As Ford introduced the production version of its new Fiesta today at the London motor show, it became clear even through the smoke generated by fireworks on stage: the Fiesta looks great, but it has a long uphill climb in the U.S. unless Americans feel like it's big enough to replace their larger hatchbacks and sedans.
That impression will come from the inside out, and luckily, at the London show today, I got the chance to sit inside the U.S.-bound Fiesta, albeit in a right-hand-drive version. What's it like to sit inside the 2011 Ford Fiesta
, and will it really work for Americans, who expect a $15,000 vehicle to come with a full-size bed? I wedged myself into the four-door hatchback version of Ford's Honda Fit fighter to find out.
The good news up front is that the Fiesta seems to have as much room as the competitive subcompacts from Korea and Japan. The front seats are narrow, but there's ample foot room, and headroom is in good supply, too.
In back, there's even better news. As a six-foot, tall-torsoed veteran of Ford's Aspire, I've seen and felt how claustrophobic a subcompact can seem. In the Fiesta, in fact, there's more headroom in the rear seat than in a 2008 Lincoln MKX's second-row seat. The backseat sits low and flat, but with the front seats in adult positions, there's still enough knee room for the rear-seaters to ride comfortably. The least appealing part? The door cut-outs in back make it difficult to clamber in and out of the rear seats--the same criticism that can be lobbed at the 2008 Cadillac CTS, by the way. The Fiesta also has adjustable headrests in the back, though it's not certain if those are making the trip across the Atlantic. The seats themselves have a pleasing, bubble-woven texture in the European version shown here, an "eco" version with a small four-cylinder engine. The biggest surprise is the amount of trunk room in the four-door hatchback; it's easily large enough for a few suitcases.
The dash is a swoopy affair, likely to turn on the kinds of young buyers Ford desperately wants to draw away from the likes of Scion. The plastics have a plaid-striated grain to them; it's not terribly rich-looking, but for a car that has a base price of about $18,000 in Great Britain, it's competitive. There's a big glove box, and the major controls on the Fiesta's unique center stack fall right to hand.
The main question is whether there's room for Ford's killer app, its SYNC entertainment system. Where will it live in this car? The existing SYNC screens on models like the Focus wouldn't seem to fit in the Fiesta's dash, and there's precious little room for a second LCD panel. The Fiesta has steering-wheel mounted controls and those winglike flanks of buttons to control the entertainment features of the car, and a separate USB port at the base of the transmission lever, so at this point, it doesn't seem that SYNC, in its current configuration, will fit or is planned to fit.
Even with this week's news about new, small Fords, the Fiesta is still a long way off. We're probably more than a year away from driving one--unless I can snag one at the Paris auto show or soon after in the fall. In the meantime, tell us what you think of the new Fiesta in a comment below, and stay tuned for more on Ford's big changes for its U.S. plants and the Mercury brand