2011 Ford Fiesta Expert Review:Autoblog
Remember when economy cars offered few concessions beyond roll-your-own windows, rear window defrosters and AM radios? It was only a handful of years ago that features on our 2011 Ford Fiesta SES tester would've qualified it for premium car status – if indeed items like Bluetooth, SYNC, a capless fuel fill and knee airbags were even available.
As you might also recall, back about 10 years ago, Ford executives and those charged with its British outpost, Jaguar, worked themselves into a froth over the possibilities offered by 'The Democratization of Luxury' – boldly and conveniently overlooking that when a premium feature becomes affordable to everyone, it ceases to be a luxury at all. And while this sort of marketing doublespeak was the undoing of the ill-conceived Jaguar X-Type – and perhaps the undoing of Ford's ownership of Coventry's favorite feline altogether – there's no denying the steady trickledown of luxury goods into workaday iron, and the Fiesta is rolling proof.
Of course, any automaker can lash a bunch of features onto a car and call it a day, but it's not a real value unless all of those baubles and braze-ons are bungeed to a platform and drivetrain whose creators have that whole engineering 'special sauce' thing figured out. In other words, the democratization of luxury is one thing – but does the Fiesta deliver the democratization of fun? Click through to the jump to find out.
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
Being shallow creatures, we want our candy confections to look tasty, and on that front, the 2011 Fiesta handily delivers a solid first impression. For one thing, Ford has seen fit to offer all sorts of eye-popping paint colors that really only work on designs that don't take themselves too seriously. Bold greens, purples and the Yellow Blaze Metallic Tri-coat (a $300 option) of our SES flatter the brash visuals. Big, expressive headlamps appear costly, air inlets look purposeful and the hatch design (a four-door sedan is also available) terminates in a high-set rump with pillar-mounted rear brakelights that lend the hatch a crisp, continental look. With 16-inch alloy wheels mounted at its very corners, the Fiesta offers both a stable and pugnacious stance, and the angled backlight makes it clear that the emphasis is on style rather than outright utility.
That's a theme that carries over to the Fiesta's cabin as well. It's a pleasant place to be, with clear analog gauges jostling for eyeball time alongside flashy features like variable-illumination cupholders and feel-good squishy plastics. There's a satisfying, leather-wrapped three-spoke wheel, a well-placed five-speed manual gearbox and a binnacle on the dashboard's top, dead center with the stereo and car information readout. (A PowerShift dual-clutch gearbox is also available, but without any paddles or a +/- detent on the gearlever, it's more of a curiosity than a performance-enhancing device).
What there isn't, however, is an abundance of space. Most front seat occupants won't feel claustrophobic or even cheated of space (although visibility isn't particularly great), but there's no denying that competitors offer far superior second-row accommodations and greater cargo capacity. Unlike, say, the Honda Fit or Nissan Versa, the Blue Oval has chosen to prioritize aesthetics over interior space and flexibility, and that's a trade-off you'll have to decide if you can live with. If this is meant as a small family car, substantial demerits like limited rear legroom and modest cargo space (about 15 cubic feet) will likely have you shopping elsewhere, but we suspect that at this modest price point, if you're looking for a bona fide kin hauler, you're better off poking your nose in the used car classifieds anyhow.
With that said, the Fiesta's cozily proportioned 160-inch bodyshell does offer an inherent advantage – superior rigidity. It only takes a few miles to realize that this is among the stiffest architectures on the small car block, a development that pays immense dividends in the form of first-class ride and handling. Whether you're bouncing along on a chuckholed surface that has you fearing for your alloys or piling into a corner with an unexpected decreasing radius at inadvisable speeds, this chassis is your friend. In fact, it's so accomplished that it makes you feel like it could handle twice the Fiesta's modest power. That's good news, because we're expecting a burlier variant with EcoBoost power in the not-too-distant future.
About the power situation – there's not much wrong with the 1.6-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder and its 120 horsepower (at 6,350 rpm) and 112 pound-feet of torque (at 5,000 rpm). It's class competitive stuff in terms of cheek, flexibility and refinement, but it's not going to push you hard into the seat foams, either. Interestingly, we didn't actually want for a sixth gear on the freeway – gearing and sound deadening is such that one isn't missed. It's a good thing that the clutch is as progressive as it is, however, because the ratios are widely spaced enough that you'll make frequent use of the third pedal.
