• Apr 26, 2010
2011 Ford Fiesta - Click above for high-res image gallery

With over 750,000 Fiestas floating around Europe and a highly-successful social media campaign (if one can quantify such a thing) under its belt, the 2011 Ford Fiesta is nothing if not overexposed. And we've driven it. Thrice. So is there really anything left to learn?

As a matter of fact, yes.

The Fiestas we've sampled over the last year have all been European-spec models, which had us constantly questioning whether Ford would neuter its soon-to-be least expensive offering on its way to U.S. shores. After two days of fruitful flogging on the roads surrounding San Francisco, those concerns have largely been laid to rest. However, like any inexpensive conveyance, it's all about compromise. But Ford has managed to restore some balance to the B-segment while putting the rest of the subcompact class on notice.



Photos by Damon Lavrinc / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Party in the Front, Bore in the Back

Derrick Kuzak, Ford's Vice President of Global Product Development, calls the Fiesta the "embodiment of Kinetic Design" – the design aesthetic imbued into all of Ford's offerings in Europe. In U.S. trim, the Fiesta hasn't changed since making its trek across The Pond. The front fascia is still an attractive amalgamation of creases, strakes and chrome, with headlamps that sweep back over blistered fenders, a gaping lower grille and a set of mirrored side intakes fitted with vertical LED tubes that glow brightly even in a harsh afternoon sun.

In both four-door sedan and five-door form, some of the dynamic styling that punctuates the front has been lost in the rear. It's not unattractive by any means, it's just simply forgettable at first glance. Both models come with a standard rear spoiler and an organic pleat surrounding the taillamps, while the hatchback's massive, high-riding triangular lights are replaced on the sedan with smaller units and a subtly arched trunk. And if you're curious if we'll get a crack at the Euro-market three-door, don't hold your breath – Ford has no plans to bring the squat hatch to the U.S. However, Ford is offering vinyl exterior graphics, aping a bit from the subcompact design heroes at Mini.



An Anti-Apple Interior and a Technophobe's Nightmare

If you're at all put off by The Convergence – the conjoining of your car and your media player/smartphone/electro-crack – the Fiesta (or any of Ford's recent SYNC-equipped offerings) isn't for you. However, if you revel in your connectivity, the Fiesta is two-and-a-half steps beyond anything in its class. As per usual, the SYNC system is a voice-activated breath of fresh air once you've paired your devices, and it includes a new system developed by Airbiquity that uses your phone's voice line to transfer weather, sports and news to the infotainment system so you won't incur excessive mobile data charges.

While the center stack comes across as overwrought and complicated at first blush, the learning curve isn't as steep as you might assume. However, the ergonomics and general functionality leave a bit to be desired. Because of the steep angle of the instrument panel, the directional controller just below the CD slot is a pain to push – particularly when trying to move up through the menus – and the contextual "soft" buttons, which change their functionality depending on the mode selected, at the bottom are baffling at first, second and third use. The same goes for the push-to-reset tripometer that requires you to hold it for nearly five seconds while it plays a superfluous animation in between the two large, legible gauges. Then there's the dash-mounted doorlock button that suffered a programming error leaving us locked-out of a running Fiesta before the cavalry arrived.



Like other Ford applications, the steering wheel buttons simply work, as do the Fiesta's deceptively straightforward climate controls and... what's that? Optional heated leather seats? In a sub-$20k subcompact? Score.

Other features of note include a deeply recessed four-inch display mounted front and center on the soft-touch and nicely textured dash (too bad the trim on the doors doesn't match up in quality) and seven interior seating options. However, one place where the Fiesta falls flat is in rear seat accommodations – if either the driver or passenger are more than average in height, rear legroom goes from minimal to nonexistent.



Satisfaction, Thy Name is Solidity

If there's any overarching sensation in the new Fiesta, it's the exceptional feeling of solidity from behind the wheel – most of the competition feels like cardboard boxes left to rot in the rain by comparison. According to FoMoCo, the combination of sound deadening material and extensive acoustic tuning yields the lowest wind noise rating in the segment, and topples the best-selling Toyota Corolla (from the next class up) with its nearly nonexistent interior rumble.

