The Honda Fit has been one of the highest-rated small cars at The Car Connection--but the Chevy Sonic has done very well, too. Which one should you buy?
We rate the Sonic higher than the Fit, mostly because we think it's better-looking and is more interesting to drive. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Both the Honda Fit and Chevy Sonic are subcompact hatchbacks, and there's also a Sonic four-door sedan that starts at a slightly lower price. Buyers with long memories may notice that they're the size of compacts from just a few years ago. But either is significantly better, more capable, and more fuel-efficient than economy cars of old.
The Sonic and the Fit are relatively upright and tall five-door cars with design flourishes and accents that work to disguise their boxy shapes. The Honda was new for 2015, and while it may be a little fresher than the Sonic, which is now in its fifth model year, we still prefer the more sporty look of the Sonic hatchback. Both have simple and straightforward interiors with just enough silver trim and clever styling to take them out of the dreaded "econobox" category. They're not luxurious, but neither is there anything to be ashamed of inside.
The latest Fit is powered by a 130-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, but most Fits will use a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that maximizes fuel efficiency. The combination vaults Honda to the head of its class for efficiency. Honda's done a decent job of making the CVT tolerable, and the Fit manages to suppress most exterior noise fairly well even at speeds well above any U.S. speed limit.
The base Chevrolet Sonic LS comes with a 138-hp 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, but the optional 1.4-liter turbo engine--with the same power rating but more torque--gives better acceleration, higher EPA ratings for fuel economy, and way more driving enjoyment. The 1.4 turbo is offered on Sonic LT and LTZ models; either engine can be ordered in the LS and LT with a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Compared to its unloved predecessor, the Chevy Aveo, the Sonic has always been surprisingly fun to drive. Especially with the 1.4-liter turbo, it's lively and responsive--more so than the Fit, which has slightly less power and the CVT instead of the conventional automatic. There's a penalty in fuel economy with the Sonic, though: Depending on the engine-and-gearbox combination, its combined EPA ratings run from 28 to 33 mpg.
Each is reasonably spacious in front but is most flexible when used by two people. You can get four adults into either car, but if you routinely travel four-up, a compact may be a better and more spacious bet. Like its predecessors, the latest Fit has the aptly-named "Magic Seat" arrangement that gives unparalleled flexibility for accommodating remarkable numbers of people and volumes of cargo. The rear seats fold, flip to the side, or can be removed altogether, while the front seats can be fully reclined to form an almost-flat interior space. However, its front seats are pretty poorly padded, and the dash seems intrusive. The Sonic's rear seat folds, but you can't remove it to turn the space into what's effectively a very small moving van as you can in the Fit.