Of course, the fun in driving a car like this Fiesta is not in its radial-roasting potency – we're talking zero to 60 mph in the mid-to-upper nine-second range here – it's in how everything works in concert to help maintain inertia. The chassis offers a rigid platform off of which to hang the MacPherson strut front and twist beam with coil spring rear suspensions, and the quick electric-power steering paired with Hankook Optimo tires makes for a surprisingly feelsome and confidence-inspiring arrangement. With only around 2,500 pounds to arrest, the 10.2-inch front disc, 7.9-inch rear drum brake setup has an easy job and offers good feel and modulation.
Just as importantly, that school-marm rigid architecture allows for a tremendously quiet interior. In fact, it's shockingly calm inside from idle on up, with limited road and wind noise, and engine roar and exhaust burble are similarly muted. We're counting on the aftermarket boy-racer scene to quickly populate its catalogs with more vocal muffler and intake options, but we actually appreciate the Fiesta's unexpected maturity on this front – it's surprising to find this sort of big car comportment in a B-segment runabout.
The Fiesta may not have a particularly boisterous soundtrack, but it's still a hoot to drive hard if you're a fan of the Momentum School of Motoring. The Fiesta seeks out corners with the sort of ebullience normally reserved for kittens pursuing open boxes. Low-mass cars like this one may have modest limits, but they can be approached more often, and it's endlessly entertaining to see how quickly one can negotiate a twisty stretch of road without shaving digits on the speedometer.
Fuel economy is similarly compelling, with our manual transmission model generating EPA estimated ratings of 29 miles per gallon in the city and 38 on the highway (the six-speed PowerShift does slightly better at 30/40). Over our time with the car, we averaged a tick over 32 mpg in spirited mixed driving.
If you can accept the Fiesta's spunk-for-space trade-off, we only have one real sticking point, and it's that none of this entertainment comes cheaply – particularly with the five-door. While the Fiesta sedan starts at $13,320, the higher-content hatchback commands $15,120. Splash out for SES specification like our tester (SYNC, Sirius, 16-inch wheels, etc.), and you're staring at $17,120, a price that's already well into the wheelhouse of larger, more powerful C-Segment stalwarts like the Mazda3 (to say nothing of Ford's own Focus). Our tester was further equipped with $715 worth of handsome leather seats and a $795 upgrade package that included seat warmers, keyless entry/start, alarm and chrome trim. Topped off with the aforementioned $300 worth of Yellow Blaze Metallic paint and $695 in delivery charges, and our tester rung up at a cool $19,605. That's a lot of dosh for a car this small, and yet when we drove it, the Fiesta never struck us as a bad value.
Despite being from two totally different vehicular genres and price brackets, in an odd way, Ford has succeeded with the Fiesta in a manner that it never managed with the Jaguar X-Type a decade ago. The Blue Oval has created an excellent smaller car that delivers European ride and handling characteristics, a hushed interior, class-above tech and truly aspirational design at a modest premium. If that's not a 21st century recipe for the democratization of luxury and fun, well, we don't know what is.
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
New Car Test Drive
All new Fiesta brings new life to an old name.
The all new 2011 Ford Fiesta resurrects a legacy nameplate in the Blue Oval family with a sparkling new sedan and hatchback that sport new technology inside and underneath. The result is a car that today's newly arrived urbanites should find perfectly fitted to their needs, wants and comforts.
Inside, the Fiesta breaks new ground in the mobile multimedia market with a voice activated infotainment system that augments the traditional AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with audio and podcasts streamed into the car's sound system via a Bluetooth link to a smart phone. Non voice audio controls and for creature comfort settings revert to basic knobs and buttons that are sized and arrayed for ease of use with minimal distraction from the driving task.
Comfortable seats have enough side and bottom bolsters to keep occupants properly positioned, but gingerly, without obstructing ingress and egress. Quality of interior materials is either on a par with or a tick or two above the expected standard for cars in the new Fiesta's class. Ford wants to boost this even further, too, with something not commonly found on cars in this size and price class: Leather seating surfaces and heated front seats are optional on the top of the line sedan and hatchback.
Underneath, the Fiesta introduces a new transmission technology as an option to the Fiesta's standard, 5 speed manual gearbox. This is a 6 speed, twin clutch, automated manual that operates like an automatic but with the fuel economy of a manual transmission. This offers what approaches the best of both worlds for people who like driving but live a city centered life: not having to deal with a clutch pedal but enjoying authentic manual transmission gear changes and the traditionally better fuel economy of a row your own gearbox. Evidence of this latter benefit is the EPA estimated, city/highway rating of 30/40 miles per gallon for the 6 speed against 29/38 mpg for the 5 speed. Normally, an automatic would come up two or more mpg short of a manual.
