Honda’s Latest Small-Car Tech Sampled, Likely to Debut in Next Fit and Fit-Based Cars
While Honda is busy revamping the top of the Acura line with the RLX and all its goodies, things are also happening in more-affordable segments, including with the company’s small engines. At a recent R&D demonstration at Honda’s Tochigi, Japan, proving grounds, the Japanese manufacturer showed off two new developments that should find their way into at least one of the three Fit-based cars to be built at a new plant in Mexico starting in late 2014.
The first is a direct-injection version of the 1.5-liter inline-four currently used in the Fit. Making at least 127 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque, the new engine offers increases of 10 hp and 8 lb-ft. Honda also claims a five-percent increase in fuel efficiency, due in part to a compression ratio somewhere above 11:1. This engine is paired to the latest-generation CVT, which is similar to the one offered in four-cylinder versions of the 2013 Accord and which is said to offer improved responsiveness. Honda says that the updates to the engine and transmission will result in a total fuel-economy improvement of 10 percent. We had a chance to sample the powertrain during a single lap around an oval track and the power increase is impossible to ignore. While we’re generally not fans of the droning quality of CVT automatics, this one lessens the annoyance with a minimum of the rubber-band-style delayed response typical of this type of transmission. While Honda won’t say when this combo will see production, we’re expecting that the next-generation Fit will get it.
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As we reported previously, the Fit line is set to expand with both sedan and crossover models. It’s in one of these cars that we’ll probably see Honda’s new Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive (i-DCD). This system pairs a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with an integrated motor similar to Honda’s IMA system in the current Civic hybrid and the Insight. Unlike the current Honda hybrids, however, i-DCD has a clutch between the gasoline engine and electric motor. This makes it possible for the combustion engine to decouple from the electric motor, allowing full-electric propulsion using juice from the lithium-ion battery. Even though our test drive in a Fit equipped with a prototype version of i-DCD was incredibly brief, it makes the Insight feel slow and unsophisticated. Honda says that i-DCD has 15-percent better acceleration and an astounding 30-percent improvement in fuel economy; the manufacturer didn’t provide any further specifics.