Continued from Part one:
2014 Honda Fit Sport: (Second Place)
We have road tested the 2014 Honda Fit with both the optional 5-speed automatic as well as the 5-speed manual transmission and while we can say without question that the vehicle is much more fun to drive with the stick shift, the Fit is surprisingly peppy and responsive even when it comes without a clutch pedal. Thanks for that goes to Honda’s eager to rev 1.5 liter 117 horsepower/106 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder which upholds the long standing notion that this automaker makes some of the finest, smoothest and sweetest sounding engines on the market. But the upcoming 2015 model boasts a substantial power boost so if you can’t shift for yourself, we suggest waiting.
As we mentioned earlier in this contest, we haven’t seen any real improvement on the overall Fit concept from the competition (or Honda itself who has chosen wisely to leave good enough pretty much alone) which includes mind blowing interior space efficiency and as per Honda usual and one of the best ride/handling/steering calibrations that we have ever experienced at anything near the Fit’s price.
Our test 2014 Honda Fit Sport stickered at $17,680 (includes destination fee) but if you want navigation or Bluetooth you have to shell out almost $2,000 more for the privilege. The 2014 Honda Fit Sport we tested had a five-speed manual gearbox, air conditioning, USB/iPod integration mated to a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD 160-watt audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows, door locks and a whole lot more. There is also a base model Fit starting just over $15,000 which is perfectly well equipped with all the essentials.
We do wish, however, that Honda would make Bluetooth standard on the Fit Sport so buyers could get that feature without having to purchase the navigation package but you can still always just buy a Bluetooth headset for your commute. We are sure, however, that we couldn’t ask for more interior room as we aren’t quite sure how Honda crammed so much utility inside the Fit. Perhaps this is why they call their rear seat/cargo area floor the “magic.” Clearly it’s a magic that Toyota and Mazda do not yet possess. Nissan’s new Note comes very, very close.
With the rear seats in place the 2014 Honda Fit can hold 20.6 cubic feet of cargo which grows to an SUV rivaling 57.3 cubic feet when the second row is folded flat. And when we say flat, we mean U-Haul cargo floor flat as this subcompact hatchback can carry a Triathlete’s racing bike in the back as long as the front wheel of the racing bike is removed. The 2015 model will probably be able fit a miniature horse but for now this is the extent of the Fit’s usefulness.
Interior materials are also much sturdier feeling than those used in the Toyota but be warned—if you have a dog be sure and put a cover over the rear seat upholstery which was unfazed by ordinary forms of canine damage but seemed magnetically attracted to our in-house dog tester Roxy’s fur. So, use a seat cover when the dog is with you and then just take it out when you have human passengers. This is good advice in any new car as is buying your dog a safety restraint for car rides in the Fit.
We still love the 2014 Honda Fit Sport and would recommend the purchase of one to any friend and if it was our vehicle we know we would be quite happy with a manual transmission equipped Sport variant. But be sure to check out the look of the upcoming 2015 model, it’s handsome, more powerful, roomier, has a higher quality interior and will no doubt hold some further form of Honda magic.
2014 Mazda2 (First Place)
Yes, the 2014 Mazda2 may not offer the insane amount of cargo space found in the Honda Fit, the vast array of hi-tech features like the Nissan Versa Note but it does have one thing that we are quite sure that the Toyota Yaris lacks and that is a soul. Yes, dear readers, the 2014 Mazda2 offers up a driving experience so enjoyable and visceral that you would swear it had its own heartbeat.
If the Mazda2 did have a heart, people might mistakenly assume it was a weak one given the standard 1.5 liter 4-cylinder’s 100 horsepower/98 lb. feet of torque which by the numbers means it has the least powerful engine in this test. But numbers don’t always tell the whole story as this 1.5 liter 4-cylinder truly embodies Mazda’s zoom-zoom spirit, constantly thriving on trips to the glorious sounding redline giving the driver plenty of power as a reward for enjoying the gloriously light and smooth 5-speed manual gearbox. Truly, the Mazda2’s manual transmission and clutch are so forgiving that we think it makes the ideal car for anyone to learn on.
Not only that, even after a week of our constant merry making with the free revving engine and gearbox the EPA rated Mazda2 managed 35.7 miles per gallon. The EPA says the 2 should get 28 city/34 highway so the fact that we bettered the highway estimate puts this car in a very rare class of two cars. The only other cars we have tested that have bettered their EPA highway estimates were the Mazda CX-5 and latest 2014 Mazda3. And we never hypermile in Mazda’s because they are just too darn fun to drive.
Although cargo space isn’t van-like, the 2 can accommodate up to 27.8 cubic feet of cargo and during its stay with us we even managed to fit $350 worth of groceries into the cargo hold with the rear seats in place. The rear seat is also acceptably roomy with decent leg and headroom for two adults. Up front, the Mazda2’s dashboard layout is the picture of gorgeously minimalistic simplicity with no frippery or unnecessary complication to its design.
The last cherry on top was the price of our top of the line Touring model—just $16,210 plus destination. At this price the 2014 Mazda2 comes standard with air conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows and locks, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD player with USB/i-Pod connectivity, Bluetooth, cruise control, a leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a plethora of usefully sized cupholders (not the norm in this class) as well as a set of floormats as well. To us, this makes the 2014 Mazda2 the bargain priced, fun to drive subcompact hatch to beat. Simply put, we love it.
One last note for dog owners, we also felt that the Mazda2 Touring’s sturdy “sport” cloth upholstery with red piping was not only durable feeling but it also was very easy to vacuum away any dog fur not caught by a rear bench seat cover. So on that count, the Mazda2 makes for an excellent choice for a discerning driver with a canine best friend.