The new Fiesta feels right at home running around town and on weekend errands. It slips conveniently into fleeting gaps in stop and go urban traffic and into space limited parking slots. Its 120 horsepower, 1.6 liter engine will take the daily commute in stride. Ride is smooth. Wind and road noise is decently muted. Steering feel is certain. Corners taken at responsible speeds reveal little body roll. This means it'll also handle quite well a relaxed Sunday drive to the coast or to a family gathering.
The two body styles make distinct statements. The sedan is an interesting combination of an American style econobox with softened edges and a high rear deck (trunk lid). The hatchback presents a more satisfying, Euro like profile, with nicely wedged side character lines and an almost sensuously rounded posterior. Choice is in the eye of the beholder, but both are pleasant and more than competitive in today's design conscious new car market.
Manufacturer's suggested retail price of $13,320 for the base 4 door sedan and $17,120 for the top level, 5 door hatchback make the 2011 Fiesta competitive in the financing side as well.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta comes as four door sedan or five door hatchback. All have the same 120 horsepower, 1.6-liter, four cylinder engine. The standard transmission is a 5 speed manual. Optional on everything but the base sedan is a 6 speed, twin clutch, electrically shifted, automated manual ($1,070).
The Fiesta S sedan ($13,320) comes standard with air conditioning; cloth upholstery; 60/40 split fold down rear seatback; four speaker, 40 watt AM/FM stereo with audio input jack; power door locks and outside mirrors; carpeted front floor mats; rear seat heat ducts; cloth door panel trim. Steel wheels with a six spoke hubcap wear 185/65R15 tires. An option package adds a CD/MP3 player, remote keyless entry, auto lock doors ($495).
Fiesta SE ($14,320) comes with the Fiesta S option package content plus upgraded upholstery; metallic painted interior trim accents; power windows; trip computer; and 195/60R15 tires on aluminum alloy wheels. Option packages include SYNC entertainment center with six speakers and 80 watts, redundant audio controls on the steering wheel and USB equipped center console ($665), and a sport appearance group ($815) that includes painted aluminum wheels, cruise control and deck lid spoiler.
Fiesta SEL ($16,320) has everything that was standard and optional on the S and the SE plus rear seat floor mats; seven color ambient lighting; a second, rear seat auxiliary power point; auto dim rearview mirror; SIRIUS satellite radio; and leather wrapped steering wheel. Fiesta SEL comes with 195/50R16 tires on aluminum alloy wheels. One upgrade option group is offered, with chrome external trim, heated front seats, perimeter alarm and keyless door unlock/pushbutton start/stop ($795).
The Fiesta hatchback has two trim levels, the SE ($15,120) and the SES ($17,120). Standard equipment on the SE hatchback tracks the SE sedan's, as do the available option groupings' content, save for the sport appearance group ($575) because the hatchback comes standard with a spoiler. Fiesta SES is equipped similarly to SEL.
Stand alone options for the SE sedan and hatchback include a power moonroof ($695); SIRIUS satellite radio coupled with seven color ambient lighting ($370); carpeted rear floor mats ($35); and heated front seats and outside mirrors ($195). The Super Fuel Economy Package ($795) comprises cruise control, partial grille blockers, side air deflectors, underbody shields and 195/60R15 T-rated (low rolling resistance) tires. (Ford hasn't released official estimates for expected fuel economy increases, but independent studies suggest T-rated tires can cut fuel use by between 1.5 percent and 4.5 percent.)
Options for SEL and SES include leather seating trim ($715), power moonroof and special exterior paints. Four graphic body trims ($150). The SEL can be tricked out with a ground effect lower body kit ($700), and a more aggressive, Euro style rear spoiler can be added to the SES ($295).
Safety equipment that comes standard includes seven airbags, with dual stage frontal, front seat side impact, side curtain and driver knee; antilock brakes; electronic stability control; tire pressure monitoring system; and child safety seat anchors (LATCH).
Looking at the 2011 Fiesta profiling proud in a parking lot, certain telling descriptors come to mind. Exaggerated wedge. Overdone side sculpting. Yawning grille. Bustle (sedan). Proper proportion (hatchback). Hyped fender arches. Busy shapes. Some of it's good. Conversely, some of it isn't.
