hybrid
  • Forward vision is excellent, thanks to the substantial triangular windows between the base of the windshield and the front door pillar, aided by pillars carefully sculpted for minimal intrusion into a driver's sight lines--well done, Honda
  • Another aid to outward vision: rear-seat headrests that slide down onto the seatback, opening the entire rear window to vision through the rear-view mirror

Given the 2015 Fit's good real-world fuel economy, however, perhaps the biggest surprise during the test was how quickly the fuel gauge fell.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

One of the clever design features that gives the Fit such interior space is a redesigned fuel tank mounted under the front seats.

Its capacity is given at 10.6 gallons, but in our test, the fuel-warning light flashed on after 270 miles--one of the lowest ranges from full we've seen on any test.

The EPA rates CVT-equipped 2015 Fit total ranges at 371 to 382 miles (the manual is a grim 339 miles), but we suspect owners will have to get used to riding around with the gas-pump icon lit to get much over 300 miles.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

Still, we ended up impressed with the 2015 Honda Fit. As covered in our full review, it remains the most flexible and perhaps most cleverly-designed of all the subcompact hatchbacks on the market.

The upscale trim level alleviated some of our qualms over the bargain-basement appearance of the base models, and the real-world fuel economy of 35 mpg or better means it's a practical car we could live with on a daily basis.

The Toyota Prius C, of course, is rated at a combined 50 mpg and offers decent load space due to a battery and fuel tank both positioned under the rear seat.

But its base price is only slightly lower than the price of the best-equipped Fit, and the subcompact Prius is both noisier and slower.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2014

Either one will give better fuel efficiency that 90-plus percent of the cars on the market and most other subcompacts.

But for our money, we'd take the 2015 Fit over the littlest Prius: It's more fun, it's nicer inside, and we're pretty confident we could hover close to 40 mpg in regular use.

ALSO SEE: 2015 Honda Fit Hybrid: Forbidden Fruit Drive Report

As is usually the case, our 2015 Honda Fit test car was the top-of-the-line model, in this case the EX-L Navi model with the highest trim level plus a built-in navigation system.

That model includes a raft of equipment and feature upgrades, including leather-trimmed seats with heaters in the front, a six-speaker audio touchscreen system with a 7-inch color display in the center of the dash, Bluetooth pairing, and steering-wheel controls for the audio and cruise control systems.

Standard fittings also include 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a center storage console, the Fit's superb 60/40 fold-flat "Magic Seat," power windows, locks, and mirrors, an auto up-down driver's window, a moonroof, and quite a lot more.

The suggested retail price for that model is $20,800, and $790 in mandatory delivery fees brought the bottom line on the sticker to $21,590.


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