The 2011 Ford Fiesta (Ford).

    by: Phil Berg | AOL Autos

    For over a year, Europeans have been driving Ford's new Fiesta and falling in love with it. The car became the best-selling vehicle across the continent in the first quarter of 2010 and all signs point to it continuing that streak for the remainder of the year. This makes the Fiesta something like Europe's version of the Ford F-150, the best-selling vehicle in America.

    With proven success in Europe and increasing interest in small, efficient cars in the U.S., it made sense for Ford to offer it up to American consumers, although in a slightly different body style than the 3-door hatchback sold in bulk in Europe. More appealing to buyers in the U.S. (and China, says Ford) is a newly styled four-door sedan, which will be sold here alongside a slightly pricier five-door hatchback beginning in July. The starting price for the four-door base-level sedan is $13,995, while the five-door hatchback will go for $15,795.

    We’ve seen European cars transplated to America before, however, we've typically been disappointed. Diluted, plucked and labotomized, American versions of European cars have disappointed us, especially those sold by American car companies. Will the Fiesta be any different?

    2011 Ford Fiesta (Ford).

    Smaller Than Ford's F-150 (And Everything Else)

    Wisely, Ford kept the handling attributes of the European Fiesta intact, and did not compromise its crisp road manners for fear of offending U.S. customers. Detroit has historically (and mistakenly) assumed the mushy ride and isolated steering of big cars should be transplanted into their small cars as well. But the American Fiesta is almost identical to the European version. Suspension tuning for the American market actually incorporates firmer anti-roll bars than the Euro model, because Americans prefer more compliant all-season tires instead of rougher-riding and stickier summer tires. (In addition to wearing black socks with white shoes and sandals, many Europeans use separate snow tires in the winter, too.) A fun-to-drive European-bred car that's actually going to drive better for the American version? This we like.

    The U.S. Fiesta comes only with the largest engine available in any Fiesta: a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 120 hp and 112 lb-ft of torque, yet returns spectacular fuel efficiency when matched to a sophisticated new automatic transmission that makes its debut here. The engine features the most optimal variable valve timing setup, with independent control of both intake and exhaust. A refined five-speed manual transmission is standard, but for about $1,200 the so-called "Powershift" automatic six-speed raises the car's expected EPA test cycle performance from 38 to 40 mpg on the highway. In the city, the standard manual is expected to get 29 mpg, while the automatic gets 30 mpg.

    The reason the automatic is more efficient is because it is a "twin-clutch" design. In short, that means there are the equivalent of two separate three-speed manual gearboxes that take turns routing the power while electromagnetic servo motors automatically actuate the two concentric clutches (hence the twin-clutch name), as well as the shifting mechanism. This design does away with the power-robbing hydraulic torque converter that you'll find on a conventional automatic. The electric servo controls on Ford’s twin-clutch transmission, a first for a subcompact in the U.S., are also lighter than the hydraulic systems used for twin-clutch transmissions in larger and more powerful cars like those from Audi, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi.

    The slick automatic transmission would feel right at home on a luxury sedan or a sports car, and more refined than what you’d expect in an economy car. First, there is no slipping feeling or windup delay of a hydrualic torque converter like you get with a conventional automatic "slushbox.” The automatic Fiesta accelerates in direct proportion to throttle inputs, one of the reasons that purist car nuts prefer manual transmissions in the first place. The electronic tranmission controls do an excellent job of figuring out when to shift, sensing steering inputs and throttle movements, "using even more senses than the driver has," says John Rich, Ford's powertrain manager for the Fiesta.

    The Fiesta will be Ford's smallest car in the U.S. at just 160.1 inches for the five-door, or about the same length as a Honda Fit. The Fiesta sedan is about a foot longer, which makes it just an inch-and-a-half shorter than the more powerful and heavier Focus compact sedan, a car that boasts an additional eight cubic feet of interior space.

    2011 Ford Fiesta (Ford).

    "Reads Your Mind"

    The driveline is just one of three outstanding bright spots in the new Fiesta. Next is the ride and handling of the car. On a designer's notepad, the suspension looks straightforward, with an old-tech twist-beam rear axle and front struts. However, a wealth of experience and tribal knowledge went into tuning these pieces so they work well enough you'd think they were more complex. The ride is generally supple over bumps, but there are there are no stray movements on really bad roads.

    Even though the Fiesta rides softly, it doesn't roll over onto the sides of its outside wheels in tight corners. Nor do the front wheels scrub much during a turn. The feeling is accurate and precise, the way Europeans have historically preferred their small cars. However, the more forgiving all-season tires allow stiffer anti-roll bars and therefore less body roll. In fact, the steering is so precise that it seems like it's trying to read your mind.

    What do you think of the 2011 Ford Fiesta?

    That's because of a "drift-pull" steering enhancement made possible by the electrical steering assist system. The Fiesta has the hint of racecar alignment, feeling like it's ready to go right or left at any impulse from the driver. However, unlike a racecar's setup, the Fiesta tracks straight as a freight train crossing Kansas.

