Update: 2009 Honda Fit priced at $15,220 in the U.S.

Update: 2009 Honda Fit priced at $15,220 in the U.S.

Update: The 2009 Honda Fit, or Jazz as it's known outside the U.S. will be arriving in dealerships early next month, priced to start at $15,220. While that's a $600 increase over the 2008 model, it covers a brand-new design plus a better package of features and technology.

Equipped with a five-speed manual and a spartan but adequate base specification at the entry price, an automatic transmission adds $800, bringing the price to $16,020. Stepping up to the Sport trim adds some edgier bodywork and about $1,500 to the base price, available in manual for $16,730 and automatic for $17,580. Honda thinks that about 70% of Fit buyers will choose the Sport in manual, reports Edmunds.

Adding a new trim package to the top of the lineup, the Fit Sport Navi comes with a navigation system and stability control for a price of $18,580 in manual transmission guise or $19,430 as an automatic. The Sport Navi will account for just 10% of sales, thinks Honda.

Part of the reason for the increased prices across the board is a healthier base specification, including 15-inch wheels, a telescoping steering wheel, and an auxiliary jack for the MP3/WMA capable CD player. The Sport steps up to 16-inch wheels, adds a rear anti-roll bar and even a USB port for MP3-player connectivity, plus an armrest and map lights.

The net effect of all this extra gear is a slight dip in fuel efficiency, however, with manual models losing 1mpg in both city and highway ratings to clock in at 27mpg city/33mpg highway in Honda's tests, though the base-level Fit with the automatic transmission may gain 1mpg in each category thanks to reworked shift programming.

Original: Although the most recent Fit was a smashing success in the U.S., the car the rest of the world knows as the Jazz was not really all that new - but the 2009 Honda Fit fixes that with a full complement of upgrades, inside and out. In the hotly contested sub-compact market, standout features are a must - which is why the unique Fit did so well in its previous incarnation. Can the new model keep up?

On paper, it certainly looks like it manages to improve on the old Fit while keeping true to the small, efficient car's roots. The U.S. will get a new 1.5L four-cylinder engine with i-VTEC paired to a five-speed manual or a new five-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. Honda claims the new engine offers 'the best balance of fuel economy and power.'

The innovative, easily reconfigurable seating that made the previous generation Fit so useful despite its diminutive stature is improved with a new rear 'Magic Seat' that now folds flat in one continuous motion. A new hidden storage bin under the rear seats adds storage for small items.

Fifteen and sixteen-inch available wheels give the Fit a more solid stance, and tie into the revised suspension of the new model to give better handling. A more rigid body and massaged steering system add to the sporty behavior. Because it's a small car, Honda knows buyers will be concerned with safety, so it has included a thorough assortment of equipment, from anti-lock brakes and electronic brake distribution to a specially-engineered body structure, stability control and six airbags with Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS) available.

The new Fit will be available in the U.S. this Fall as a 2009 model.