2012 Car Comparison: Honda Fit vs Toyota Yaris vs Ford Fiesta

Last Updated: Dec 6, 2011

The Competitors
This subcompact-car comparison compares the 2012 Honda Fit, 2012 Toyota Yaris, and 2012 Ford Fiesta. These frugal rides have base prices in the middle of the subcompact category and each has its own approach to basic transportation. This 2012 Honda Fit vs. 2012 Toyota Yaris vs. 2012 Ford Fiesta comparison picks a winner based on price, features, and performance.
Base-price range is $15,945-$20,310 for the 2012 Honda Fit, $14,875-$17,960 for the 2012 Toyota Yaris, and $13,995-$18,295 for the 2012 Ford Fiesta. Base prices in this comparison review include the manufacturer’s delivery fee; note that Toyotas sold in some Southeastern and Gulf states are delivered by independent distributors and may carry different destination fees.

Fit is available only as a four-door hatchback and for model-year 2012 gets minor interior updates while the Fit Sport model gets new grille and bumper styling and now comes with steering-wheel audio controls. The Toyota Yaris is fully redesigned for model-year 2012 and grows slightly larger inside and out. It comes as a two- or a four-door hatchback and gains a newfound sense of style. It trades a jelly-bean exterior shape for more angles and a sportier look and improves interior materials enough to catch the competition. The 2012 Fiesta offers four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Blind-spot mirrors incorporated into the side mirrors and addition of a driver's-seat armrest for all models account for the 2012 Fiesta changes.

The Similarities

  • Powertrain configuration and output is par for the subcompact field. Fit, Yaris, and Fiesta are all front-wheel-drive cars that enhance wet-weather traction and promote predictable handling by locating the weight of the engine over the tires that propel the car. Each has a four-cylinder engine and is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission or an extra-cost automatic. Though horsepower and torque ratings are modest by most standards they’re not inappropriate for these small, lightweight cars. Fiesta, the heaviest of this trio at around 2,550 pounds, has a 1.6-liter engine with 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the main ingredient in acceleration and horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum.) The Fit, at 2,489 pounds the second heaviest in the group, has a 1.5-liter with 117 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque. The Yaris is the featherweight at just 2,295 pounds and its 1.5-liter puts out 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet.
  • All three cars are closely matched for fuel economy, with EPA ratings in the high-20-mpg range in city driving and in the mid- to high 30s in highway driving. Moreover, their ratings reveal that manual transmissions no longer hold much if any advantage over automatics for fuel economy. Fiesta tops this trio with ratings of 27/38 mpg city/highway and 33 mpg combined city/highway with manual transmission. Automatic-transmission Fiestas do even better, at 29/39/33 mpg — with a class-leading 29/40/33 available from the SFE (Super Fuel Economy) package option, which costs $395 on the Fiesta SE sedan and $695 on the SE hatchback. The 2012 Yaris finishes second in this group, with ratings of 30/38/33 mpg with manual transmission and 23/35/32 with automatic. The 2012 Fit rates 27/33/29 mpg with manual transmission, 28/35/31 with automatic.
  • Safety is a priority, no matter the size car and while Fit, Yaris, and Fiesta may be small, they’re big on safety features. Each comes with active and passive equipment that a few years ago was found only on cars costing three times as much. All three save money with rear drum brakes instead of discs, but antilock technology is included for better control in emergency stops. Each also comes with an electronic antiskid stability control system to help minimize chances of sideways slides. Passive safety gear in all three cars includes dual front airbags, driver and front passenger side-protection air bags, and curtain side airbags for all outboard seating positions for head protection in side collisions and rollovers. Standard in the Yaris and Fiesta but missing in the Fit is a driver’s knee bag. This air bag goes beyond the obvious of protecting knees by also helping to keep the driver’s body in the correct position so the seatbelt and steering-wheel airbag can provide optimum protection.

The Differences

  • All three cars come with a five-speed manual transmission but their optional automatic transmissions are different. With transmissions, more gear ratios are almost always better, allowing more efficient extraction of engine power and better fuel economy. The 2012 Yaris’s automatic is the least advanced here, with just four speeds. The 2012 Fit continues with a five-speed automatic and, on Sport models, is the only car here to feature steering-wheel paddles that allow the driver to mimic manual-gear control. The 2012 Fiesta’s automatic has six speeds, though it is not a conventional automatic but what’s known as a dual-clutch transmission. Designed to be lighter, simpler, and more efficient than a traditional automatic, this is essentially a manual transmission that lacks a clutch pedal and for all intents and purposes behaves like a regular automatic. In the Fiesta, the dual-clutch aids fuel economy but it’s also the least satisfying “automatic” here, seeming to sap more engine power than the conventional units in the Yaris and Fit and representing the biggest drop-off in driving fun compared to the manual transmission.
  • Cargo-carrying versatility is an asset in small cars and for adaptability, Fit is the hands-down winner thanks to its remarkably efficient body design. It comes only as a four-door hatchback that’s actually a small wagon. Only Fiesta offers both a sedan and hatchback body style. Yaris comes as a two- and four-door hatchback. In cars this size, the more doors the better. The two-door Yaris’s rear seat, for example, is particularly difficult to access, though if you rarely carry more than one passenger, its $14,115 base price might offset that fault. No matter the number of doors, a sedan body style is a good choice for urban dwellers that want the security of a trunk to eliminate prying eyes and furnish secure storage independent of the main passenger compartment. Hatchbacks, by contrast, have a swing-up tailgate and far more cargo versatility than a sedan, something active young buyers will find useful. In this regard, Fit is the hands-down champ here, with 57.3 cubic feet of cargo volume with its rear seat folded. The Yaris hatchback has a maximum of 31.7 cubic feet of cargo space, the Fiesta hatchback just 26 cubic feet. Better still, Fit’s rear seat is cleverly configurable to fold down or flip up; in the latter position, Fit will accommodate surprisingly tall objects – flat-screen TV boxes, some bicycles -- stowed sideways behind the front seats.
  • Each car has distinct comfort and handling characteristics. Yaris falls between the Ford and Honda for interior comfort, penalized mostly by a fairly tight rear seat. It is an agreeable around-town runabout that darts through traffic without undue effort. This Toyota feels solidly built and its suspension is the best of the three at smoothing out road imperfections but the least at home on the open road, with little road feel from the steering and a chassis tuned for ride quality rather than good handling response. The Fit has the most passenger room, front and rear, and excels as both an urban daily driver and as a car that can take twisty roads with precise steering and only slight body lean. Noseplow in turns becomes noticeable as speeds increase, however, and large bumps can jolt at any speed. Fiesta has the tightest back-seat accommodations – enough to be a deal-breaker if you regularly carry more than one passenger. Confirming its European tuning, however, Fiesta delivers the best all-around road manners here. It carves corners with enthusiasm and feels as settled on the open road as a much larger car. The little Ford’s ride is more absorbent than the Fit’s over sharp bumps, but the European-influenced suspension may still be too firm for some.

The Winner

The 2012 Honda Fit edges out the 2012 Fiesta in this comparison. It’s commendably sporty to drive and its design is amazingly efficient. Seating is comfortable, knobs and controls are easy to reach and operate, and that trick rear seat expands the already-generous cargo area to a space that rivals small SUVs. Fiesta has an international look and feel, rides and handles extraordinarily well for a car its size, and its list of available tech gizmos is unequaled in this class. Performance of the dual-clutch transmission is a demerit, though, and so is the tight rear seat and relatively limited cargo versatility, even in hatchback form. In this comparison, the Yaris’s new, crisp styling and improved interior are notable but the engine feels underpowered and the four-speed automatic transmission outdated.