That same sensation is transmitted through the front struts and 16-inch wheels to the electric power-assisted steering, which proves suitably communicative, despite a slight layer of disconnection.



Underpowered, Underdelivered

The 1.6-liter, Ti-VCT-equipped Duratec four-cylinder engine, standard on all Fiestas, is easily class-competitive, churning out 120 horsepower at 6,350 RPM and 112 pound-feet of torque at a lofty five-grand. Even with an additional 100 pounds weighing it down compared to its European counterpart (curb weights range from 2,537 pounds in five-door, manual guise to 2,628 pounds for the auto-equipped sedan), it easily matches up to the segment stalwart Honda Fit (2,489 to 2,615 pounds, depending on spec). But if there were ever a vehicle in need of an EcoBoost injection, the Fiesta is it.

It's not so slow and underpowered as to be rendered unsafe, but there were more than a few moments when an extra 20 horsepower would've evolved the Fiesta from barely adequate to merely motive. And the extra grunt would've surely been a better match for Ford's Powershift six-speed transmission.



With the Fiesta's five-speed manual gearbox, the throws are long and defined, with a mid-point clutch take-up that's clear, if not crisp. But in this segment (and in this country), the twin clutch is likely to be the gearbox of choice.

Ford's first application of its all-new Powershift six-speed delivers those headline grabbing fuel economy figures of 30 miles-per-gallon in the city and 40 on the highway. Amazingly, based on what we experienced, those EPA estimates aren't far off. Over the course of our drive, including some hairbrained back-road bombing, we averaged well over 30 MPG. One colleague managed similar numbers with three passengers and a hundred pounds of camera gear in tow. Impressive, to say the least.

What's not so hot is the DCT's hunt-and-peck ratio delivery and its lack of any manual settings beyond Drive or Low. With six-speeds available in theoretical lightning-quick order, the absence of paddle shifters (or, at the very least, some kind of sport-shift setup on the transmission stalk) seems like a massive oversight. We're well aware that keeping costs low was of paramount importance, and Ford has delivered with a starting price of $13,995 for the four-door sedan and $15,795 for the hatch, but we wonder how much the MSRP would've been boosted with the addition of some kind of shift-your-own mechanism for the auto 'box. Our lasting impression was to stick with the stick, but we won't entirely dismiss the Powershift until we've lived with it for more than 100 miles and possibly adapted our driving style to suit.



Detroit does Euro-tuned... or something

Making our way outside the city, where the Fiesta's compact dimensions, quick steering and solid ride were a welcome departure from other soft subcompacts, we dare tread into the hills to see if the Fiesta's handling had been mangled on the boat ride over.

With a twist-beam rear suspension – par for the class – and slightly stiffer springs, front bushings and retuned dampers, the Fiesta leaves little to be desired through the twisties. A taut suspension that – combined with the aforementioned solid sensation – delivers above-average handling and minimal body roll. Chucking the Fiesta through the bends is surprisingly rewarding and equally forgiving, predictably giving up front grip before the tires chatter towards understeer. Your average subcompact shopper isn't going to find those limits too quickly, but when they arrive – even with a few daft mid-corner throttle lifts – the Fiesta responds as expected. And while the lack of grunt might be an issue merging onto the freeway or slogging up a hill, the Fiesta remains true to its roots – a momentum car that behaves accordingly.



Betting on the B-Segment

Ford's taking the long view with America's subcompact class, projecting that small car sales will make up 42 percent of the U.S. market in the next two years. The company's tack is to offer consumers everything they've grown accustomed to in larger cars – from class-leading entertainment systems to advanced safety features – and distill them into a smaller package. Downsizers are one market the Blue Oval is after, but twenty-somethings lacking small car prejudice are key to the segment's growth.

The relentless multimedia run-up to the Fiesta's on sale date this summer might have left the Fiesta overexposed, but judging by our encounters, the attention seems warranted. As the opening salvo in the Blue Oval's "One Ford" initiative – developing vehicles for global consumption and finally giving U.S. consumers the good stuff we've been craving from afar – the Fiesta stands in stark contrast to subcompacts of yore, and comes with a feature count and driving experience that's sure to send some of its competitors back to the drawing board. If this is the future of Ford, then the sun shines bright on Dearborn, and if an EcoBoost Fiesta is on the horizon, Ford stands a chance to sit atop the B-segment mountain until the rest of the pack catches up.





