- Sophisticated styling, especially the five-door
- The best electric power steering yet?
- More than the usual safety equipment
- Cutting-edge features like SYNC
- Still not quick, by most any measure
- PowerShift automatic an underperformer
- Smaller cabin than Versa and Fit
- Brash dash has lots of flash--but feels a little icky
If you're set on stylish and small, the 2011 Ford Fiesta might be your only choice, though you might miss the solid, roomy feel of a Fit.
Ford hasn't offered a subcompact in more than a decade. Now, it's responding to steady sales of the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Nissan Versa by bringing us an adapted version of the well-received and very successful European 2011 Ford Fiesta.
We're not sure if America's quite ready for a car smaller than the smallest Ford Focus, but the Fiesta's as good a shot as any--better, in some flashy ways. It looks better and has crisper handling than anything in its class, but it's also smaller inside and less flexible to boot.
Maybe the gadgets will make up the difference. The Fiesta just might woo you fickle Gen Z-ers with some exclusive stuff inside, like the SYNC media controller, premium audio systems, and nifty leather seats.
Starting at $13,995 and rising to around $23,000 for top-of-the-line versions, the Fiesta sedan and five-door are likely to be strong competitors when they go on sale in the summer of 2010. Are they the best of the subcompact bunch?
2011 Ford Fiesta
The 2011 Ford Fiesta is distinctive, racy, and modern, and it makes most of its competitors look downright dowdy.
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.
2011 Ford Fiesta
The 2011 Ford Fiesta is class-best in driving feel and fuel economy--a rare feat.
It's being pitched with sex appeal and a sporty spin, but the 2011 Ford Fiesta is what it is: a small four-cylinder car with a choice of automatic or manual gearboxes. It's one of the best performers in a group of cars that put most of their time and effort into frugality--which, coincidentally, it does pretty well too.
The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine here puts out a total of 120 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. Since it weighs about 2600 pounds, the Fiesta's numbers could rightly be compared with those of a first-generation Miata. You're looking at about 10 seconds to 60 mph, respectable for anything that can also dole out 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.
To get those numbers, you'll have to wind through some muted but noticeable four-cylinder thrash--and you'll need to stick with the new PowerShift automatic and opt for a special SFE version. The PowerShift automatic is a dual-clutch gearbox that operates automatically via one of two clutches, with the next gear up or down always ready to engage as soon as the current gear is disengaged. It's more efficient, but it's also more expensive to build--and it's a noticeable buzzkill in the Fiesta, slow to downshift even with a sport button engaged. We like the manual six-speed much better; it's light and simple, yet still hits 29/38 mpg fuel economy numbers.
The typical small-car ride is finessed in the Fiesta, which does just about as much as it can with a short wheelbase. It's compliant enough, and since it's small, you'll have good clean fun thrashing it around on its bump-stops. And the electric power steering just might be the best we've ever felt; it's fast but in the right amounts, with some well-programmed feedback. The same goes for almost all its controls, which do a great job convincing you there's more performance here than you can measure with science.
2011 Ford Fiesta
Comfort & Quality
The 2011 Ford Fiesta offers decent space and flexibility for a subcompact, but pragmatists will notice it's a bit smaller than small.
For all its curves and carves, the 2011 Ford Fiesta requires some payback. Sliding into the cabin, you'll see less room than in a Nissan Versa or a Honda Fit, especially in the sedan version, of course.
The Fiesta has two bucket seats up front and a standard 60-40 split rear seatback. Cloth is standard, with leather and contrasting piping on higher-end models--a nice MINI-like touch in a car available at almost half the price. There's not much room across, by any measure, and the seats themselves are pretty flat--like barstools, almost. Any sculpting would leave them too narrow even for Formula 1 racers, we think.
The back bench is flatter yet, and as a result four adult passengers will just fit. Adults over six feet tall will find the rear seats tight, and front and rear passengers may have to negotiate over how far the seats go back. The Versa and Fit do far more with their allotted wheelbase, and it's the prime reason to consider them over the perky Ford. The sedan offers 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space in its trunk, the hatchback up to 26 cubes if you pack it to the roof (not recommended, right?).
Ford worked hard to give the Fiesta's materials a high-quality look and feel. The interior certainly doesn't say "grim and inexpensive subcompact" in the way that some competitors do, but while the Fiesta depends on looks to carry its water, the Versa and Fit have arguably better materials inside. None of the three will win quietness awards, but for Ford's efforts in sound deadening--a specially laminated windshield and a sound blanket under the hood--we still feel the Fit has quality squarely at its back, with the Fiesta not so far behind.
2011 Ford Fiesta
The subcompact 2011 Ford Fiesta meets all current and projected safety standards, though its crash performance hasn’t yet been rated.
On the safety front, the Ford Fiesta is equipped to meet regulations that won't take effect until the 2011 model year.
It comes standard with seven airbags: front and side bags for driver and passenger, rear side curtain bags, and a knee airbag for the driver.
Electronic stability control is standard, as are seatbelt pre-tensioners. The electric power steering incorporates two electronic safety features not found in other subcompacts: Pull-Drift Compensation, which keeps the Fiesta tracking properly despite angled road surfaces or side winds, and "active nibble control" to even out any unbalanced wheels and tires. We felt the effects of nibble control, and thought it might be better addressed by the driver--but ordinary drivers might benefit.
As of this writing, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the Fiesta. Our safety rating is based on generous standard equipment; we'll revisit the score when these agencies toss some Fiestas of their own.
2011 Ford Fiesta
The 2011 Ford Fiesta has several features no other subcompact offers, among them Ford’s award-winning SYNC system.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta may be a subcompact, but it's been designed, engineered, and equipped to offer the ambience and amenities of a much 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 push-button starter, an adjustable steering wheel that both tilts and telescopes, and Ford's EasyFuel capless fuel filler system. Ford also points out that the adjustable cup holders can accommodate containers from a Red Bull can to a Big Gulp--score one for the pre-diabetics.
The Fiesta can be ordered in four trim levels: base, SE, SES Sport, and SEL. A staggering variety of options and packages are available either within the trim levels or as separate line items. The SE adds a several options, including remote keyless entry, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, power windows and automatic door locks, an instrument cluster message center, visor mirrors, metallic interior accent trim and additional interior lighting. The SES Sport and SEL add a premium 80-watt sound system with six speakers, LED driving lamps, European-style side indicators integrated into heated door mirrors, a 12V auxiliary power point for rear passengers, and 16-inch aluminum wheels. A 17-inch Ford Racing wheel package and a power-operated moonroof can be ordered with several trim levels.
It's all about choice, which doesn't surprise us, given the fact that Ford's new marketing boss came from Scion. What does surprise us is what a loose hand on the order sheet can do. Tick all the boxes and you'll spend more than $23,000--as much as a mid-size Fusion sedan.
Which brings us back to the small-car conundrum: Are there enough of you willing to trade wide open spaces for pert little economy cars with more than a dash of style and substance?
Well, are you?
2011 Ford Fiesta
Great fuel economy from a small four-cylinder fits the Fiesta's mission, but the 2012 Ford Focus is expected to do the same.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta has very good fuel economy--better, in fact, than any other non-hybrid car in its class. EPA ratings are 28 mpg city, 37 highway with the five-speed manual gearbox, or 29/38 with the six-speed Powershift dual-clutch transmission, which replaces a conventional automatic.
The $395 Fuel Economy Package is what you need to get for the greenest Fiesta. With it, you add aerodynamic improvements, low-rolling-resistance tires, and cruise control--and earn an improved 40-mpg highway fuel economy.