A cheap car used to feel like what it was: a cheap car. That’s no longer the case, and it’s due in part to exceptionally careful cost-cutting. Car manufacturers trim pennies here and dollars there in ways not always obvious to consumers.
Here’s a look at a few tricks automakers use and how they’re passed onto consumers.
1. Platform sharing
New cars are all about scalability, at least in terms of what you can’t readily see. Peel a new car’s fenders back and you’ll probably find a lot of things shared between models in the automaker’s lineup, even if they look very different.
Car manufacturers call it scalable architecture and it’s a relatively recent development that lets them stretch what’s underneath to make cars larger or smaller. Common mounting points for suspension and powertrain parts help automakers shave development and production costs.
For example: Subaru and VW are consolidating their lineups to just a single platform each for everything from compact cars to three-row crossover SUVs.
2. Forgotten features
The CD player has gone the way of the tape player, which bit the dust a few years after the 8-track. Eventually, wireless charging pads and streaming music will do the same for USB ports.
But not all features bite the dust due to irrelevance. Automakers sometimes restrict small features like one-touch power windows, map pockets, rear-seat air vents, split-folding rear seats, and illuminated vanity mirrors to higher-spec trim levels. These aren’t usually deal-breakers and they help automakers trim costs to keep models and trim levels price-competitive.
For example: The 2018 Honda Civic LX lacks a map pocket on the back of the passenger’s seat. The Civic EX has one.
The 2019 Honda Fit is a no-frills, dependable compact hatchback for first-time or budget buyers.
That doesn’t mean cheap: Honda has bestowed the Fit with flexible seating, great gas mileage, a lively ride, and an optional package of safety technology that defies its low price tag.
With this in mind, we’ve rated the 2019 Honda fit at 5.8 out of 10. Its materials are fitting for a car of its $17,085 entry price. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Review continues below
The Fit rides tall for such a small vehicle and looks something like a shrunken minivan. The design works though, and has aged well through the years and generations. The 2019 Fit is the same as last year offered in four trims: LX, Sport, EX, and EX-L. Budget buyers will be able to get into a Fit for just over $17,000, with the range topping out around $20,000.
All 2019 Fit models come equipped with Honda’s plucky 1.5-liter inline-4 and are paired with either a 6-speed manual or an optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with sport mode and paddle shifters. These combos are good to propel the Fit 0-60 mph in around 10 seconds. Like last year, the 2019 Fit is rated at around 33 mpg combined depending on wheel and transmission choices.
Now in its third generation, the Fit isn’t quite as nimble as previous versions but manages to offer up some fun weaving through traffic. The suspension is soft enough to soak up quite a bit of rough road.
While not particularly noteworthy, the Fit’s seats are where things get interesting. Surrounded by a deceptively vast interior with plenty of head room, the Fit’s rear seats can fold and recline, opening up a tall cargo space behind the front seats. When folded all the way down, the Fit is large enough inside to carry a couple of mountain bikes.
The Fit scored reasonably well on crash tests including mostly “Good” scores from the IIHS, although its headlights were rated “Poor.” Honda has made its active safety tech, Honda Sensing, available in all trim models, which offers forward collision warning, lane departure alerts, and other clever tech to keep passengers safe.
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