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Measure For Measure: Honda Fit vs. Ford Fiesta

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112_0806_01l%20ford_fiesta_vs_honda_fit%

Measure For Measure: Honda Fit vs. Ford Fiesta

If Honda can prove the conventional wisdom about hatchbacks wrong, why can't Ford?

By Angus MacKenzie

The conventional wisdom is hatchbacks don't sell in America. Ford marketing boss Jim Farley doesn't believe in conventional wisdom. He plans to bring the hatchback version of the new Fiesta small car to the states to sell alongside the four door model that was earlier approved for Stateside consumption. And why not? Honda's Fit has been proving the conventional wisdom wrong for a couple of years now.

In 2007 Honda retailed just over 56,000 of the little Honda hatches. To the end of May this year, it had shifted just shy of 30,000. To put that in perspective, the Fit -- a car that will be replaced by a completely redesigned model in October -- has so far this year handily outsold both Ford's doddery Crown Victoria and invisible Taurus. Dearborn could use a little unconventional wisdom like that.

What makes Farley's move fascinating is the new Fiesta hatch -- which launches in Europe this summer -- is a very similar package to the next generation Fit. The Fiesta rolls on a 98.0in wheelbase, while the new Fit will measure 98.4in between the axles. The Fiesta is 156.0in long overall; the new Fit will be almost the same with U.S.-spec bumpers.

Two key dimensions are quite different, however -- the baby Ford is an inch wider and 1.5in lower than the little Honda. That helps give the Fiesta sportier proportions and more shoulder room inside. But the new Fit will retain the current car's innovative folding rear seat, which gives it almost baby minivan load carrying flexibility.

The sort of functionality is important in the Fit's home market, Japan, where small cars have traditionally been designed to maximize their interior package. Here in the U.S., however, the Fit is positioned as a youth-oriented sporty vehicle. And that's where the five door Fiesta could prove a real rival. A three door version of the Fiesta is also on the way to world markets and probably will be sold here as well.

It starts with the styling. Visually the new Fit is a big improvement on the geeky, goggle-eyed current model; cleaner, sharper, with less of a whiff of sweaty basements and flickering computer screens. But it's not a match for Martin Smith's dramatic "Kinetic Design" sheet metal on the Fiesta. This is a small car in Cinemascope, with a sweeping, widescreen stance. The Ford's interior is classier and more entertaining, too, with better use of color, and center stack hardware that's a cool, clever riff on a cell phone keypad aimed straight at the fingers of the SMS generation.

Standard engine for the new Fit will be a 118-hp version of the 1.5L four, driving the front wheels through either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Ford will offer a new 1.6L four with variable valve timing that produces about 115 hp. Too close to call -- until you check the weights. The new Fit is at least 22 lb heavier than the current car, which means a base manual is likely to check in at 2454 lb. Ford, by contrast, has reduced the weight of the new Fiesta hatch by 80 to 90 lb compared with the superceded model, which means a base manual will weigh about 2380 lb.

Manual transmission in the Fiesta is a five speed, but the auto is only a four speed -- for now. Ford is working on a dual clutch automated manual transmission for its front-drive small cars, though it is unlikely to appear before the Fiesta hits the U.S. market in 2010 as a 2011 model.

Honda has worked to improve the ride of the new Fit. "We are very aware that the predecessor was a little firm," says chief engineer Kohei Hitomi, "so we spent a lot of time fixing that." That's good news. But for the past decade, European Fords have consistently delivered a better ride/handling compromise, and better steering, than any small Honda, and there's no reason to expect that will change with the new Fiesta. Honda also habitually selects less-than-optimal tires for its cars, which invariably compromises grip. So unless Dearborn screws with the suspension or the tires, it would be surprising if the new Fiesta was not more engaging and entertaining to drive than the new Fit.

In this era of $4 a gallon gas, the hatch is a low-risk means of boosting the Fiesta's appeal in the U.S. market, offering an alternative for those who might want something slightly sportier than a small sedan. Besides, if Honda can prove the conventional wisdom wrong, why can't Ford? It's not rocket science.

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112_0806_08s%20ford_fiesta%20concept_int112_0806_04s%202009_honda_fit%20interior

2009 Honda Fit 2011 Ford Fiesta

Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 5-pass 4-door hatchback Front engine, FWD, 5-pass 4-door hatchback

Engine 1.5L/118hp/107lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I4 1.6L/115hp/TBAlb-ft DOHC 16-valve I4

Transmission 5-sp man/5-sp auto 5-sp man/4-sp auto

Curb weight 2454lb (mfr) 2380lb (mfr)

Wheelbase 98.4in 98.0in

LxWxH 155.5x67.0x60.0in 156.0x68.0x58.5in

On sale in U.S. Fall 2008 TBA

Edited by empowah
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Times are sure changing in the industry!

