A Car To Celebrate With
Since gas prices have gone up, Americans have been downsizing to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Fortunately for Ford, it had a made-to-order European subcompact, the Fiesta, to meet the demand. Ford brought the Fiesta over for the 2011 model year, and now it carries over much the same for 2012.
The Fiesta is a cute looking little car that comes in two body styles, a sedan and a four-door hatchback. Both are offered in three levels of trim, S, SE, SEL (sedan), SES (hatchback). My test car was a candy-apple red SE hatchback, and it turned a lot of heads. The Fiesta is wedge shaped, with a sloping windshield and sweeping character lines on its flanks. Fit and finish on the body panels are very good. Although small, it does not shout “economy car.”
The interior is appealing too. Soft-touch vinyl covers the dash, and there’s well-placed LED display at eye level. The seats are supportive, and a thick, meaty steering wheel feels substantial in your grip. However, the jazzy center control panel for the audio looks busy, and can be confusing.
Seats up front provide plenty of head-and legroom. For the rear passengers it’s a different story—headroom is fine, but legroom is really tight. However, small kids should be okay back there. The luggage compartment is a decent size at 15 cu.-ft, and with the optional 60/40 folding rear seats, it expands to an impressive 26 cu.-ft.
Drivers enjoy a good view of the road, thanks to a large windshield, and they see better to the rear with outside mirrors that provide a wide angle, as well as a normal view. These mirrors have been common in Europe for quite a while, but are now are being found on some cars in the States as well.
Ford propels the Fiesta with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 120 hp. This is no powerhouse, but it can get you to 60 in 10.5 seconds. Turbo power will be offered down the line. Buyers can choose either the five-speed manual, or an optional six-speed automated manual transmission. My test car had the latter. Automated manuals perform like ordinary automatics, but can shift quicker and give you better gas mileage. This Fiesta is rated at 29-mpg City, and 39-mpg Highway.
The performance of the transmission in my test car was a mixed bag. Up shifts were quick, but downshifts were inconsistent. At times, the gearbox would hesitate when I stepped on the gas to pass. Unlike other automated manuals I’ve tested, you can’t shift the gears for yourself in the Fiesta.
Except for the automatic, the Fiesta is a pleasing car to drive. The Fiesta handles competently and feels well balanced. The steering is weighted just right, and delivers good feedback. The Fiesta also feels solid, and is reasonably quiet on the road. The ride is well controlled. Overall, the Fiesta drives like a bigger car.
Ford believes that Fiesta buyers who are downsizing from larger cars want the same amenities that they have been used to. Accordingly, the Fiesta is offered with comfort and convenience features rarely found on subcompact cars. The top-of-the-line SEL and SES models come with the Sync communication system, push-button entry and start, heated leather seats, satellite radio and a six-speaker audio system.
Ford Fiesta prices start at just $13,995, but a loaded high-end model can top 20 grand. My mid-range SE test car, with $2700 worth of options had an MSRP of $19,200.
Eye Catching Styling
Good Handling and Ride
Automatic Needs Work