Whether it’s consumers looking for their first ride, families purchasing on a budget or urbanites in need of a simple ride, subcompact car-buying tendencies lean away from enhanced accoutrements and toward the practical, such as getting from A to B in a safe and comfortable manner. Unlike econoboxes of the past, featuring roll-up windows and bottom-feeder audio systems, these modern-day versions of the Fit and Yaris come nicely equipped with some of the best safety features in the business.
Everything else they do is a little different, as we discover the pros and cons of both vehicles in this latest subcompact hatchback faceoff.
Honda Fit: Like many subcompact cars, the Honda Fit can easily go unnoticed despite its taller frame. For 2018, it adds a little more flash throughout the trim line thanks to a two-tone black-and-chrome grille. The front fascia change is subtle, but sometimes that’s all you need to create a more mature look allowing for that seamless integration of logo, grille and headlights. In the rear, its back fenders extend horizontally for a wider appearance allowing for a break from its previous mini-minivan appearance and into more of a true hatchback.
Toyota Yaris: Front fascia improvements are also found in the 2018 Toyota Yaris. It’s shifted into a happier place with fog lights acting as dimples, as opposed to the outgoing model’s Mr. Grumpy look. All jokes aside, the Yaris has a more sleek and chiselled appearance, adjectives that don’t come lightly in this segment. The best feature has to be its new 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels that come standard on its top-of-the-line SE trim. Is that worth a couple more grand? The answer is a simple no. You’re in a Yaris, so you might as well save some shekels.
Honda Fit: If space is what you’re after, the Fit presents itself as your bottomless buffet. Front-seat passengers receive typical comforts, but the magic is all in the rear with copious amounts of rear headroom and legroom. But that’s only the starting point, as Honda’s “Magic Seat” has flip-up capabilities creating an SUV-type environment with various seat configurations and ample cargo space for hockey equipment, golf clubs or even a standing bicycle. The Fit is as versatile as it comes with Long, Tall, Utility and Refresh modes that should resonate with many city dwellers looking for flexibility and extra space as they go about their active lifestyles.
Toyota Yaris: The Yaris doesn’t come with many magical touches on the inside, but there really is no other subcompact that compares to the versatility the Fit brings to market. The makeup of the Yaris hatchback’s interior is the epitome of average and could do without those circular and bulky climate-control buttons underneath the infotainment unit – Honda is the king of bulky, but Toyota gives them a run for their money.
Overall, the design is inoffensive and reminiscent of most Toyota experiences dating back a few years. Bonus points, however, are given to its simplistic and easy-to-understand layout, as well as an adequate amount of headroom and legroom. In the back, taller passengers will feel it in their knees as they get up close and personal with how soft the cloth is on the back of the front seat. Make sure to avoid this situation by practicing your Rock/Paper/Scissors skills for that shotgun position.
Honda Fit: A 1.5-L four-cylinder engine with 128 hp and 113 lb-ft of torque matched to a continuously variable transmission (six-speed manual transmission comes standard and bumps hp by two) is far from inspiring. Visions of driving the Autobahn are the furthest thing from mind, yet surprisingly behind the wheel, one doesn’t feel inadequate with car envy. More importantly for these smaller cars is fuel economy, and the LX trim provided is the front-runner in that department with a ratings of 7.0 L/100 km in the city and 5.9 L/100 km on the highway.
Within the city, the Fit handles its own on twists and turns, thanks to quick steering and reasonable responsiveness. With a little momentum, it can weave its way through traffic despite its fair share of body roll. Don’t expect a smooth and quiet ride, but that’s part of the fun in having one of these entry-level commuters to motor around in.
Toyota Yaris: The Yaris also comes to play with a 1.5-L four-cylinder, but its performance ratings produce a paltry 106 hp and 103 lb-ft of torque mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic with a super electronically controlled transmission (Super ECT) and overdrive. My tester was the latter that Toyota is sure to upgrade shortly in order to compete with the newer Kia Rios and Hyundai Accents.
There’s no point in beating around the bush – performance isn’t the Yaris’s strong suit, with limited power when attempting to get up to speed, only to be made worse with an accompanying growl. A lag in throttle can cause a few stressful highway lane changes, but at least those manoeuvres can be made easily with great outward visibility. Once at cruising speed, the Yaris chugs along with the flow of traffic at least until the pace slows down and the slow process repeats itself. The Yaris also sips fuel at a slow pace, but this is a good thing with a fuel economy rating of 7.9 L/100 km in the city and 6.8 L/100 km on the highway; not as good as the Fit, but impressive fuel savings nonetheless.
Honda Fit: There’s a good and a bad story when it comes to Honda’s technology in the Fit. Let’s get the bad out of the way: its rinky-dink five-inch HondaLink touch screen. It’s understandable that consumers shouldn’t expect a giant screen from such a small car, but Honda must put more effort into graphics and style if they hope to lure younger crowds into dealerships. Adding the volume knob back on the screen just doesn’t do the trick.
As for the good, starting at the second-tier LX trim, the Fit comes with heated front seats and is loaded with safety technology as part of its Honda Sensing Suite that’s sure to make every parent feel content. For CVT versions (not sure why manual buyers get the short straw), the Fit provides adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, collision-mitigation braking system, road-departure mitigation, hill-start assist, vehicle-stability assist and a rear-view camera.
Toyota Yaris: The only hatchback that can rival Honda’s technology is the Yaris through Toyota’s Safety Sense C. A backup camera, heated front seats and hill-start assist are provided throughout the trim line, along with its various precollision systems and automatic high beams.
The Yaris’s infotainment unit isn’t only larger at 6.1-inches, it’s presented in a more stylish way enclosed by various buttons and knobs. But as you take one step forward, the Yaris manages to take two steps back in terms of navigation. If you wanted any semblance of a navigation, go to Best Buy and purchase a vent clip for your phone, as the Yaris doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (unlike the Fit), nor is any navigation offered as an add-on feature.
Honda Fit: Its nameplate is apropos given the amount of cargo it can fit. Trunk space is decent at 470 L, but that all changes when the second-row seats are folded almost flat for up to 1,492 L of space. In addition, that can be expanded with the front passenger seat making a full recline. If you’re playing sports, in a band, or going on road trips, there’s no better subcompact for cargo room than the Honda Fit.
Toyota Yaris: The trunk space in the Yaris clocks in similar to the Fit at 442 L. That’s all you really need for a couple sets of carry-ons and a few extra bags. Toyota Canada doesn’t list a figure with the second-row seats folded down, but the European total is 1,119 L. That still leaves plenty of room for storage, but gets marked down for not folding flat and dealing with a slight incline.
As of March, 2018, the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are separated by a mere 26 units in Canadian sales, making this subcompact hatchback faceoff a common one for consumers looking for a reasonably priced ride. These two are neck and neck when it comes to fuel economy and safety technology, but the Fit separates itself in performance and cargo space.
In the end, personal preference and comfort assist many buying decisions, but the biggest factor of all typically comes down to price. When comparing apples to apples in five-door hatchbacks, the Fit starts at $16,872 but only with a manual transmission. The Yaris’s manual transmission model is similarly priced at $16,800, but the more popular CVT starts at $16,470 and this is where the Yaris gets those extra sales, as the cheapest-priced Fit CVT rings in at $20,372. At that price, consumers can already opt for a Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 or get close to its larger Civic sibling.
If you’re a stick shifter, the Fit has the upper hand over the Yaris, but for the majority of automatic buyers, they’re left to weigh price versus performance and cargo – a tougher decision than it would first appear.