    Ford’s engineers made deft usage of boron steel, the strongest used in cars, as well as a high percentage of other high-strength steel in the Fiesta’s body, which makes it strong, light and safe. Anchored to this structure is safety equipment such as front, side and curtain airbags, and even a unique driver knee airbag, for a total of seven separate airbags, more than any subcompact yet available. Traction control, stability control, and grippy brakes are also standard on all Fiestas. To say that Ford put a ton of content in this Fiesta would be an understatement.

    Ford has chosen to incorporate more convenience goodies as standard, too. The fuel filler is capless, and the steering wheel telescopes; optional is a steering wheel with audio and entertainment controls, and colored "usher" lighting on the floor and console keep the interior visible at night. In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, Ford's Sync system connects smart phones to the car, so voice commands can control phone and entertainment functions. By entertainment functions, Ford means a new downloadable free software system called AppLink will be available by the end of the summer to operate applications such as Pandora internet radio, Stitcher internet voice programming, and OpenBeak tweeting. Updated versions of these applications will be available through the Android Market and Blackberry App World, while other application creators are being encouraged by Ford to develop their own applications to work with the Sync system. The AppLink Sync system pairs itself to a smart phone, and can be accessed by voice or dashboard controls, or those found in the optional steering wheel. The standard Sync system includes turn-by-turn voice guidance as an option, but there is no display screen for a conventional navigation system. With nav systems selling for $150 or less these days, Ford made the right choice to leave out the screen.

    2011 Ford Fiesta (Ford).

    Inside, the Fiesta rides quietly enough to make phone calls, as well as to allow occupants to thoroughly enjoy the extensive entertainment functions. The seats feel soft, but have Euro-inspired support bolsters. In the rear, where European adults regularly ride, the seats are extended far enough to keep big people comfortable, either on the plush cloth seating or the optional leather with exposed stitching. The instrument panel and door panels are covered in quality-feeling soft-touch material, similar to the larger Focus'.

    Overall, the new Fiesta is comfortable inside with no shortage of safety equipment. The nimble, responsive chassis gives the driver confidence on crowded freeways and twisty backroads. The smoothness of the driveline makes the Fiesta feel more refined than its low price suggests, too. Ford successfully ported the Fiesta to America without losing any of its charm. While we don't expect it to outsell the F-150 any time soon, buyers who opt for the smallest Ford will figure out in quick order what the Europeans have been talking about for years.

