SAN FRANCISCO – When gasoline prices shot up last year, Ford promised that it would start selling some of its fuel sipping European cars here. Well, the 2011 Ford Fiesta that goes on sale this summer is the first of the bunch. The Fiesta which has been on sale in Europe is a subcompact car that comes in either a four door sedan or five door hatchback. The car had a 1.6-liter four cylinder engine that made 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque. It could be mated to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a six speed dual clutch transmission. The five-speed was rated at 29 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the HWY while the dual clutch was rated at 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the HWY. We had the five speed manual sedan and I found the car and the gearbox to be fairly impressive.
First, there was the interior. Our test vehicles had black leather seats. The center stack was prominent and all the controls were within reach. There was also a soft touch dash board. In other words, there wasn’t any of the hard plastic that you usually find in subcompact cars. As more auto companies move to global cars, Americans are going to see well equipped small cars like the ones in Europe. Our Fiesta had heated front seats, heated side view mirrors, satellite radio, ambient lighting, keyless entry and push button start and stop.
We could barely hear the engine, there wasn’t much road or wind noise and upshifts and downshifts were not an issue. Plus, the brakes were pretty strong for a car of this size. I attributed that to the higher Autobahn speeds in Europe were the Fiesta has been on sale for more than a year. Handling was very good. The 2011 Ford Fiesta tracked well, I didn’t have to make any steering adjustments to keep the car in the center of the lane or in the center of the curves. The suspension was top notch, too. We came across some fairly rough spots on the two lane roads but the car’s suspension flattened them right out.
The Fiesta had a sporty feel and I was surprised that it handled the inclines of this mountainous region with relative ease. That caught my eye for a car with 120 horsepower. My only quibble was that I doubt that adults could sit comfortably in the back seats of the Fiesta. There wasn’t much leg room and head room was tight. However, the rear seat room in the five-door hatchback was better. I got in those seats without much of a problem. Both head and legroom were acceptable. I think that’s because the hatchback doesn’t have a trunk as does the sedan. But that might not make a difference to the target customers of the Ford Fiesta; either of them. The company is after young urbanites that really don’t care about the back seats and Baby Boomers whose kids have gone, thus, there are no children to put in the back seats.
To attract them, the 2011 Ford Fiesta will be available in nine exterior colors, plus the company will offer exterior graphics that can be applied at the dealership. There will be six interior colors, three cloth and three leather, as well. I found the Ford Fiesta to be a good looking little car. Ford says the Fiesta has sweeping, elongated headlamps that frame and connect the hood to muscular, sculpted front fenders. At the rear many design elements merge, including the chamfered liftgate glass, the low roofline sweeping into a spoiler, and dramatic tail lamps with honeycomb detailing mounted high in the five-door’s corners and a muscular rear quarter. That’s a little PR talk but it’s valid. Where the Fiesta will really excel is its wireless ability. Beginning with the 2011 Fiesta, Ford will first offer SYNC® AppLink, a downloadable software program allowing owners to access and control AndroidTM and BlackBerry® Smartphone apps with voice commands and vehicle controls.
The company is working with partners to develop other Smartphone apps. SYNC itself is a voice activated communications system that using a Smartphone will download turn by turn directions, your favorite news, sports, traffic conditions, etc. I was told that it will be standard equipment and the first three years will be free. The point is that Ford is entering the subcompact market with a bag and a lot of marketing muscle. And most important, the 4-door sedan starts at $13,995, and the five-door hatchback starts at $15,795.
Frank S. Washington is managing partner/editor of AboutThatCar.com and AboutThatCarBlog.com.