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The Ford, thought I'd never buy one... EVER, is way better than that ugly little dustmite Hon-DUH.

If I am ever forced into drastic measures it will be a MB/Smart.

RWD for teh WIN suckas!!!! :mr-t:

It's better looking, better built and SAFER!

It I HAD to have a backstea I might settle

for a Mini Cooper S.

img0982kb7.jpg

Edited by Sixty8panther
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the fiesta is a small ride i would drive. 1- because i have many years of trustworthy fords, and i know euro fords drive on par with other euro machinery.

another reason to select the ford....i highly doubt road salt will corrode the electrics like the recalls for the fits have. i.e honda lack of attention to caring.

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The Fiesta 3-door is a very sweet looking tiny car. The best looking in its class, imo, with its sister, the Mazda2, right there with it. Edited by ocnblu
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the fiesta is a small ride i would drive. 1- because i have many years of trustworthy fords, and i know euro fords drive on par with other euro machinery.

another reason to select the ford....i highly doubt road salt will corrode the electrics like the recalls for the fits have. i.e honda lack of attention to caring.

The Fiesta will be a nice vehicle, a sportier subcompact. Let's just hope Ford's lack of attention to making good vehicles won't ruin it. :AH-HA_wink:

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Hey siegen: Ford. Drive One. :AH-HA_wink:
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Hey siegen: Ford. Drive One. :AH-HA_wink:

LOL. we all know siegen thought he was clear since the yaris' were so bad but now ford may have a credible threat. those temple of vtec guys might have to watch over their shoulder now.

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The Fiesta looks so much better inside and out than the Fit. As long as Ford doesn't f@#k it up when they bring it here they have a winner on their hands.

I wouldn't count the Smart better looking, but that's me.

Edited by Dodgefan
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Times are sure changing in the industry!

....but apparently not fast enough at Ford.....

2011....?

Two more years for the Fit (and others) to solidify their hold on the segment.

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The Ford, thought I'd never buy one... EVER, is way better than that ugly little dustmite Hon-DUH.

If I am ever forced into drastic measures it will be a MB/Smart.

RWD for teh WIN suckas!!!! :mr-t:

It's better looking, better built and SAFER!

It I HAD to have a backstea I might settle

for a Mini Cooper S.

You violate your own anti-FWD stance. :P

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The Fiesta looks so much better inside and out than the Fit. As long as Ford doesn't f@#k it up when they bring it here they have a winner on their hands.

I wouldn't car the Smart better looking, but that's me.

I think the Fiesta looks sportier on the outside. Are there more pictures available somewhere? Is this a concept or full production model?

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No matter how high gas prices may rise, I will never, ever consider the Honda Fit because I frankly can't stand to look at the thing. Honda has a great reputation for building nice, competent vehicles, but they don't make one model (this includes the Honda and Acura divisions) that I would want to own. If this company could create some desirable styling for their products, then I would be the first person in line to buy one. A combination of solid engineering with desirable styling would make them nearly unbeatable in the market. I know I am in the minority since Honda currently has two of the best selling vehicles in the market (Civic and Accord). I admire Honda for their competence and reputation, but their styling just leaves me cold.

I would consider owning the Fiesta, however. It has styling that totally defies its position as the subcompact entry level product that the car will have in the Ford Division lineup when it arrives in the U.S. If it lives up to the promise provided by its styling and Eurocentric roots, Ford may have the gold standard product in the subcompact market. I think they should provide all three versions in the U.S. (Ford has claimed that they will provide a hatchback, but they have not revealed if it will be the 3-door or 5-door or both as far as I know). Each version would cover a distinct portion of the subcompact market. The 3-door would be successful with people who think that a vehicle with 2 side doors is synonymous with sportiness. The 5-door would be successful with people who value true utility in their small car (this version would be my personal preference). The sedan would be successful with people who still hold the antiquated view that hatchback equals cheap car (I personally think that subcompact sedans look odd due to the proportions, but I realize that many people do not share this view). This would allow Ford to provide a product to anyone in the segment, no matter what configuration appeals to them.

