More and more Americans are choosing to buy economy hatchbacks. Rising gas prices are one reason. You can get extremely good gas mileage with one of these mini-cars without paying a premium for hybrid technology. Also, these extra-compact hatchbacks generally have a low price tag, and many have a surprising number of sought after interior features. This adds even more incentive to purchase this class of car.
Drawbacks of sub-compacts include the small size and fear of being in an undersized—and some would say—less safe car. That’s why safety features and safety ratings are so important when comparing models in this class. Can the vehicles on your short list boast the latest safety features? What crash test ratings did they receive? Will you feel safe with family and friends riding with you?
Today we look at safety issues with the Fit and Fiesta. But first…
Bring Us Up to Date
We’ve been comparing the Honda Fit base model and the Ford Fiesta SE. The hatchbacks we’re looking at have automatic transmissions and no other extras or accessories. I was surprised to find the Ford Fiesta a few hundred dollars more expensive than the Honda Fit. However, the Fiesta has a slightly larger engine, more pep when driving, AND gets better gas mileage.
The Honda Fit wins hands-down when comparing cargo space and passenger room. The Fit’s cargo area is so much better designed than the Fiesta’s. It’s easier to access and holds significantly more cargo. Rear seat passengers will be glad you bought a Fit instead of a Fiesta, too. There is more leg and elbow room in the Honda.
Both the Fit and Fiesta are good choices when safety is taken into account. Each have ABS brakes, electronic stability control, and side curtain air bags. The Honda Fit comes standard with dynamic head restraints—a cutting edge feature that helps reduce whiplash injuries in rear end collisions. However, the Ford Fiesta does not offer dynamic head restraints at any price.
The good news for Ford Fiesta owners is the very high rating the Fiesta received from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This government agency has just revised how it reports its crash test results. It now provides a new 5-star rating system that includes tougher crash tests and a single overall safety score for each vehicle. It is more difficult for car makers to get top marks under the new system.
A limited number of 2011 model vehicles have been tested under the more stringent method. The Ford Fiesta is one of those and it received very high marks. In fact, the Fiesta not only received an overall 4-star rating out of a maximum of five stars, but it received a perfect 5-star rating in the difficult side crash test.
The Honda Fit has not been tested under the new system. However, last year the Fit received a near-perfect score under the old crash test rating. That may not be as impressive as it sounds as most cars scored well under the old system. The new system actually compares one vehicle against another in the same class. It will be interesting to see which car comes out ahead when the new crash test system compares the Fit with the Fiesta.
One more significant factor sets the Ford Fiesta apart from other vehicles in its class. The Fiesta is a 2010 IIHS Top Safety Pick, including a top 'good' rating for rollover protection.
You Can’t Go Wrong
As an ex-Internet Manager for a major car dealer, it’s my opinion that you can’t go wrong with either the Honda Fit or the Ford Fiesta. Both are safe, get great gas mileage, and fun to drive. They are on the expensive side of the scale when compared to other sub-compacts, but each offers value for money spent. There are enough differences between the two—in styling, interior design, and functional use—to warrant a test drive of each vehicle to see which one suits your needs and appeals to your esthetic flair.