Ford's upcoming 2011 Fiesta subcompact is being targeted at what Ford calls "urban millenials," a group that consists mostly of young and single--or married sans children--city dwellers. But given the car's price point--the Fiesta starts at just under $14,000--there will be some families who might investigate the Fiesta as a choice for family duties.
So the question is, then: Does a car intended for the youth crowd work well as a family hauler?
First, some basics. Fiesta is available as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. There is only one engine choice: A 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque. Two transmissions--a 5-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic--are available. The automatic uses a dual-dry clutch setup instead of a conventional torque converter, but enthusiasts may be saddened, as no paddle shifters are offered.
Trim levels are as follows: S, SE, and SEL on the sedan, SE and SES on the hatchback. Ford is offering features that are usually found on more-expensive models, such as heated seats, Ford's SYNC multimedia suite, advance keyless entry and a push-button start, and electric power steering. Ford also gave Fiesta two new features that could affect driving dynamics: Drift-pull compensation, which compensates for the effects of grooved pavement; and Active Nibble Cancellation (yes, that's the name), which is meant to adjust for any wheel-balance problems that might come up.
EPA numbers aren't finalized yet, but Ford is claiming 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway for the manual transmission, and 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway for automatic-transmission cars.
Safety features include traction control, an antiskid system, and seven airbags, including a driver's side knee airbag.
So, how does the Fiesta stack up as a family car? Well, as is so often the answer to questions like that: It depends.
I had the chance to drive the Fiesta in the mountains south of San Francisco, as well as in city traffic and on area freeways, and I found the hatchback to be the sportier choice--the car that will most appeal to singles who live in Manhattan or Boston. For families, the sedan makes the better choice.