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Need help choosing a hatchback: Fit, Focus or Accent?

I’m getting ready to buy a new car. Here are my criteria:

  • Price (under $23k)
  • Fuel economy > 30 mpg combined
  • Good interior features/styling
  • Quiet / little road noise
  • Fun to drive
  • Cargo space
  • Reliability

I’m choosing between the 2011 Honda Fit, the 2012 Hyundai Accent Hatchback and 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback.

They all have strengths and weaknesses.

ACCENT
Pros: 30/40 mileage, upmarket interior styling, quiet, reliable, best warranty, decent cargo space, lower resale value than Honda, cheapest of the 3
Cons: rear seats don’t fold all the way down, less cargo space than Fit, no option for leather seats

FOCUS
Pros: most fun to drive of the three (for me, anyways), European feel, 28/38 mileage, upmarket interior, option for leather seats, decent cargo space
Cons: more expensive when configured with options, not enough legroom in back seat, rear seats don’t fold all the way down, less cargo space than Fit, lower resale value than Honda

FIT
Pros: huge amount of cargo space, seats fold flat (and fold up for vertical space), reliable, high resale value, can do leather with aftermarket (Clazzio) option, good handling and peppy, cheaper than Focus
Cons: engine noise, not as quiet as Accent or Focus, no bluetooth, chintzy plastic interior

I’ve been going back and forth trying to make a decision, without much luck. I thought I’d ask for some help/insight here.

If you had to choose between these three, which would you choose?

Are you getting an auto or manual? The auto in the Focus has been giving some problems. Other than that they’re all great cars, really up to you which to get.

I’d go for the Fit. I’m not a fan of leather (I don’t see any real advantage, and it doesn’t seem to age well), but if you must have it, the Focus would likely be a good bet. My sister and her husband both have Fits and they are neat cars. Regarding texases’ post, I’ve never liked Ford’s automatics. The Ford autos that I’ve driven, even those with big engines, just feel like they don’t want to go.

If quiet and little road noise are high priority, the Focus is the one. I do a lot of highway driving, and a noisy ride is a deal breaker to me.

The problem with the Focus (and Fiesta) automatics are that they are automated manuals, and are apparently having issues with rough shifting.

I think I would prefer the Fit out of those three choices.

I know this is not on your list, but I bought a Toyota Yaris hatchback in 2007 and it has been a great reliable car with no problems and gets up to 35 mph on the freeway. It is also cheaper than the Honda Fit.

Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend the Yaris based on it being “boring” and they don’t like the center mounted gauges, which I think are absolutely great!

If I we going for hatchback, I’d also consider the Mazda 3 or VW Golf. The TDI Golf goes for right around 23k sticker price and gets 40+ MPG, it’s probably not that fun to drive though, the gas versions are pretty peppy and can be had for less than $20k. The Mazda 3 doesn’t get quite as good as mileage as the ones you listed, but it’s fun to drive. The Mini might intrest you as well.

The Mini is not reliable. The VWs offer free maintenance for the first 36,000 or 3 years. It’s basically oil and filters, but nothing to sneeze at.

Regardless of the technical data, check out the satisfaction ratings of the cars you are considering in CR. There are a lot of hidden issues that aren’t measured but do show up over time with the owners. If the Fit, for example, has a very high satisfaction rating, at least you know how the other owners felt about their car. The new Focus may not be new enough to have one.

Also take extended test drives in each one, preferably on the same day. Some folks don’t like the firm ride on the Fit.

try the Mazda 2 or 3 out. you might be surprised.
Also, don’t be too surprised if salesmen won’t budge from sticker prices on these cars. You aren’t the only one looking for this type of car and they know if you won’t buy it, the next guy walking into the showroom will.

Thanks everyone for your replies. I’ve crossed VW off the list because of their extremely poor JD Power Dependability ratings (third from last, actually). I considered the Mazda3, but fuel economy is sub-par compared to the 3 cars I’m considering, and there’s a lot less cargo space too.

I’ve driven all 3 cars (Accent sedan version, because the hatch isn’t available in my area yet). The Fit is fun, but the engine noise did drive me crazy. The Focus had the most “European” feel to it, but the automatic definitely had issues (slow acceleration from start). The Accent was very quiet, especially for a compact car, but it wasn’t as fun to drive as the Fit or Focus.

I wish I could just take the best features of each!

Too bad you crossed VW off your list as their Golf hatchback rates very high in CR 's evaluation .

BTW JD Power is so up to date they still call the Golf a Rabbit and that names been gone a long time !

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the CR report is for initial quality - not dependability or reliability. Those are two different benchmarks.

CR rates the Golf very highly both in terms of its driving qualities, and in terms of its historical reliability since 2007. They project that, based on this model’s reliability over the past 4 years, the 2011 model will be MUCH better than average.

So, it does look like VW finally gots its act together!

How about the Hyundai Elantra?

I stand corrected. I went over to CR and found that the Golf TDI is the #1 rated car in terms of customer satisfaction! Even higher than the Fit. And the projected reliability is very good. Could this be because it’s made in Germany rather than Mexico (where the Jetta is made)?

I did consider the Elantra, but I’d prefer a hatchback.

but the CR report is for initial quality

But their charts give more detailed info over a long period .

True, the 3 doesn’t get that good mpg compared to the other. Heck, for the same fuel economy(20/28), and price for that matter, you could get a CX-7 with the non-turbo engine, and get almost 60cu.ft. of storage space