Special Coverage

Auto Interiors Conference

For the second time in three years, the Honda Fit subcompact takes top honors in the economy-priced car category of the Interior of the Year competition.

The first time the Fit made the list, it was barely a year old in the U.S., in 2007. It looked darn stylish, even thought it had been on the road in Japan for several years.

It was fresh enough then to beat the all-new Volkswagen Rabbit, Dodge Caliber and Hyundai Elantra in voting by Ward’s editors.

This year, the Fit is all-new in every market, and the competition in the economy-car category was plain outgunned. The Nissan Cube, Toyota Yaris and Smart Fortwo are innovative and affordable, but none makes the styling statement or maximizes the passenger compartment like the Fit.

“The Yaris we tested priced higher, but this interior is better,” Associate Editor Christie Schweinsberg writes on her Fit score sheet. “Great materials for a small car – no complaints.”

The Fit we evaluated carries a sticker price of $16,930, compared with $17,204 for the 5-door Yaris. Yet the Fit looks and feels more upscale.

From the sporty and distinctive mesh on the steering wheel and the high-quality woven headliner to the attractive instrumentation and second-row “Magic Seat” that folds up or down with a single simple motion, the Fit represents a superb value, with ample space for five occupants.

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The Fit scores well on crash tests, and head restraints for all five occupants improves safety in rear-end collisions. Side-curtain airbags are standard.

Some Ward’s editors had minor complaints – that the front cupholders were too shallow to hold drinks in place, and that the layout of the instrument panel is too busy.

But the Fit’s finer attributes clearly outshine these quibbles, putting Honda’s most affordable car on par with larger cars costing much more. In some cases, the Fit surpasses them.

“If this car signals the direction of small-car interiors,” writes Associate Editor James Amend on his Fit score sheet, “we should consider ourselves fortunate.”

tmurphy@wardsauto.com