2018 Honda Fit: money car for budget-minded buyers

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Two questions with similar themes percolate throughout the auto industry. Consumers want to know the best car for the money and the best car money can buy. The answers are subjective. But the first question is more relevant to more buyers, and so here’s one vote for the 2018 Honda Fit.

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The 2018 Honda Fit and an upgraded interior and exterior and a new Sport trim.
The 2018 Honda Fit has an upgraded interior and exterior and a new Sport trim.

Now in its third generation and 11th year since replacing the Honda Civic hatchback, the Fit is a five-door subcompact with more interior room than its appearance indicates. Versatile, well-constructed inside and outside and value-priced, the little engine that can is arguably the best new car available in the United States for less than $20,000.

The 2018 Honda Fit is available in LX, Sport, EX and EX-L trims. All Fits have 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engines with front-wheel drive. A standard six-speed manual or optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available except on EX-L trim. It only has a CVT. With a manual transmission, the engine is rated at 130 horsepower.

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The new Sport trim (my test vehicle) has a 7-inch touchscreen interface that connects with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a six-speaker sound system. A few new styling extras include 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Also new for 2018 is an upgraded suspension and improved safety features.

The Fit’s interior space is impressive, including ample legroom in the back seat. Like many vehicles with manufacturer’s claims of five-passenger seating, the Fit is more appropriate for four adults. The second-row seating called “Magic Seat” is innovative. The 60/40-split rear bench folds flat into the floor, and the seat bottoms prop up to provide upright space for tall objects.

With both rear seatbacks folded down, the Fit has 52.7 cubic feet of cargo room, not too much less than some smaller crossovers and the best in its segment. With the Fit’s front passenger seat folded flat, items nearly eight-feet long will fit.

The Honda Fit shouldn’t be expected to break land speed records. But for its class, it’s no slouch. Its 0-60 mph test speed of 8.8 seconds is among the strongest in its segment. Gas mileage averages are 29 miles per gallon in city driving, 36 miles per gallon on the freeway.

On the open road, the Honda Fit drives predictably. It’s a lightweight vehicle, so it doesn’t have a lot of authority. And compared to previous years’ models, the new Fit has more engine noise at freeway speeds.

With three two friends and a combined occupant weight of about 550 pounds, the new Fit fared well and without issues on a 275-mile round-trip from Sacramento to Half Moon Bay. The engine’s high pitch is prevalent, particularly exceeding 70 miles per hour. But it’s not problematic.

Still, the Fit is at its best in city driving. It maneuvers well through traffic, has a tight turning radius and is confident, as it should be, in tight parking spaces. Overall road vision is impressive, in part because the Fit has 10 windows. It’s another reason why the Fit has a larger presence than its subcompact status.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the top-line EX-L model just surpasses $20,000, but the remaining fit trims are all less expensive. The MSRP for the Sport model is $17,500. With its delivery charge, the total is $18,390.

The topic of best car money can buy is still open for discussion as is the best car for the money. But the 2018 Honda Fit makes its case just as it has for the past decade.

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