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Driver's Seat: Fit offers a big ride in a small package

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi vs. the 2015 Nissan Versa SV Sedan: Battle of the stocking stuffers. This week: 2015 Honda Fit.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L Navi vs. the 2015 Nissan Versa SV Sedan:

Battle of the stocking stuffers.

This week: 2015 Honda Fit.

Price: $21,590 as tested; no options. (A basic LX with the six-speed manual starts at $15,525.)

Marketer's pitch: "There's so much to Fit."

Conventional wisdom: liked the "unmatched small-car versatility thanks to unique rear seat design; quick acceleration; high fuel economy . . .," but not that a "sedan version isn't offered; touchscreen interface can be frustrating to use."

Reality: Yes, there is.

New Fit on the block: If last week we looked at the $265,000 McLaren 650S as a holiday treat, then the Fit and Versa are toys, by comparison, stocking stuffers, things you buy yourself on the 26th.

The big-but-little Honda Fit comes to us all-new for 2015. It's the third generation since the Fit's inception in 2007. It keeps the "big things come in small packages" design efficiency, and the short hood made me feel as if I were piloting the shortest minivan in the world, but the car now comes in more of an egg shape.

Up to speed: Acceleration is pretty brisk, especially in Sport mode. The 130 horses generated from the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine get the car moving fairly well.

Shifty: The model I tested came with a CVT, and the paddles allowed seven choices for "gears." (The manual is offered in lower trim levels.) The transmission was mated well to the engine, and kept the car moving without hesitation or whine through all the ups and downs and fasts and slows that Pennsylvania roads have to offer.

On the road: Handling is fair, at best, but the Fit rides smoothly for a small car, much gentler on rough surfaces than the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat's 2013 Kia Soul. (The redesigned 2014 Soul has gotten much smoother, though, so a side-by-side comparison would be in order.)

Friends and stuff: This is where the tall Fit shines. Rear seat room is nice; headroom, leg room, and foot room are all excellent, but passengers sit up pretty tall. Honda ballyhoos a 4.8-inch increase in foot room in the rear, and that's definitely something to enjoy.

The 52.7 cubic feet behind the front seats is comparable to the older Soul. (New Souls have grown to 61.3 cubic feet.)

Rear passengers are blessed by not being crammed against the back window. Some small cars feel as if a minor rear-ender would bust open everyone's heads, but not the Fit.

In and out: The Fit fits perfectly for people who have trouble getting in and out of cars. Entry and exit are easy, because the Fit rests at a perfect level from the ground.

Cubbies: The center console is generous for a small vehicle.

Getting into position: Drivers can ride in comfort. The Fit is too lumbary for me - like all Hondas - but I managed to find a comfy enough way to sit.

Upscale downscale: The Fit sports nice seats as tested. The interior didn't seem cheap at all.

Tune in, turn on: The stereo infuriates. It will switch among CD, radio, and other sources from a button on the steering wheel. But if you decide you want to change the station, you have to visit the LCD screen, which is never a welcoming place. If you're in navigation mode, you have to hit Home, then pick, for instance, XM, then beep through the stations on screen. So pick your favorites early on and stick with them.

Keeping warm or cool: All heaters should be this simple. Three dials adjust the temperature, the blower speed, and the source of the air.

Let the sun shine in: The windowy Fit really absorbs the sun. On hot days it heats up really fast, and then at night freezes me out.

Fuel economy: I averaged 37 m.p.g. in a mix of highway, city, and suburban driving, with a fair amount of time stuck in traffic during that mix. This is among the highest m.p.g.'s I've observed in the Mr. Driver's Seat professional testing course (a.k.a. my commuting and errand-running). The Fit also boasted 44 m.p.g. on one highway trip.

Where it's built: Celaya, Mexico.

How it's built: Consumer Reports doesn't offer predicted reliability for the redesigned model. But the Fit has gotten nothing but above-average or excellent ratings in all categories over the years.

Next week: How the Fit fares against the refreshed Nissan Versa, which aims at a slightly different budget niche.