Photos by Damon Lavrinc / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 169 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      a built-in-mexico disaster of a vehicle that will be sold under the guise of the currently preferred and in vogue label, 'european design,' by an unscrupulous manufacturer when it comes to quality and reliability.

      hrm. to say that it will sell by the thousands is missing the point; it can and probably will sell well. however, the real concern is with whether it will retain and subsequently maintain the sort of buyer/customer satisfaction that the japanese manufacturers have benefitted from for years.

      and, lest we forget, there will also be the mazda2 to worry about...
      • 4 Years Ago
      well. i am seriously looking at the offering from the only remaining automobile manufacturer in the USA. since 1988 until 2007, i have purchased 2 new cars from GM. one in 1988. the other one 2007. both of these cars were an embarrassment to ANY automobile corporation. within the prescribed time period, i owned nissan and 1 ford product,an 1994 mustang. these vehicles were more than satisfactory in style,durability, and value. i am here to say that GM is an inferior product barely qualifying as an automobile. after i closely examined the new offerings of GM, i can only say they are yet more pitiful ripoffs of the consumer market. never again will i be fooled by GM slick marketing.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've test driven the Fiesta and it is a fun car to drive.The ride quality of this small car is class leading.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I wonder how much power is left on the table in the 1.6 for the sake of fuel economy? I'm thinking about having my Fiesta custom tuned to squeek every ounce of power out of it. I know it's not my GT500 but still I always want to get the most out of the car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Not much. I am impressed by 120HP for a base engine burning RUG (assuming it is Regular).

        The Mini Cooper 1.6L gets 118HP from Premium Gas.



        • 4 Years Ago
        Adding 10% more engine power alone cannot take 20% off your 0-60. Either they did something else or the figures are incorrect (the 9.9 for the 120HP model seems high to me).
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sorry, even 16% more power I mean.
        • 4 Years Ago
        In Europe you can get a performance upgrade from Mountune Performance for the 1.6-liter engine which boosts the output from 120 to 140hp. This will slash the 0-60 time from 9.9s to 7.9s for manual transmission equipped vehicles.

        Ford Europe also plans to launch a new ST-edition later this year which will feature a turbocharged 1.6-liter with 177hp output, its reason to believe that this engine (or at least a stronger engine than the base) also will be available in the US.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The base Mini is likely European mid-grade, 95RON, so just use US mid-grade, it is close enough.
        The base Mini should, hopefully, get direct injection in addition to its Valvetronic.

        Both 1.6 liter engines claim 11:1 compression ratio.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I tried to order one that stickered at $16,550 at the Ford dealer across the street, they pulled the usual, "We're pricing it out, but it looks like it'll be low $17s" bs. Then they came back with, well, we could do this price for you(sticker price), I offered them invoice minus $100 to see if they'd negotiate, "That wouldn't be worth our time at that price." "Oh, I guess you don't know that the invoice price has already been published and it is $xxx for this car, not to mention the 3% holdback you'll get from Ford? Plus you tried to tell me a marked up price and offered the sticker price like it was a deal, not to mention I will be driving it into the ground and you'll have all the scheduled maintenance/any warranty work." So I put in an internet price request at the next closest Ford dealer out of spite and I'm going in tomorrow to see if they try the same crap.

      Ahh, car dealerships, a sure fire way to make me not buy a car no matter how much the parent company is improving. Conversely, I walked into a Hyundai dealer and a Honda dealer and test drove cars, discussed a possible price without them being asses, and headed out because I wanted to compare other vehicles.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't know if I've ever gotten a car below invoice, but to all the people saying negotiating for a car is sui generis, you obviously don't buy many things. Almost everything is negotiable over $1k.

        I just negotiated on the price of a $2k bike this weekend.
        • 4 Years Ago
        so, you play games and lay the groundrules and squark when they recipricate...nice....sounds like you brought part of the scenario on yourself....
        • 4 Years Ago
        Louis, you might want to actually read some of the comments in this thread. No one is saying you can't negotiate the price of this car. You can and should negotiate it. But you should go into the negotiation with a reasonable expectation of what is possible.

