TIME Autos

Beloved Little Car Amazingly Gets Smaller and Roomier at Same Time

Canadian International Auto Show
The all-new 2015 Honda Fit David Cooper—Toronto Star via Getty Images

The new version of the subcompact Honda Fit, hitting the market next week, is a little shorter than its predecessor. Somehow, though, there’s more space inside for passengers, including nearly five extra inches of legroom in the backseat.

The Honda Fit, introduced in the U.S. in the 2007 model year, has been redesigned in a third iteration that will go on sale in mid-April. There are plenty of improvements, including a bump up in horsepower (117 to 130), and a significant rise in fuel economy (averaging a class-leading 36 mpg, up from 31).

Perhaps the biggest change, however, is that this already small vehicle has gotten a bit smaller, at least on the outside. The 2015 Fit is 1.6 inches shorter than the previous model. At the same time, thanks to some creative design, there’s 4.9 more cubic feet of space in the passenger area, and the back seat is a whole heck of a lot less cramped, with 4.8 more inches of legroom.

How can a vehicle get smaller and simultaneously bigger? Well, it can’t. Essentially, the added passenger space comes at the sake of a decrease in the hatchback area. The wheelbase in the new Fit is 1.2 inches longer than the old model, and the new model has grown a smidge wider, both of which account for more passenger space. But the added space in between the tires means less room on either end, including a drop-off of five cubic feet of cargo space.

“Chalk it up to Honda deciding that seating space is ultimately more useful than cargo space,” a Car and Driver review said of why Honda made the change. The Fit’s signature “Magic Seat,” which lets owners fold seats flat and open up the space for bikes, suitcases, and such, remains in the new model and makes it easier to sacrifice some space devoted strictly reserved for cargo.

Speaking of reviews of the new Fit, most are glowing, with a few quibbles here and there. An Autoweek reviewer wrote that the 2015 Fit isn’t the most fun to drive or stylish vehicle in its category, but it’s the best value nonetheless. “For frugal practicality in a new car, the Fit remains your choice,” the review states, noting that anyone relegated to the backseat “will treasure their newfound legroom.”

WardsAuto played up the “positively luxurious proportions” of the new model’s expanded rear-seat legroom highlighted how comfortable it is to drive: “Steering feel is perfect: direct and heavy, but not so much that the wheel puts up a fight.”

USA Today is quick to point out that the Fit, like most Hondas, retains its value down the road better than its rivals. What’s more, the base sticker price of the new Fit is only $100 higher than the old version: The 2015 model starts at $15,525, plus delivery charges.

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