First Impressions: 2011 Ford Fiesta – Betting the future on a stylish, spunky subcompact

Tuesday November 24th, 2009 at 1:1111 PM
Posted by: AKramer

Euro-Spec Ford Fiesta Coupe

By Alexander Kramer

Pros:

  • Stylish exterior design
  • Impeccable road manners
  • Silky smooth clutch
  • Modern, well-appointed interior

Cons:

  • A bit pricey for a subcompact
  • Could use a few more ponies under the hood
  • Final US version could be watered down

Small is the new black
For Americans, bigger is often better, especially when it comes to automobiles. It’s no surprise, then, that American car manufacturers have generally avoided producing the kind of practical and efficient small cars that are so popular in the rest of the world. That is, until now. The folks at Ford believe there is a significant shift occurring that will make small cars as successful in the next decade as SUV’s were in the 90’s. Don’t believe it? Here are several factors that could lead to our parking lots looking a lot more like those in Europe.

First and most obviously, there is the economy. With millions of Americans out of work and future economic growth far from certain, consumers are downsizing new car purchases. Take the recent cash for clunkers program. The most traded-in used vehicle? That hallmark of 90s success, the Ford Explorer. The most purchased new vehicle? The practical and reliable Toyota Corolla.

Second, there are the Millennials. No, this is not some new boy band. We’re talking about the generation of Americans between the age of 15 and 30. Turns out, this young group is attracted to everything small and efficient, whether it’s the new iPhone or the latest little hatchback. Fully 50% of sales to buyers under 30 consist of small cars and Ford predicts that small vehicles (compact cars and SUVs) will capture 36% of the market in 2013.

Finally, there are those pesky high gas prices that just won’t go away. Although last summer’s $4.50 a gallon seems to have been an anomaly, the days of a buck fifty gallon of gas are over and consumers are justifiably more conscious of MPGs, and more wary of large gas-guzzling SUVs. Ford also points to the increasing urbanization of America and changing demographics as key factors leading to the increasing popularity of small, maneuverable subcompact cars.

Ford Fiesta coupe

Driving impressions: Euro-spec Fiesta makes for a refined and agile ride
Enter the new Fiesta, Ford’s answer to the global demand for small cars. Already a best seller in Europe, America finally gets this attractive subcompact next year as an early 2011 model. Ford promises that the Fiesta will undergo only minor modifications for the US market, mainly to meet different safety regulations. US bound Fiestas will be built in Mexico and offered in three different body styles (3 and 5 door hatchback and 4 door sedan). We had the opportunity to briefly drive a Euro-spec Fiesta through the streets of scenic Sausalito, California, and came away quite impressed.

At the heart of this little world car is a 1.6 L 4-cylinder engine that puts out a modest 118 hp. Acceleration isn’t super quick, but the engine revs eagerly and sounds quite smooth and refined, a pleasant surprise for an inexpensive small car. Our tester featured a 5-speed manual transmission that helps maximize the available power and gives the car more of a sporting feel. The shifter is a bit notchy, but the clutch is marvelously smooth and light, which makes for effortless shifting, even at redline. For Americans not used to a stick shift, the Fiesta will also be available with a 4-speed automatic transmission.

Out on the road the Fiesta continues to impress, with a well-balanced suspension that sucks up the bumps while keeping body-roll in check. The suspension is so good that overall ride quality more closely resembles a luxury sedan than a typical econobox. Steering response and cornering grip are also commendable, although we wish we’d had more time to really fling the Fiesta through some turns. Another pleasant surprise is the Fiesta’s responsive brakes. Quite a few small cars suffer from underwhelming stoppers, but not this one. Hit the middle pedal and the Fiesta comes to a quick and convincing stop.

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5 Responses to First Impressions: 2011 Ford Fiesta – Betting the future on a stylish, spunky subcompact

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  2. Peter Anastopulos says:

    I wish Ford would give us the the option of the Fiesta TDI Ecocentric .This European model gets 76 mile per gallon wasting the Prius.This car would shake the green car world up .Why is it not here?Time for Mullaly to push harder and get this vehicle on our shores.I would gladly pay Pruis money for this vehicle.

  3. Derek says:

    I am glad to report that Fiesta is off to a great start. Just a week after being introduced at the LA auto show the Fiesta reservation site (www.fordvehicles.com/2011fiesta), where you can build and reserve your Fiesta, has received more than 1,000 reservations and California is one of the top states!

    Fiesta will not arrive in showrooms until summer of next year and usually to reserve a vehicle customers have to place deposits, however, through http://www.fordvehicles.com/2011fiesta customers can reserve a Fiesta with no money down and also receive special services and Free SYNC!

    Visit http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=31569 for more information.

  4. Peter Anastopulos says:

    What a good looking vehicle but it’s a surprise that it reach’s our shores before the Euro. spec. Focus .We love renting that car in Europe and feel America has not had the option to buy cars of that quality.I think Ford did not realize that we would pay more for a high featured small vehicles in the past.I think they will be surprised because many of us have been waiting for this type of car.It’s not just the sub 30 age group but those of us who came of age during the 70′s energy crisis . Who have committed to always driving fuel efficient vehicles .We are not as small a group or as eccentric as we sound.Maybe sensibility and class has returned to save us from the very baroque last 10 years .

  5. francois says:

    I love it. Rear view of the 5-door spells winner!

    fc





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