Ford calls the styling of its new 2011 Fiesta "expressive" and "vibrant." Are we with them? We're with them. There's just no other subcompact that looks this daring or handsome, not even close.
Yes, you could pick nits with some of the details, like that big opening under that small grille, but we're fans of the crisp side view and the big wheel arches on both versions. The headlights sweep well back into the fenders, and the five-door's rear, with its high-mounted taillights, is blunt but not blocky. Given the choice, we're a little less enamored of the four-door; it's like a last episode where all the storylines get tied up, but you're a little less satisfied with the result than you thought you'd be.
Paint either of them in some of the more shocking colors in the palette, and you'll distance yourself even further from the Yarises of the world. There's Lime Squeeze and Bright Magenta for the bold, but you can also choose the inevitable silver or black or white, which always seem to look fine on used-car lots.
Step inside, and there's more of the flash and verve to go around. The center of the Fiesta's dash is deliberately modeled on mobile-phone keypads, with angled keys in the sculptured center stack, as well as controls for the sound system, heating, cooling, and ventilation, and other switches. Drivers can choose among seven "mood lighting" colors to illuminate areas like the cup holders and foot wells. Interior colors on higher trim levels aren't limited to standard black, but include hues like plum and cashmere, definitely distinctive for the class. Our chief concern is that it all looks great--but it doesn't feel all that wonderful. The plastics are really plastic; the Nissan Versa's tight, soft-touch dash seems a world ahead in refinement, even if it's dull.