        When you have a new model that is 1) hotly anticipated, 2) not even on the lot yet, and 3) at a low price point with little spread between invoice and MSRP, you are not going to get close to the invoice price. Not gonna happen. It simple economics of supply and demand.

        New, highly anticipated models are always in short supply and high demand right after they are released. If you have to buy it now and be one of the first on the block to get it, you'll pay a premium. If you want a bargain, wait six months or a year until supply is higher and demand is down because the "gotta-have-its" already bought theirs, and the dealers have a bunch of them sitting on the lot.

        My wife just bought a new Mercedes C300 4Matic. That model has been out since 2008. Demand for luxury cars is down. Mercedes dealers have a bunch of them on their lots and they are eager to deal. So we got it for invoice without much haggling. We would not have gotten it for invoice if we'd try to order one before they'd even been released to the US market.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I've never successfully purchased a new car before? I take it you've never successfully NOT overpaid for a new car before. Do you not know how negotiation works? They quote you a price, and you make a counteroffer hoping to meet somewhere in the middle.

        If I go to a order a car and the dealer lies and quotes me $600-700 OVER sticker for the car, I will not be the slightest bit ashamed to offer them a price where they still make money on the deal in the hopes of starting meaningful negotions. Besides, this is FORD we are talking about here, this what happens after years of producing uncompetitive vehicles with thousands of dollars of rebates upon release.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your arguement about starting the negotiation process is questionable when your initial offer is where you leave at. That isn't an offer, but what you made as a take it or leave it price.

        The fact is that you left the dealership in disgust after your initial offer (invoice less $100) and your point of buy ($100 over invoice) is only a $200 total difference. If you want to buy a car you will pay the $200 more. Making such a low-ball offer just shows you want to play the game - a game the dealer wasn't willing to play. As an apparent expert negotiator you should be able to figure out going up $200 or just over 1% more is still a good deal. We're still only talking about a profit of less than $500.

        Much less, I am sure that if the dealer agreed to your $100 over invoice offer and you received an e-mail quote for $100 less you would demand your desposit back. Immediately. Effectively making you "not worth our time."
        • 4 Years Ago
        I understand that it is a brand new car that hasn't even been delivered to a customer yet, so they may not want to negotiate. But don't quote me over sticker(Thanks, I research my purchases), and then insult me when I throw out an offer that is invoice minus $100 as a starting point for negotiating. I was ready to order at invoice + $100 that day, but they completely turned me off from doing business with them. I always like to have a dd and a fun car, and was seriously considering a fiesta/2011 Mustang GT combo. But, I guess that will depend on the Ford dealer I talk to tomorrow.

        A pontiac dealer did the same thing to me in 2006, they wouldn't let me test drive a gto without running a credit check. I ended up with an S2000 a few days later, and a Dodge dealer wouldn't let me test drive a Challenger SRT8 when I was ready to buy(I told them I would want a different color, "Well, if this isn't the one you are going to buy, we don't want miles racked up on it.").
        • 4 Years Ago
        The car isn't even out yet and you expect to get invoice? Put down the crack pipe and step away from the keyboard...

        If you gotta have it now, you'll pay a premium. If you want a bargain, wait a year when the dealers have a bunch of them on the lot.
        • 4 Years Ago
        the fact that you shopped a deal on FIRST a 2011 Mustang at 30 plus, and THEN a Fiesta at 17ish....tells me you are lost to begin with...whats next a F-350 King Ranch.... ee
        • 4 Years Ago
        Agreed. The weak link for Ford is its 70's esque dealer network. They really don't understand that their product is moving them into a different type of required customer experience.

        It's a shame. I'm making money on my Ford stock, but "Your local Ford dealer" will turn away foreign car owners.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All companies are like that. Good luck trying to get a test drive or an appointment with a sales person at the local Hyundai/Kia/Toyota/Suzuki/Honda dealer.

        My buddy got an appointment after about three weeks of trying and was looking at getting a Civic and the sales guy and Sales Manager wouldn't budge on the price. He then went to look at used cars and wouldn't budge on a four year old Element. They said they couldn't do it.