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    1 - 20 of 287 Comments
    PattMak818 Mar 09, 2011 10:41 AM
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    JRMckeon Mar 09, 2011 5:25 AM
    This is a good story about the new Fiesta but there is one big thing wrong. This car is not making it's debut in America. I am an ex-pat living in South Africa and we have had the sadan with the Power Shift gear box on the showroom floor since October. I will tell you this is a very good car. The 1.6 Power Shift has alot of power to wieght. It has no problems getting out of it's or anything else's way. As the title of this story says "our Fiesta is better than your"... well we had it FIRST!! And you get a free lion cub with purchase :)
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    saturnhartwig Mar 09, 2011 3:52 AM
    I want the diesel version of this car. PLEASE ford give me a diesel economy car.
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    Joanmalt914 Mar 09, 2011 2:59 AM
    Purchased the 2011 Fiesta sedan with all the bells and whistles, two months ago. Handles so well and is everything wonderful, that this article has expressed. Yep, the European market was correct. Absolutely LOVE my Fiesta SE sedan! And, don't get me started on the magnificent gas mileage!
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    jam888 Mar 09, 2011 2:09 AM
    I love my Chevy Cobalt my check engine light is very reliable, works all the time.
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    WSTUPNITSKY Mar 09, 2011 1:49 AM
    strongly recommend to buy ford stock. money freed from renegotions with unions will be (are) invested in quality. nobody could touch automotive unions before, not congress, not ceo's. but after recession put car industry on it's knees things have changed drastically. americans are not stupid. we still lead in innovations in most industries. we can even buy smart people to help us to build exellent cars. ford is on the right track. it will help you to retire early
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    EGHBERT Mar 08, 2011 11:44 PM
    the Fiesta is not a new car. It has been in europe for many years and was sold here in the United States in the late seventies. I owned a 1978 Fiesta and loved it. I got 42 miles to the gallon on it. If the current Fiesta is anywhere near as good as that one I would suggest anyone looking for a gas saver buy it. If you're looking for a smooth ride though the Lincoln Town Car is sooo nice.
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    Johnnyo032003 Mar 08, 2011 11:43 PM
    I really laugh when I read some of these comments. So many of you are so stupid. Those of you that say American cars are crap and only buy japanese, your wrong. Those of you that say Japanese cars are crap and only buy American, your wrong too. Same goes for those that say European cars are best. ALL car companies have their good cars and their duds. All of them have recalls, cars that fall apart after 150k miles, etc etc. The problem with all cars is the fact that they are made by a human being and they are not perfect and at some ********* going to mess up no matter who makes it. Some mess up more than others but they all will eventually. Why does everyone have to bash another car and sing praises about theirs? Just accept that different companies make different cars for different purposes and they all have their faults but as long as they are being taken care of any car can be a great car and last you a long time.
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    Paul4858 Mar 08, 2011 11:32 PM
    I want one
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    AddEleven Mar 08, 2011 11:16 PM
    One freezing-cold night in February 1998, my brother drove me up to Quirk Ford in Quincy, MA, and told them (and me), "'It's time for her to get a new car." I did; a 1998 Ford Escort. I said, at the time, that it would probably be the last car I ever owned." It is now 2011, and I still am driving that little black, four-on-the floor, with only 67,000+ miles on it. Her name is "Friendly", and I love her to pieces and depend on her for you would not believe. I gave her new tires, a new wax job, constant attention, fresh oil, gas additive, oil additive, brake fluid, new springs (all four) and everything except a new paint job. I wish I could carry her into the next decade, but she's old now and gone sleepy on me. I'd like everyone to know how dependable that little car of mine has been. She has been rear-endeed by a United Arilines Pilot's wife, back into by a drugged-up wino, rear-ended again (by a teen-ager) (with no insurance!), and has never, never let me down. I let the teen-ager go free because I, too, have grandchildren of that ilk. I would never buy another vehicle but a Ford. It's almost time for me to consider another new vehicle, and I hurt to think that my little Escort will be heading to Ford-Heaven. I honestly hope that my next vehicle will be as faithful and as loving to me as has been this little black honey. GO FORD.
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    UPEDKK Mar 08, 2011 11:01 PM
    I own a 1990 Ford Festiva. It gets 44 mpg on the hwy and 35 in town. It is very easy to get into and out of because it has three doors.. I checked out the new Ford. It has four doors which makes the front door much more dificult to get in and out of because it is about a foot smaller. The vast majority of the time this car will be used is with a driver only. Why four doors. The Europen version has 3 doors. It only get at best 38 mpg on the hwy. Why? I believe that the reason that very few American cars get far less mpg is that the states and fed want the tax money. Both the states and fed make more money on a gallon of gas than the oil companies make. Dumb. I believe that the taxes are a % of the total cost of a gallon of gas. In some states this means the states and fed make about 24% on gas. GREED is the Dumacrats only known interest.
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    Bretkham Mar 08, 2011 10:29 PM
    Unions were the downfall of the american auto industry. Magority of the cost of the american cars are the labor cost thanks to the unions and liberal taxes. American corperations pay the highest taxes in the world.
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    RANDYBEAR61 Mar 08, 2011 10:18 PM
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    Mjorod Mar 08, 2011 10:02 PM
    The problem with tiny cars is that the engine winds loudly for 10 minutes before they shift into the next gear. They can't get out of their own way.
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    SMRTALECKCHIC Mar 08, 2011 9:57 PM
    I love my Fiesta!
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    aurora99@cox.net Mar 08, 2011 9:51 PM
    ford products are HIGHLY overated, I have never owned one that was nothing but trouble.......since 1977 I have owned GM, and will continue to own GM. I now have 2 Cadillacs, 2 Pontiacs, 1 Chevy truck and 1 GMC truck. Range from 298,000 miles to 123,000 miles and can go anywhere I want, very troublefree vehicles. The most expensive part I have had to replace was an a/c compressor on 1 of the trucks @ 200,000 miles. NOTHING but GM for me
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    Cjerry9 Mar 08, 2011 9:15 PM
    No Fords for me
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    Whiteykville Mar 08, 2011 9:13 PM
    I remember the first Fiesta was a tiny little box back in the late '70s and it rode like a buckboard. Oddly enough the best small car "for the ride" was an odd looking car made by the now defunct American Motors Corporation - it was called the Pacer. It looked like an egg with windows but the ride and handling was great. The car I considered the best in ride and comfort was my dearly departed 1996 Mercury Gran Marquis - the ride was like floating on a cloud, but the gas mileage did not give you that floating on a cloud feeling. When gasoline went above $2.50 per gallon I traded it for a Chevrolet HHR and have been very satisfied with the increased gas mileage; however, I do miss that Gran Marquis ride.
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    VLADY1000 Mar 08, 2011 9:01 PM
    Wait for the new Focus. Bigger, more power and probably get about the same milage and wuill not be much more $$ and IT IS MADE IN THE USA, with mostly AMERICAN PARTS, unlike the Fiesta
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    Waldrondivide Mar 08, 2011 8:37 PM
    Gee, does anyone proofread these articles? "labotomized"? That said, we have two Ford pickups (both older, both fine but with the price of gas, we need something more economical).
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    We’ve seen European cars transplated to America before, however, we've typically been disappointed. Will the 2011 Ford Fiesta be any different?


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