I also think that Mazda should offer the Mazda2 in the U.S. market. No matter how good the Fiesta is, there will still be people out there who won't consider it because it is a domestic vehicle (which I think is ludicrous, but unfortunately it is true). The Mazda2 could be positioned to attract customers who won't consider the Fiesta, but would consider an import product. The styling of the Mazda2 (all 3 versions) is far more attractive than most of the alternatives in the market (Fit, Yaris, Aveo, Versa, Accent, Rio); the Fiesta is the only product that is as appealing (if not slightly more) stylistically as the Mazda2 in the subcompact market. I think Ford and Mazda could make a huge impact in the subcompact market by offering all 3 versions of their superb subcompact products in the U.S.

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No matter how high gas prices may rise, I will never, ever consider the Honda Fit because I frankly can't stand to look at the thing. Honda has a great reputation for building nice, competent vehicles, but they don't make one model (this includes the Honda and Acura divisions) that I would want to own. If this company could create some desirable styling for their products, then I would be the first person in line to buy one. A combination of solid engineering with desirable styling would make them nearly unbeatable in the market. I know I am in the minority since Honda currently has two of the best selling vehicles in the market (Civic and Accord). I admire Honda for their competence and reputation, but their styling just leaves me cold.

So you wouldn't want a TL Type S or S2000? You must hate cars. :AH-HA_wink:

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No matter how high gas prices may rise, I will never, ever consider the Honda Fit because I frankly can't stand to look at the thing. Honda has a great reputation for building nice, competent vehicles, but they don't make one model (this includes the Honda and Acura divisions) that I would want to own. If this company could create some desirable styling for their products, then I would be the first person in line to buy one. A combination of solid engineering with desirable styling would make them nearly unbeatable in the market. I know I am in the minority since Honda currently has two of the best selling vehicles in the market (Civic and Accord). I admire Honda for their competence and reputation, but their styling just leaves me cold.

I would consider owning the Fiesta, however. It has styling that totally defies its position as the subcompact entry level product that the car will have in the Ford Division lineup when it arrives in the U.S. If it lives up to the promise provided by its styling and Eurocentric roots, Ford may have the gold standard product in the subcompact market. I think they should provide all three versions in the U.S. (Ford has claimed that they will provide a hatchback, but they have not revealed if it will be the 3-door or 5-door or both as far as I know). Each version would cover a distinct portion of the subcompact market. The 3-door would be successful with people who think that a vehicle with 2 side doors is synonymous with sportiness. The 5-door would be successful with people who value true utility in their small car (this version would be my personal preference). The sedan would be successful with people who still hold the antiquated view that hatchback equals cheap car (I personally think that subcompact sedans look odd due to the proportions, but I realize that many people do not share this view). This would allow Ford to provide a product to anyone in the segment, no matter what configuration appeals to them.

I also think that Mazda should offer the Mazda2 in the U.S. market. No matter how good the Fiesta is, there will still be people out there who won't consider it because it is a domestic vehicle (which I think is ludicrous, but unfortunately it is true). The Mazda2 could be positioned to attract customers who won't consider the Fiesta, but would consider an import product. The styling of the Mazda2 (all 3 versions) is far more attractive than most of the alternatives in the market (Fit, Yaris, Aveo, Versa, Accent, Rio); the Fiesta is the only product that is as appealing (if not slightly more) stylistically as the Mazda2 in the subcompact market. I think Ford and Mazda could make a huge impact in the subcompact market by offering all 3 versions of their superb subcompact products in the U.S.

word.

the fit has never been too bad on the exterior. its a shame that this one is such a visual abortion on the inside.

Edited by regfootball
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I think the author is not giving the Fit's seating versatility due credit.

As for the handling comments, the author says:

"That's good news. But for the past decade, European Fords have consistently delivered a better ride/handling compromise, and better steering, than any small Honda, and there's no reason to expect that will change with the new Fiesta."

"The Fit drove like a champ, with quick steering and exquisite road feel. These impressions were confirmed on the track, where it slipped through the slalom in 6.1 seconds at 67.5 mph. The Fit felt stable and well balanced, and provided good feedback to the driver. It was about as much fun as you could have in a thrifty little car. Not only that, but the sporty handling didn't sacrifice comfort; it provided a pleasing, comfortable ride."

http://www.edmunds.com/apps/vdpcontainers/...rticleId=109810

To put that 67.5 MPH in perspective:

Ford Focus: 61.1 MPH

http://www.edmunds.com/apps/vdpcontainers/...1/pageNumber=14

Ford Mustang GT V8: 62.5 MPH

RX-8 and 350Z: 63.9

http://www.edmunds.com/apps/vdpcontainers/...96/pageNumber=8

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