With small cars expanding their share of a flat U.S. market, the 2011 Ford Fiesta is a very important car for Ford. Designed and engineered in Europe, where it earns rave reviews, it's got edgy, dynamic styling and a very high level of equipment for a subcompact.
Ford can only hope those features will make the Fiesta a competitor in a segment now dominated by the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and Nissan Versa.
The Fiesta sedan and five-door Fiesta don't have the interior versatility and dozens of configurations of the contortionist Honda Fit, but they offset that with such cutting-edge features as Ford's Sync infotainment system.
Ford calls the styling "expressive" and "vibrant," with a strong side accent line, a large trapezoidal front opening, and pronounced wheel arches. The "energy in motion" theme is meant to target buyers for whom style is important, and the 2011 Ford Fiesta stands out. Even some of the colors--Lime Squeeze and Bright Magenta, anyone?--draw attention.
Inside, the Fiesta's center stack is modeled after a mobile-phone keypad, with angled keys plus controls for the sound system, heating, cooling, and ventilation. Drivers can choose among seven "mood lighting" colors, and upholstery on higher trim levels isn't limited to black, but offers hues like plum and cashmere.
2011 Ford Fiesta sedanEnlarge Photo
The 2600-pound 2011 Ford Fiesta comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that develops an estimated 119 horsepower. Matched to a five-speed manual gearbox, it delivers an estimated 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway.
But with the unique six-speed PowerShift direct-shift automatic transmission, mileage rises to 30 mpg city, 38 mpg highway--and a special SFE package bumps the highway fuel economy up to 40 mpg. The entire unit is sealed for life and will need no maintenance over 100,000 miles.
Ford's European models are known for sporty handling and good grip; the company says it has kept that character while adapting the 2011 Fiesta to U.S. tastes. The sporty Honda Fit will likely pose the biggest threat to the Fiesta's handling claims.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta has two buckets up front, and a standard 60-40 split rear seatback. Cloth is standard, with leather on high-end models. Four passengers fit comfortably, though adults over six feet will find the rear seats tight. Ford has given the Fiesta's materials a high-quality look and feel; they don't scream "grim, cheap subcompact" the way that some competitors do.
The Ford Fiesta has been designed to meet safety standards that won't take effect until 2011, and it comes with seven standard airbags, including a knee airbag for the driver that's a class exclusive. Electronic stability control is standard, but no national organization has yet rated the 2011 Ford Fiesta for crash-test performance.
Despite its subcompact size, the 2011 Ford Fiesta was designed, engineered, and equipped to offer the ambience and amenities of a larger car. Ford touts no fewer than 15 separate features not found on any other competitor, among them the PowerShift automatic transmission, the popular Sync infotainment system, a steering wheel that both tilts and telescopes, and Ford's EasyFuel capless fuel filler system.
The Fiesta can be ordered in four trim levels: base, SE, SES Sport, and SEL, and a large number of packages and options offer a huge degree of customization. The SE adds options that include remote keyless entry, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, power windows and automatic door locks, an instrument cluster message center, and more interior lighting.
The SES Sport and SEL levels add to that LED driving lamps, on a premium 80-Watt sound system with six speakers, European-style side indicators integrated into heated door mirrors, and 16-inch aluminum wheels.