        He then headed over to a local Ford dealer where they knocked $1500 off of a 07 Fusion. He could have gotten a similarly equipped Focus (compared to the Civic) for a lot less (financing).
        • 4 Years Ago
        So you offered below invoice on a car that hasn't even been released yet? And you are surprised that the dealer didn't leap at that?

        I take it you've never actually successfully purchased a new car before...
        • 4 Years Ago
        So what car dealerships do both of you idiots that are complaining about me wanting a new ford for under sticker work for?

        It's called a negotiation process. When I try to order a car that stickers for mid $16s, and get quoted low $17s, that is nothing but them trying to screw me over. I know what the dealer pays for the car, invoice minus holdback. So I offer them invoice minus $100(they are still making money) as a price to START negotiations in an area that actually resembles reality, not a take it or leave it price. There is also something to be said for a guaranteed sale, which this would've been.

        I've never walked into a grocery store and had them put an extra "Market Adjustment" on a 2 liter bottle of coke, the negotiation process works both ways. So that argument is crap.

        And by drive a car into the ground, I mean keep a commuter car for a really long time and have the dealership perform all of the scheduled maintenance/warranty work involved, resulting in them *gasp* making more money.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sounds like the buyer has as much attitude as the dealer. Shame.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's a mighty uncomfortable looking corner you've been backed into travistyler...
      • 4 Years Ago
      2600 pounds? what the hell is going on with cars today. my cavalier weight about the same and it 1 class above fiesta. 20 more horsepower and i am not even mentioning torque.
      And look at space on the backseats. u cant even fit ur legs in there.
      underpowered and cramped
        • 4 Years Ago
        Noting the rear seat room. I think you'll find that the current Chevrolet Cobalt has about the same usable rear seat legroom as the Fiesta. And the Cobalt is a larger vehicle competing in the next size class. Currently the Cobalt is the only car in the modern era where I've been pinned to the seat by the front seat driver sliding his seat back. I was trapped. Not a great feeling.
        • 4 Years Ago
        no way man. i know in cavalier even if u move the seat all the way back theres gona be some space left. in fiesta theres literally none
      • 4 Years Ago
      Kay, I'm stoked to see how the car fares with consumers. But when I checked the Ford website the top page said that the Fiesta is coming this May - but the Fiesta page said that it's coming summer 2010.

      May is still spring - unless you live in California, Ford. Just nitpicking :p
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd wait for a Japan-made Mazda2.

      On top of that Mazda doesn't look like a wanna-be boy-racer designed it, it will not attract thieves as Fiesta undoubtedly will (hint: design) it drives just as good.

      Also, it was a World Car of the Year, a badge I'd be happy to live with even in the USA.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Mazda2 with the ancient 4-speed transmission? No thanks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i want ecoboost in it!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just sat in this yesterday at the Ford show at Knotts (pretty sure it's the same car in the pics). I'm 6ft4 and was surprised how far back the driver's seat went back, pretty much to the point where it's too far back- the wrong seating position for driving. It was very comfortable. I was just concerned that it seems to have a drum brake instead of disc on the rear and that I could not lay down the rear seat on the driver's side because of the rear seat's head rest. I think there is a work around, by removing that head rest. I need a roomy hatch for daily driving that can handle some of my gigs (I'm keeping my Escort Wagon). Thumbs up to Ford's great new products!
      • 4 Years Ago
      My major complaint is there are no paddleshifters on the DCT come on Ford whats that all about! Love the cars looks and performance and I want the Dct but I also want some darn paddle shifters is that so much to ask for?
        • 4 Years Ago
        The problem is it would be more than just me driving the car and my wife refuses to drive manual so the dct is the next best thing for me, like the best of both worlds.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Looks like a neat little machine. Just not enough grunt. When you drop the air conditioning hammer on this...ooaaf....
      I'm waiting for the new Focus with the EcoBoost motor. After the initial release there is supposed to be an ST version with one of the turbo motors. Maybe 220 - 240 hp version with the 6 speed paddles.
      I know everybody here would like the RS version, but dont know if its scheduled for the US or not. A bit pricey in Europe at around 45,000. Not in my range....yet.
      Since I bought my stock at 1.99 and still have it, I should be able to pay cash...worked out great.
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