2015 Honda Fit EX-L vs. 2014 Nissan Versa Note SL Comparison

For a long time, buying a small hatchback was like eating 39-cent ramen noodles: it's all you can afford and it gets the job done, but you'd really rather have something else. That's been changing over the last decade. Small is cool again, and today's subcompacts don't give up much compared with their compact big brothers. The original Honda Fit helped kick-start this transformation, and it remains one of the only subcompacts to ever win an Automobile Magazine All-Star award, in 2009.

To show how far the subcompact class has come, we selected top-of-the-line versions of two of the major players in this surprisingly hot segment, the 2015 Honda Fit EX-L and the 2014 Nissan Versa Note SL. While the Versa is the class best-seller by a significant margin, the perennial favorite Honda Fit is fresh off a redesign to prove that it's still got the mojo to compete in the class it helped revive.

Both of these five-doors give strong first impressions with their perky exterior styling, high levels of equipment, and roomy interiors. To find out which one best breaks the mold of the bargain-bin hatchback, we took a trip to Lansing, Michigan, to see which car we'd settle for, and which one we might actually want.

MPG Mavens

Let's start with the mechanical bits. Beneath their relatively flashy exteriors, neither of these two cars aims to be anything other than an economy car. Both have small, direct-injection four-cylinder engines and efficient continuously variable transmissions that make for impressive fuel economy. The Versa Note hits the vaunted 40-mpg mark in the EPA ratings, and although the Fit's 38-mpg highway number is slightly lower, the Honda still matches the Nissan's 35-mpg combined figure and does slightly better than the Nissan in the city at 32 mpg compared with the Versa's 31 mpg.

Despite the similar specs, you can tell the difference between these two engines from the moment you press their respective starter buttons. The Nissan Versa Note's 1.6-liter four-cylinder buzzes to life and immediately starts to transmit small vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel, even at idle. The Honda Fit's 1.5-liter four-cylinder, on the other hand, immediately settles into an extremely quiet, smooth idle and continues to be vibration-free and relatively pleasant-sounding as it revs to its 6800-rpm redline.

On the Road

While the Honda's engine has a better sense of refinement, transmission tuning really defines how these two cars feel from behind the wheel. The Versa wins here with its effective -- but obtrusive -- CVT. The Versa Note's transmission always keeps the four-cylinder on the boil, making for some unpleasant sounds when accelerating. The payoff for this obnoxious racket is a much better use of the engine's power band. The 2015 Honda Fit's CVT may keep things quieter inside with its insistence on keeping the engine below 3000 rpm, but this makes the Fit feel lethargic and unresponsive, belying its 21 hp advantage over the Versa.

Of course, this sluggishness could be remedied with a different transmission choice -- we'll take our 2015 Fit with the standard six-speed manual, thank you very much.

While driving the Fit and Versa on a variety of Michigan back roads, city streets, and freeways, we quickly found that there aren't many other high points to the Versa's driving experience. The Nissan's overly light steering and soft suspension make this 2500-lb hatchback feel like it's tuned to mimic a big Buick from the 1990s. Sure, it's slightly quieter than the Fit and has a smoother freeway ride, but it also has the disconcerting floatiness of, well, a big Buick from the 1990s.

Around town, where these cars would likely be driven most often, the Versa is ungainly and doesn't engender confidence the way the Honda Fit does, with its nimble handling. The new, more mainstream Fit isn't the fun, tossable, little car that it used to be, but with its tight, composed ride and accurate steering, the Honda is still in a different league from the Nissan.

Apartment Outside, Mansion Inside

The cavernous interiors of the 2015 Honda Fit and 2014 Nissan Versa Note make us wonder why so many people are buying compact crossovers these days. There is a huge amount of space inside both of these cars, so much so that both the Fit and Versa actually offer more rear-seat legroom than the corresponding Honda Accord and Nissan Altima family sedans. The Versa Note's back seat is especially limo-like. Even with the driver's seat moved all the way back, we had plenty of space in back to stretch out and even cross our legs. The Fit's back seat doesn't look quite as impressive to the naked eye, but it actually offers an inch more legroom overall and features much more supportive cushioning -- not to mention its nifty ability to recline by a few degrees.

The Fit also blows away the Versa Note -- and pretty much any other car -- when it comes to cargo versatility. This has always been the Fit's strong suit, and the redesigned 2015 version retains the brilliant center-mounted fuel tank that makes for an impossibly low load floor in the back. It also has Honda's so-called "Magic Seats" that live up to their name thanks to their ease of use and countless flipping and folding possibilities.

The Versa's "Divide & Hide" system doesn't quite match up. It uses a movable cargo floor that can provide either more vertical space or a flat cargo floor, but it's clunky to operate and can't hide the fact that the rear seats don't fold flat into the floor like they do in the Fit. The Versa's maximum cargo capacity of 38.3 cu ft with the seats down also pales in comparison with the Fit's enormous 52.7 cu ft.

Trickle-down Tech

Both the 2015 Honda Fit and the 2014 Nissan Versa Note can be optioned up with a level of technology you'd be hard-pressed to find in a luxury car from just 10 years ago. Standout features include the Nissan's 360-degree AroundView camera system, the Honda's large 8-inch LCD display screen, and both cars' Pandora radio integration systems.

This high level of equipment does come at a price, and the $19,545 Versa Note and $21,590 Fit can't really be considered cheap. While they cost significantly less than comparatively equipped cars one size up, it's still hard for us -- and for many buyers, we think—to adjust to the idea of paying $20,000 for a subcompact. True bargain hunters can get the same cars (with much less equipment) for a lot less--$16,315 for the base Fit LX and $14,800 for the stripped Versa Note S.

You might be wondering about the not-insignificant $2045 cost difference between our test Fit EX-L and Versa SL -- after all, that's about a 10 percent price premium. This isn't just attributable to the Fit's extra options, because the only equipment differences are its leather seats and sunroof. The real reason for the higher price is the Fit's vastly superior interior, which conveys a much more high-quality feel than the low-rent, plasticky Versa cabin.

The Honda's materials are much nicer throughout, its LCD screen is larger and better integrated, and the Fit's dashboard has an actual design as opposed to the Nissan's haphazardly placed and ill-fitting plastic panels. The Versa may cost less, but sitting inside it constantly reminds you of the money you saved, while the Fit's upscale digs make you feel like you can see where your money went.

Choosing a Winner

Both the 2015 Honda Fit and the 2014 Nissan Versa Note have tons of room inside, get great fuel economy, and can be equipped with a full suite of technology features, all for relatively little money. From a practical standpoint, it's hard to come up with two more logical car purchases on the market today. Most people don't need any more car than this.

But people don't buy cars just because of need, logic, and practicality, and the Nissan Versa Note hasn't quite gotten the memo about small hatchbacks being desirable again. It gets the basics right and offers good value for money, but it feels cheap in all the wrong ways. It's still got ramen-noodle syndrome, whereas Honda managed to make an inexpensive hatchback feel special.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L w/ Navi

Base Price $21,590
Price as Tested $21,590
Engine 1.5-liter I-4
Horsepower 130 @ 6600 rpm
Torque 114 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable
Drive Front-wheel
Wheelbase 99.6 in
Length x Width x Height 160.0 x 67.0 x 60.0 in
Cargo space (rear seats up/down) 16.6/52.7 cu ft
Curb Weight 2642 lbs
Fuel mileage 32/38 mpg (city/highway)

