The value class at our annual Yahoo Autos Car of the Year awards always turns (some might say devolves) into a free-for-all. We keep close tabs on the sticker prices of our test cars, and when one of the editors isn’t making progress in arguing their case in another class, they always reach for the value hammer. Yes, the Kia K900 is far less expensive than a BMW 5-Series. Yes, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat can whoop some Aston Martins.
But this year’s value winner easily survived all such comers. The 2015 Honda Fit was the lowest-priced vehicle among all our nominees with a $21,590 price tag, including its navigation system, and it won in large part because we often found ourselves asking why the Fit had features some of our other cars didn’t at more than twice the price.
The new 2015 Fit feels bigger than its predecessor, but that’s an illusion of its stubby bodywork; the car actually lost 1.6 inches of overall length. Inside, Honda still demonstrates the packaging magic that made the Civic and Accord all-American favorites; good sightlines, intelligently placed controls and plastics that seem less cheap than they must be. Meanwhile, the rear seat and cargo area offer unmatched space at this price; if a typical B-class car is the studio apartment of automobiles, the Honda Fit is the one-bedroom with closets.
Power comes from a 130-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder bolted to either a six-speed manual or a CVT, which pushes its mileage up to 32 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. The loaded version Honda sent us came with the CVT and paddle shifters on the steering wheel — which, since a CVT has no gears, simply makes the engine change rev bands. And yet, somehow, it’s a gimmick that works.
“I never expected to be smiling and feverishly clicking the paddle-shift CVT gearbox on a curvy road in the new Honda Fit. But I did, and I enjoyed myself,” said editor-at-large Alex Lloyd. “While it does feels decidedly top heavy, it remains quirky and cute.”
Credit goes in large part to the chassis and suspension; stiffened for 2015, but with a bit more body roll, the Fit feels fun and tossable without becoming a drone chamber on the freeway, although some found it too noisy. There were a few other demerits: The app-based navigation system was unpopular, and the side-view cameras that pop on when changing lanes to illuminate your blind spot won praise, but seemed distracting at first. And the new styling wasn't favored by all.
But the bottom line made those concerns seem minor. As road test editor Aki Sugawara noted, even the $15,525 Fit LX comes with a rearview camera, iPod integration and Bluetooth — “things our $46,000 BMW M235i didn’t have.” If we had to buy a lot of car for not much money, there’s no better place to start than the Fit.