2015 Honda Fit vs. 2015 Nissan Versa Note - Versatile Fitting Hatchbacks - Comparison Review

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Honda used to make a city sub-compact car called the Civic. Mom used to drive us kids around in that 3-door hatchback, with 4-speed manual, AM radio and no rear window defroster.

Today's Civic, unrecognizable to the former, has morphed into one of the more premium, satisfying to drive small family sedans out there.

In the process, it left a vacuum for an accommodating entry-level subcompact, at a price competitive with Enterprise Rent-A-Car's weekend rates.

Then, the 2009 Honda Fit popped onto the scene. The 5-door hatchback did a great impersonation of a small family MPV. The Gen. I version boasted more useable interior room than many compacts, including Honda's own Civic. Fit became a "Packaging Champion."

After a good workout at the gym, there is now a new 2015 Honda Fit. Ready for a bout with its first direct competitor, the 2015 Nissan Versa Note.

Toned:

- 2015 Honda Fit EX:  Muscular Renault R5 Turbo style rear quarters;  Civic-like front fascia and grille look; Sly tapered headlights, trimmed in LEDs; Top-tier EX trim tester fitted with optional 17" diamond cut style alloy wheels. The 1976 Honda Civic boasted increasing wheel diameter from 12"-inches to 13"-inches.

- 2015 Nissan Versa Note SR: More Nissan and less old Renault Clio to the eye; Far less sterile than the price-leading Versa sedan; Lower fascia could mirror that from a Nissan Quest maxi-van;  Trademark boomerang light housings;  Similar raked windshield and tapered roof ending in a spoiler as on the Fit. Lower rear valance trimmed in faux, but sporty carbon fiber. Bright LEDs bring up the tail.

Grade: Fit: B-   Versa Note: B-

 

Pumped:

- 2015 Honda Fit: 1.5L twin-cam direct injected gas I-4 engine makes a solid horsepower jump; Powertrain sounds thrashy only above 3500 rpm; Continuously Variable Transmission locks fast in Sport Mode, without engine getting hung up; Manumatic steering wheel shift paddles endowed with 7 simulated "gear ratios"; sub-9 second 0-60 miles-per-hour is the Hare here ; even a "lead foot" can achieve 31 combined mpg.

- 2015 Nissan Versa Note: 1.6L twin-cam gas I-4 lacks direct injection, hence the 20% power deficiency to the Fit; Powertrain makes racket above 2200 rpm; Despite a bigger ratio spread, CVT is using U.S Mail Parcel Post to lock ratios; No manumatic shift mode; Near 10 second 0-60 time has all the hustle of a Turtle dragging a lead bar;  Obtaining 32 combined mpg demands a "cotton ball foot."

Grade: Fit: B   Versa Note: C

Agile:

- 2015 Honda Fit: What feels tall is surprisingly sway resistant; Lead-up to understeer is progressive; Quicker steering bears heft and on-center antsy-ness; Seemingly low suspension travel amplifies wheel hop over abrupt pavement; Soft brake pedal belies hearty stopping, aided by Fit EX's grippy Bridgestone Turanza rubber;

- 2015 Nissan Versa Note: Compliant ride doesn't mind frost-heaves; Versa Note SR soft springing and bushing encourages body sway;  Low enthusiasm understeer at urgent pace;  Electric assist hinders true road feel, but steering wheel centers accurately; Firm brake pedal is short on travel, thus prone to lock-up;

Grade: Fit: B-   Versa Note: C++

Fit-ting:

- 2015 Honda Fit: Rear seat legroom, up 4.8"-inches, beats out Accord family sedan; Trunk has shrunk; Incomparable storage flexibility with flip-up rear MagicSeats; Only 6 cu. ft. away from a Jeep Cherokee . Load floor sits below bumper necessitating accessory bumper shield to avoid scuffs and scratches; Lacks flat load floor option; Smooth leather seat covering included on EX-L trim;

- 2015 Nissan Versa Note: Clever Divide-N-Hide track for raising cargo compartment load floor flat with folded split rear seatNear crossover-sized headroom; mini-spare tire loaded under car, increasing hatch capacity height;

Grade: Fit: B+   Versa Note: B-

Note-worthy:

- 2015 Honda Fit: Hard plastics on dash broken up by classy metallic inserts in interesting shapes; Fit EX-L One-touch power moonroof; Load floor sits below bumper necessitating accessory bumper shield to avoid scuffs and scratches; Climate control dials are glove friendly; LaneWatch camera on passenger door wing mirror offers view of pedestrians about to enter crosswalk; HondaLink Next Generation telematics ; High contrast WVGA 7" LCD touch infotainment screen is held back by lack of hard or soft buttons or haptics; Adjusting audio volume mandates precise finger-tip sliding rather than tapping; Racy red keyless ignition push-button.

- 2015 Nissan Versa Note: Upscale FineVision ELD gauges; Knobs and hard buttons make way better controls for 5" LCD infotainment screens;  NissanConnect applications feature Pandora, I-Heart radio and Google Search;  Driver's inboard armrest attaches airliner style; Climate adjustment dials are plain and low; Small storage slot beneath will never be known; Racy orange patterns alone must break up the cave darkness of cabin hard plastics;

Grade: Fit: B   Versa Note: B-

Nissan's first generation Versa made its name as a price leader. The 2015 Versa Note imbues the 5-door with more exterior pizzazz, clever stowing, and generous rear head & leg-room. Trouble is, the added sporty cues of the "SR" trim can't make up for a lumbering powertrain and soft chassis that don't know the meaning of "Twerking." The 2015 Versa Note SR's relaxed ride, "App happiness" and a sub-$20,000 loaded price could be compelling...for the dedicated waltzer.

It's what happens when the predecessor receives ovation after ovation. Honda was damned if it did, damned if it didn't when it came to re-designing the 2015 Fit. Unlike Nissan, they've managed a paddle shifting CVT mating that maximizes fuel economy without sapping life out of a more powerful engine. Some focus has been lost in the electric steering. Our $21,800 as tested 2015 Fit EX-L is high on detail and  interesting shapes, with the exception of "flimsy thin" carpeting. Trading trunk space for 2nd row room was so worth it.  Enough for the 2015 Honda Fit to remain "Packaging Champion."

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