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2011 Ford Fiesta
It's time to actually get excited about a small car, says our reviewer
By Malcolm Gunn
You probably haven't seen one yet, but the Fiesta is actually Ford's top-selling car in Europe. And it's coming here. Excited? You should be.
There are currently more than a half-million of these sub-compact munchkins running around Europe and Asia, where the latest version was launched in October of 2008. And Ford promises that none of the Fiesta's charm and spunk will be lost in translation when the Mexican-built four-door hatchback and all-new four-door sedan versions arrive in Canada by summer 2010.
The Fiesta is part of Ford's plan to bring its Euro-designed models to our shores instead of reinventing or significantly altering these products to suit what was assumed to be North American tastes. That means we're finally going to get the same firm-riding, precise-handling, fuel-sipping vehicles as across-the-pond drivers have been enjoying for years. After driving the Fiesta, we can't wait.
The car certainly looks a cut or two above most typical entry-level runabouts. The design is Euro sleek and fashionable, with plenty of tucks and folds in the sheetmetal, plus a set of truly beautiful headlight pods -- Ford calls them "Dragon's Eyes" -- that neatly blend in with the fenders. At the rear, the hatchback's styling easily wins out over the sedan's, but both versions are easy on the eyes.
Unfortunately, the well-proportioned interior is diminished by a somewhat garish dashboard. Ford has some work to do if it hopes to match General Motors (and others) in this department. The rest of the interior is well done, but rear-seat leg room is a bit cramped despite the wide door openings. As well, the split-folding seat backs don't fold completely flat into the hatchback's load floor.
By comparison, the Focus, Ford's current small-car contender, has an extra 13 centimetres of space between the front and rear wheels, which adds to its passenger friendliness. Overall, the Fiesta sedan is more than 30 centimetres longer than the hatchback and is almost the same length as the Focus.
Get up and go comes from a 119-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers plenty of pep for the 1,155-kilogram hatchback/1,170-kilogram sedan.
The base transmission is a slick-shifting five-speed manual, while a six-speed automatic is an option.
Ordering a Fiesta will require careful study as there's a wide range of models and options to consider. The base S sedan rings in at $14,350 in Canada, including destination charges, and comes with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power locks and mirrors, hands-free capless fuel filler plus a cabin filled with airbags.
The next step up for the sedan is the SE, which is where the $17,550 hatchback begins. The SE adds air conditioning, remote keyless entry, four-speaker sound system and a message centre with trip computer, while the top-level SEL sedan and SES hatchback also include 16-inch alloy wheels (15-inch rims are standard), heated outside mirrors, cruise control, premium sound package and SYNC, Ford's voice-activated communications and entertainment unit that was developed with Microsoft.
Options include keyless entry with push-button start, climate control and leather seats (heated in front). A power sunroof will be added to the list shortly after the official launch.
As impressive as the Fiesta is, Ford can't afford to rest easy. Both the re-organized General Motors and Fiat-controlled Chrysler have a number of small-car initiatives in the works, while Mazda, Volkswagen and others will soon introduce their own "subs". Meanwhile, the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris have established themselves as category leaders and likely won't surrender gracefully to any upstart challengers.
However, since the Fiesta already exists in Europe, the company has been able to bring some samples here to test the waters and generate some excitement. Aside from a few subjective shortcomings uncovered during our test drive, the pluses will likely make the car well worth the wait.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted Jan. 9, 2010. © CarTest.ca.
What you should know: 2011 Ford Fiesta
Types: Four-door sub-compact sedan; four-door hatchback
Engine (hp): 1.6-litre DOHC four-cylinder (119)
Transmissions: Five-speed manual, six-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: The Fiesta takes a serious run at carving out a significant piece of the growing sub-compact category by offering two distinctively different models that cater to a wide range of buyers.
Points: Fiesta proves that driving thrifty need not mean driving basic or boring; Rev-happy engine, smooth-shifting manual gearbox means fun driving; Rear seat perfect for kids, all others will suffer on long trips; Hatchback looks much sportier than sedan; More Euro-based, high-efficiency models on the way from Ford.
Safety: Front airbags; driver's side knee airbag; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.L/100 km (city/hwy): 7.8/5.9 (MT, est.);
Base price (incl. destination): $14,350