Tuesday, U.S. News & World Report released its annual “Best Cars for the Money” awards. With five winners in six categories, Honda dominated.
Today’s tester, the 2016 Fit won twice, for Best Hatchback and Best Subcompact. It took second in the Best Compact category — edged out by its Civic sibling.
This is Fit’s second consecutive two-category win.
The Fit is a four-door, front-wheel-drive subcompact hatchback with a mind-boggling amount of interior space. A bit of packaging wizardry endows the Fit with the segment’s largest interior. It has more rear-seat legroom than the midsize Accord and a cargo hold as large as most compact crossovers’.
Honda calls its second-row bench seat the "Magic" seat, because the seat bottom flips up to reveal a cavity behind the front-row seats deep enough to hold an adult-sized bike. Its folding seatback is split 60/40 and the front-passenger seatback folds flat to accommodate items nearly 8 feet long.
Honda’s willingness to defy convention makes all this possible. Instead of putting the gas tank in the back, where it would eat up valuable space, Honda stashes it under the front seats, where It’s out of the way and better protected from impact.
Honda plops this unorthodox little body onto a rigid, lightweight chassis that provides the foundation for Fit’s engaging personality and mature ride. For such a small car, it’s remarkably composed and settled at freeway speeds and is exhibits little body lean in the corners. The steering system has good on-center feel and the Fit tracks easily in its lane, without requiring constant minute steering inputs.
Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 130 horsepower and propels Fit to an 8-second 0-60 sprint. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual or CVT. Depending on trim and transmission, EPA ratings range from the stick’s 32 combined (29 city/37 highway), to the 36/33/41 of the base LX with CVT.
The CVT is a one. Its logic minimizes (but can’t totally eliminate) the rubber-band feel typical of a CVT at speed. In Sport mode, it effectively emulates shift points and available paddle shifters allow the driver to get the most from the engine.
Standard features include full-power accessories, automatic headlights, LED brake lights, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. USB connectivity and Bluetooth streaming audio are standard. The base infotainment display is a 5-incher. An available 7-inch upgrade adds HondaLink, with iPhone-based search, audio and social-media functions. HondaLink is quick in operation and offers pinch-and-swipe functionality, but its menu structure is awkward and there’s no volume-control knob. The driver must use the touchscreen or, better, the redundant steering wheel controls. Note: HondaLink doesn’t yet play with Android.
Interior materials quality is up to segment standards, and fit-and-finish is unimpeachable. Road noise is apparent on some surfaces at speed, but the Fit cabin is a tranquil space.
Honda’s good news is also good news for buyers. Budget-minded types who seek utility, quality and driving pleasure in an efficient package should start here.
2016 Honda Fit EX-L Navi
Vehicle base price: $15,890
Trim level base price: $21,065
As tested: $21,885
Options: The EX-L with Navigation is Fit’s top-level trim; our tester came without options.
EPA rating: 35 combined/32 city/38 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified