Honda Fit or VW Golf?

I am 26 years old and on the verge of my first-ever car purchase.

My criteria for the car are as follows: >$20k; small but with storage capabilities; 5-speed manual transmission; and fun to drive since I will mainly be using the car to do the 20-min commute to grad school each day.

Also very important: I am purchasing the car and am hoping to have it for a long time, 200k+ miles.

I have narrowed my choices down to the Honda Fit and VW Golf. I test drove both and liked them although I like the interior styling of the VW better. Also, minus points for the Fit b/c of no sunroof option!

I was hoping to get some opinions as to the long-term reliability of these cars, and based on the criteria I outlined above what you think is the better decision.

Any/all input is appreciated!



Greg…Did you mean greater than 20K (>20k) or less than 20k (<20k) ??

Which car you select is ultimately up to you. Both the Fit and the Golf have strengths and weaknesses IMHO.
I test drove both the 2010 Fit and the 2009 Golf. Also, I own both a Honda (1993 Civic) and a VW (1986 Golf GTI), both with manual transmissions.

These are the general statements I can make:
-IMHO no Honda Fit/Civic(non-SI) will handle as nicely and provide so much driving enjoyment as the VW Golf. This applies 100% to my own old cars as well as to the new models.
-IMHO no Golf (or any other VW model) will come close to matching the long term reliability of a Honda.

Both cars will last to your 200k+ miles goal quite easily, however the Golf will cost you at least %45-%50 more for that. This extra cost can be quite easily mitigated if you’re the type of person who could do maintenance on their car (engine/tranny oil, filters, brakes, shocks, other small stuff) and needs to take the Golf to a mechanic only for major stuff (i.e. timing belt replacement, A/C work, etc, etc). If you’re the type of person who’s taking your car to the mechanic for the smallest thing, the Golf will nickel and dime you to death.

When it comes to driving enjoyment/fun/handling the 2009 Fit ranks quite poorly compared to my 1993 Civic EX Coupe, and it cannot even hold a candle to the Golf. During my test drive the Fit was very unstable at above 50 miles an hour (I did not dare take it above 65mph) on the highway in a mild 20-25 mph crosswind…it was literally shaking like a leaf in the wind…quite a disconcerting feeling. The 1.5L engine in the Fit seemed EXTREMELY annemic compared to the not-much-bigger 1.6L engine in my Civic. The only things I liked about the Fit were the nice fit and finish, HUGE inside space and versatility and the Hatch door at the back.

If you really liked the Fit, I would recommend you have a look at the Mazda3 Hatcback or Toyota Matrix. As a cheaper alternative to the Matrix (and better looking IMHO) you could scout a used (they are no longer manufactured new) a 2009 or 2010 Pontiac Vibe. The Vibe is actually a Toyota Matrix, but with different sheetmetal. Untill August 2010, they were both manufactured by Toyota on the same line at the NUMMI Plant in Freemont, CA. You could easily find a very low mileage Vibe, for well under $15k. This way you could easily avoid taking the huge depreciation hit that occurs with every new car, once driven off the dealer lot for the very first time.

If you’re loaded ( aka money is not an object) and your main priority is driving enjoyment, go for the Golf. A Mazda3 Hatch is really not that far behind the Golf though, and has a much better reliabilty track record. Although that silly grin on the front fascia will take some getting used to :-).

Good luck.

The Fit is more reliable, and is quite peppy.

Another car to consider is the Mazda 3.

The Mazda 2 and Ford Fiesta are just around the corner. It might be worth your while to wait for both of these. A recent road test of the Fiesta (engineerd in Europe) rates its handling great and it’s also quiet and economical. The Mazda 2 will be all this and even more fun to drive.

Both cars have been in production for several years overseas. Either will have the fun of the Golf with the longevity and reilability close to the Fit.

I’m looking forward to test driving the Fiesta, it has gotten great reviews. The Fit warrants a long test drive, some owners have complained a lot about the choppy ride.

Between the two, I would recommend the Fit. being older and less tolerant of small car ride, I would have included the Corolla and Civic whose added size and comfort do little to it’s comparative economy.

when you mention first ever car purchase does that mean you’ve not had a license until now, or you’ve been driving around in a car someone else bought for you and you’ve saved some cash?

The Fit is the perfect city or cummuter car, but it’s noisy and the ride is less than elegant. It’s perfect for retired folks, as it holds a ton of stuff with the seats down; great for gardeners and handymen.

Will You Ever Carry Rear Seat Passengers ? Take A Close Look Back There. Some Of The Little (I Call Them “Clown Cars”) Are Designed With The Rear Passengers’ Backs Almost Touching The Tail-End Of The Car !

I have lots of extra liability insurance, but I’d never let passengers ride back there. They don’t sell Hondas around here, but I was at a “Home Show” or some darn thing and they were giving away a little Honda or Toyota “clown car” of some kind and I couldn’t believe how close the rear seat was to the back of the car ! Unbelievable.

Based solely on this, I’d have to go with something at least as large as a Golf with some protection for rear seat passengers.

May I ask why you are narrowing your choice down to these two cars ? There are so many other good choices.


Thanks all for the great insight! A few responses:

  • @badabing: I meant less than $20k! As you can tell, I am not going to grad school for mathematics! I am not much of a mechanic, so I will keep what you said about maintenance in mind RE: Golf. Mazda 3 was a car I considered, but it’s slightly out of my price range when tricked out with the options I would want. I will definitely look into the Toyota Matrix.

  • @docnick: Ford Fiesta was actually #1 on my list when I began my search about 2 weeks ago. I saw it at the NY Auto Show and was very impressed and also read some glowing test drive reviews in a variety of publications. Unfortunately, the pre-orders are all sold out (at least at my local dealerships) and I was told that it was doubtful I would be able to get this car before the Fall – I need something by early August at the latest for commuting purposes. I will look into the Mazda 2. I was unaware of this model, thanks for bringing to my attention!

  • @bscar: I work in NYC and live right across the river in NJ so have been lucky enough to use public transit for the last few years.

Thanks again all. Wish me luck in my search!

“I work in NYC and live right across the river in NJ so have been lucky enough to use public transit for the last few years.”

Do you live in Hoboken, by any chance?
If you do, I would suggest that you buy a good used car that is ~2 yrs old. In The Mile Square City, damage to bumpers, fenders, and doors is very commonplace, and would be a bit less upsetting if you spent a few thousand $$ less on the car. Few things are as upsetting as seeing a new car slowly degraded by dents and dings from careless people or vandals.

Even if you live in Jersey City where the congestion is a bit less than in Hoboken, I would still suggest a fairly new used car, rather than a brand new one.

I live right next door to Hoboken, in Jersey City Heights. (Are you in the area?) I have a driveway attached to the house I live in so the “bumper buddies” that are so prevalent in HOboken aren’t AS necessary for me, but yes I agree that the congestion in the area can make things unnerving. I definitely have considered the “fairly new used car” option, but it’s somewhat difficult to find good deals on cars with under 10k miles with 5-speed manual transmission. The search continues!

Also, I looked into the Mazda 2 and that won’t be available till end of 2010, so that’s out :frowning:

In general, Hondas last longer and cost less to fix than VWs. I have a Fit and I love it.

Here you go Greg…

All whithin 150 miles of Manhattan. I bet you can get this for $17k out-the-door.

And here’s more:

I’m having a similar problem, and also looked for some opinions on here. I was looking at a VW CC or a Honda Accord. The VW is way sexier, more fun to drive and I like everything about it better, BUT, VW has some reliability issues. It seems like the issues they have are not huge problems, but going to have it fixed all the time, warrantied or not, is a problem in it self. Who wants to sit around in a dealership once a month? Also, when the warranty is up, everything will cost you more to fix! That being said, I still want the VW. It seems like the wrong decision, but I love the car. Here is the link to my post about VW reliability. GL with your decision, I’m still tossing mine around.