2014 Nissan Versa Note SL

Base Price $18,500
Price as Tested $19,545
Engine 1.6-liter I-4
Horsepower 109 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 107 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable
Drive Front-wheel
Wheelbase 102.4 in
Length x Width x Height 163.7 x 66.7 x 60.5 in
Cargo space (rear seats up/down) 18.8/38.3 cu ft
Curb Weight 2500 lbs
Fuel mileage 31/40 mpg (city/highway)
chanonissan
The nissan versa is not Direct injection, it is Port injection that uses the dual injection technology that gives the same performance as a direct injection. And it is an old engine that have been in use since 2010 in china sunny and Tiida.Do not know why nissan do not carry over their newer small turbo motor (1.2 DIG-t) like they currently did, by replace this old 1.6 liter unit in european cars.
puck2u
It's 1985 again.  I rode in Honda's last model Fit and was amazed at level of content and how well it was put together.  It felt faster in town than my '85 R/T Civic Wagon but on the road it was the same.  Slow.  R/T was top of the line so fabrics were nicer than other wagons and even the new one but when I was asked I said "It feels like 1985 again."  The 85's 4 wheel drive was on demand so mpg was similar to 2014.  The 1985 was like other Honda's I've owned, cheap to keep.  Drove it until 1996 as primary our car.  Finally went wheels up at 255,000 miles in 2005 as the do everything vehicle.
Parvinder Sandhu
Mazda2 and mitsubishi mirage
Vinny Aces
None!! Ford focus can handle them both with ease!
Enrique Jackson
The HONDA will out live the Nissan...I'll take the FIT :-)
Nitesh Vasani
Honda Fit looks more aggressive and more agile as compared to Nissan Versa Note...http://www.worldofautomobile.com/infiniti-q50-eau-rouge-prototype-car-review/http://www.worldofautomobile.com/torque-converter-and-its-working/
Wade McGaghey
Fit... No comparison!
Christopher Marshall Ernst
The Ford Fiesta.
Sruthi Sriram
ckbjh5z6 i have change my faceb()()k int0 black col()r https://www.facebook.com/1503750376508851
Jeremy Fye
Fit
Joseph Paradise
You're talking out of your ass my friend. The Murano uses Nissans CVT And the ones made after 09 are bulletproof. Looks like you're not much of an educated "import export" guy now are you‽
Francis Liu
I don't think the Fit is suitable on American road, the body is way too narrow and tall; currently own a 2011 Fit looking through the side mirror, drivers can only see 1 lane on the left/right; compare to normal wider range 1.5lane to the left/right on a regular sedan
Francis Liu
Well if you can't realy compare the 2 with Accent, the build quality is way better on the Mazda
Francis Liu
well it's more expensive compre to these 2, of course the jetta is a better choice here
Francis Liu
But the car itself is way too tall
Frank Walker
Fit ! HANDS DOWN
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baconpope
Did Honda finally replace the cheap sheet of paper in the Fit with actual carpet? The pictures look like the same inexpensive parts they have always used--good for ten to fifteen miles of decent wear.
Francis San Juan
I have a 2012 FIT Sport manual transmission as my daily driver and having recently test driven a Versa Note (out of curiosity) I can confidently say I bought a way better car. The Versa was not fun to drive and had an incredibly cheap interior - I'm talking roll down windows, which the base Fit doesn't even have. The redesigned 2015 Fit already mitigates some of the shortcomings with the old design, so this Nissan really can't compete...
Robert May
You can get the honda with a manual.
Robert May
And both cost thousands more and aren't in the same class.
Robert May
If I HAD to? The Honda.
Ben Zim
honda fit is fit ... no1.
Eric Henry Mongeur
I drive both of these cars as a part of my job, and my personal preference is with the Honda. Nothing wrong with the Nissan, but the Honda is more comfortable, has a better stereo, and the load floor is flat. I can FIT more stuff in the Honda despite the fact that it has less cargo space on paper.
Kelvin Mutethia
A murano?That's another garbage.I have two returned at our yard already.And this double clutch concept of theirs doesn't make things better either.The system in their Xtrail fails often.They also have a tendency of rejecting cheap gear oils.i had one put gear oil from Lacheka industries and it couldn't shift the gears.
Clifford Manera
Mazda2
Joseph Paradise
Takes a bit of getting used to. Have the CVT in our Murano and, once used to it, it's actually great and quite efficient. But it won't make any vehicle FUN. Lol
Joseph Paradise
Hogwash. I've owned Nissan's since our first in 1988 and love them. Currently have an 08 Titan, 06 Altima, 11 Murano. All trouble free.
Joseph Paradise
They're both great cars for what they are. But I'm getting between 37 and 39 mpg HWY with our 2014 Jetta 1.8T. So you don't need a teeny car to get decent mileage.
Bryan Souza
That pic looks like the lead up to the inevitable accident these cars will be involved in
Mallikharjuna Rao
Honda Fit
Darrell King
Neither. .. VW Golf TDI or MINI Cooper S
Bob Plantenberg
nothing with a cvt. i'd take the next Mazda 2.
David Desilet
$21k for the fit and $19 for the versa? I'm never buying a new car that's insane.
Tim Lucas
Fair enough.
Tom Champion
Neither
Kyree S. Williams
The Fiesta's fun to drive, but it has a *whole* lot less usable interior volume. The Versa and Fit aren't really in the fun-to-drive category; they're in the maximum-space-for-your-buck category.
Kelvin Mutethia
i do imports and exports and i have handled both cars a thousand times.trust me you don't wanna end up with a Nissan.whatever the model or type.smooth when new,wait until stuff happens.You will know your mechanics mistress number.parts are expensive and wear out like candy bar.no resale value not even in african countries like Kenya where we rely on second hand refurbished cars.Honda is garbage too.but its a race of two dushbags and one has to win.so i will take the Honda or maybe a Mazda demio coz they fall under same price range.Or add a few bucks and take a Toyota Run X
Tim Lucas
I'd rather have the Fiesta
Dave Oeskovic
I don't know what it is but the Fit, even the 2015, just looks so dumpy to me. Something about the shape and now it's a little over styled.
Steven Barrie
Neither. I’d go with either the Mazda 2 or the Hyundai Accent.
Michael Starnes
Fit, by far
Pablo Diaz
As long as you don't expect more than fuel saving, reliable point A to point B transportation, the Nissan will make you happy
Jose Juan Morales
Montserrat Morales
Jose Juan Morales
Fiat 500 is garbage
Bryan James
Might as well compare printer paper next
Jeff Gilleran
LIke them both.
Peter Stelman
Honda Fit! One of my favorite cars. Brilliantly designed.
Richard Allman
The Fiat 500. Not the ugly cars with stupid names and "me too" styling.
Cameron Wingate
I would probably pick the Honda but I would test drive both before I made a decision

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