Season Recap: Efficient Cars

Hondafitrecap

As the last major show of the season wraps up in New York City this weekend, it’s time to choose the best of the best. After trips to Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and New York, the Cars.com staff reflects on which vehicles we think will make the biggest impact this year and beyond. We’ll start the review with each of our picks for the Best Fuel-Efficient Car from the four shows.

Best Fuel-Efficient Car

David Thomas:
2009 Ford Fiesta
This wasn’t so tough: It came down to the new Honda Fit or the Ford Fiesta. I picked the Fiesta — in spite of the fact that it didn’t show up at any of the stateside shows as a finished production car — because I think it will be a game-changer for Ford. It’s good-looking, has a wild interior and will hopefully bring an affordable entry-level car to a domestic automaker that needs it.

Kelsey Mays: 2009 Honda Fit
The Fiesta holds promise, but I’m going with the Fit. Though it looks similar, the redesigned model’s improvements are subtly impressive. The backseat stows more easily, and the cushions now lift up for floor-to-ceiling storage. Nifty. Dashboard quality seems on par with pricier cars like the Civic and Corolla, and on the safety front, stability control is now optional. It’ll soon be required on all cars, but as of now it’s still rare among economy cars. Honda didn’t bring the first Fit our way until long after it had debuted overseas; I’m glad its successor is here on time.

Joe Wiesenfelder: 2009 Honda Fit
Not having seen the real Fiesta — or its fuel economy or safety features — this one's a no-brainer. Of the economy cars out there, the Fit isn't the cheapest or most efficient (understanding that its mileage will be similar to the current generation's), but it gives a good mix of the quality and features needed to make an inexpensive car successful. With fuel prices — and hybrid car prices — high, the best way to burn less fuel immediately and save money in the long run is to buy a more affordable, more efficient car. The Fit is that car.

Mike Hanley: 2009 Honda Fit
The redesigned Honda Fit gets my nod because it is an efficient car in more ways than one. It's powered by a small, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, for sure, and is also a relatively small four-door hatchback on the outside. On the inside, though, there's enough room in the front and rear seats for adults. It also has a pretty large cargo area, and its high-quality cabin materials are another plus. I agree the Ford Fiesta is a nice-looking offering, but it won't be available in the U.S. for more than a year.

Comments 

Trainer

Nice job of doing a story on best fuel efficient car without including mileage information. That's not the only problem with your post - while the Fit is a cute and cleverly engineered car, it's too small compared with the majority of cars on U.S. roads. That's nothing against the Honda, but the cost/benefit ratio of driving a car as small as a Fit doesn't add up, if you value the safety of your readers. That leaves only two possible best fuel efficent cars, the Toyota Prius, a mid-size car that has substantially better gas mileage and crashworthiness than the Fit, or the Honda Civic Hybrid, which is a smaller and less safe automobile, but one that is obviously more substantial than the Fit. The Prius costs less than the smaller Civic Hybrid, and isn't much more expensive than the Fit, making it the obvious choice for best fuel efficient car.

J

If the Fit is too "small" when compared to the majority of cars in the US, then why are we getting the "smart"?

Trainer

J, Good point. In Europe, the Smart or Fit driver has a much better chance in an accident because the odds are the other vehicle will also be a smaller vehicle. But the weight disparity of a Smart or Fit compared to other vehicles in the U.S. is much more pronounced because of the 50 percent ratio of pickups and SUVs on the road, many of which weigh three times what those little cars weigh. They're neat cars and great for folks who have a high risk tolerance, but far from what should be considered as the "best fuel efficient car" when there are heavier, safer vehicles that get better mileage.

john kuang

the current fit (2008) is only 5% lighter than a civic coupe, but has 7.5% more interior volume. so it's not that much lighter than a lot of non-SUVs on the road

fit
90.0 Interior Volume (cu. ft.)
2514 Curb Weight (Lbs) Automatic Transmission

civic coupe
83.7
2650

corolla
92.0
2745

civic hybrid
90.9
2875

Trainer

John, thanks for supplying the data. I had no idea the weights were that close. I think the Civic would probably be a much safer car in the real world than the Fit, because the Civic's design includes larger crush zones in the front and rear before you get to the passenger compartment. Honda has likely done an excellent job of engineering safety into the Fit with high strength steel, etc. Still I would go for the Civic Hybrid, with its superior mpg and extra 360 pounds over the Fit, if you're naming the "best fuel efficient car." Safety has to be part of the equation, and smaller cars and their occupants always come out worse when they collide with larger vehicles. You can only do so much to counter the laws of physics.

J

Civic has larger crush zones in the front?
The windshield's area is bigger than the hood.

Trainer

Yes, the crush zone on the front of the Civic is larger than the Fit, and much larger than the Smart. The Civic is a larger car, a safer car and a better pick for "best fuel efficient car."

Trainer

The Prius is still the best pick for "best fuel efficient car." Today on a 160 mile highway drive, our Prius averaged 56.3 mpg, probably achieved because air conditioning was not needed.

Guys,
these picks only involved cars that debuted during this past auto show season from Nov 2007 to March of 2008. The prius and civic hybrids have been out much longer.

Peter U. Jonas

Is the entire peanut gallery retarded, or just the people in this thread? This is from the auto show. Maybe if you guys pay as much attention to what you're reading as you do your own brilliance you won't waste everyone's time.

Trainer

My original point stands - there are safer cars that get better mileage that appeared at the same auto show as the Fit. So the car has been facelifted - it is still inferior in terms of safety and economy to the Civic Hybrid and Prius. It's still as small as before and will come out on the losing end of a collision with more than half the vehicles on U.S. roads. I understand that auto writers make their living promoting new designs - I think people need to think about safety too.

sczech

What is the point of the above post? If you call everyone retarded then why do you post here? And if you can understand that someone is merely adding to the point, just because it doesn't fit exactly into the topic of the article, doesn't mean they are retarded. I think it reflects more on the one who made that post. You appear to be the one who is affixed on your brilliance or else you wouldn't need to put down others.

I do have a question for Trainer though, what are all these other cars that are so safer and get better fuel economy? If it is just the Prius and the Civic, what makes those vehicles safer? The size of the vehicle is not the only thing that matters nor is it the main thing in this day of so many active and passive safety devices.

Trainer

Sczech, you raise a good question. It's an assumption on my part that the larger Civic is a safer vehicle than the Fit - and I admit there are other factors than just size to consider. In the real world, no two accidents are the same. But the Fit is nearly two feet shorter than the Civic, while it has a larger interior space by about 7.5%, according to John's posting above. That would suggest less car at the front and rear, outside of the passenger compartment, to absorb collision forces. The Civic Hybrid also outweighs the Fit by about 360 pounds, and many people argue that weight does play a part in safety. Both the Civic and the Prius are in larger size classes, with the Prius weighing in at nearly 3,000 pounds and being considered a mid-size car. Assuming all three cars have state of the art airbags, high strength steel and the rest of the latest safety gear, I believe that now people should buy the largest car that still gets the best mileage. I've driven many small cars in my time, including rusty econoboxes that offered little protection. But that was years ago, before SUVs were so prominent on our roads. When you notice a Fit being followed by an Expedition, as I did one day recently, the size disparity is very notable. That concern is the source of all my comments -that calling a vehicle the "best fuel efficient car" might not be just a matter of what's newest or most attractive. Thanks for your comments.

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