Ford's stylists describe the lower grille opening as a reverse trapezoid. Bottom-feeding catfish fits, too. The body colored treatment of the hatchback's upper grille is a better fit for the car's proportions, and market position, than the Ford Fusion themed horizontal chrome strips on the sedan. The geometrical exercises that frame the LED driving lights on the uplevel models conflict with the otherwise, flowing round shapes of the front fascia and the double creased fender arches. Eyed head on, the stance is solid, with the front tires visible outside of the leading edges of the fenders.
Viewed from the side, what's forward of the sedan's C-pillar (the vertical frame behind the rear side door's window) looks right. The front wheelwell arch may overwhelm the tire and the parallel character lines on the upper and lower door panels a little too sharply creased, but the silhouette shows a relatively fast windshield, wraparound headlights that minimize the front overhang and a good balance between body and window. From the C-pillar aft, however, something's out of line or of alignment. Either the backlight (the rear glass) is too round or too fast or the deck lid is too short (which also means a small trunk opening). It's as if that part of the sedan belongs on a larger car.
The side hindquarters of the hatchback, on the other hand, share none of this uncertainty, with all the lines, even the brazen character slashes on the doors, coming together in a shapely collection of complementary facets. Perchance this is because the hatchback is some 13 inches shorter overall than the sedan. Whatever, it's a tauter package and a better fit for the wheelbase (distance between the wheels, front to rear), which is the same on both models.
The posterior of the sedan is econo car generic and wouldn't look out of place on any number of Pacific rim import brands. The chrome strip topping the license plate recess gives the trunk lid a touch of class. The black valance panel across the bottom of the rear bumper helpfully reduces the visual mass. The hatchback's vertically arrayed taillights brace the liftgate, which is hinged far enough forward that opening demands minimal space behind the car. The spoiler perches atop the rear window like an eyelid. The lip running the full width of the liftgate ties into the upper side character line and gives some heft to the lower portion of the liftgate, contrasting well with a black lower valance slightly more prominent than the sedan's.
If there was a guiding credo for the designers assigned to craft an all-new interior for the 2011 Fiesta, it was to focus more on entertaining than informing. How this affects the driver's focus on the primary job of driving a car may be subject to debate, but clearly, at least as far as the new Fiesta is concerned, Ford has chosen its side.
The dominant feature of the dashboard is not the instrument panel, with its analog speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge, but the center of the dashboard. Ford says the array of infotainment controls housed in a brushed metallic pod and topped by a deeply hooded data screen was intended to evoke thoughts of a PDA or a smart phone; one also might think of the Starship Enterprise or something along those lines. This infotainment system is a centerpiece of the Fiesta's market strategy. The Fiesta's voice activated SYNC system uses its Bluetooth capability to link up with a smart phone to access certain internet streaming services, including FM like sites and podcast providers. While the idea may be new and the system may function reliably most of the time, it does rely on cell phone coverage, users should be forewarned that when it's connected to those internet streams, the clock is ticking on that same cell phone's monthly minutes.
Good thought is apparent in most of the ergonomics of the multimedia control panel, with easy to read and finger sized buttons and knobs. One questionable juxtaposition is the proximity of the central door lock/unlock button and the emergency flasher activator, where the former is stacked right on top of the latter. This will require careful aim in dark of night when proper choice between unlocking doors and activating the flashers is most urgently needed. One more is the placement of the USB slot in the center console within spill or splash distance of the conjoined, three pot cup holder.
Another awkwardness is the placement of the power mirror control knob on the upper door trim next to the latch handle. Having this on a flat plane at right angles to the driver's seat forces an almost painful twisting of the wrist to adjust the mirrors. But climate controls, which are tucked up under the overhang of the infotainment pod, are comforting in their plainness. The triangulation of the shift lever, steering wheel and pedals fit well a 98th percentile male and a 85th percentile female.
Seats are comfortable and minimally bolstered, which is good for ease of ingress and egress and quite adequate for the Fiesta, which really doesn't invite vigorous driving. The Fiesta is rated as a five passenger sedan, but if those five are adults, the fifth better be short and extremely thin. The front seats boast enough room for a six footer, but in that circumstance, knee room for the person behind is cramped, especially vis a vis the immediate competition; both the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris have at least four inches more rear seat legroom than the Fiesta. The Fit's back seat also is more than two inches wider than the Fiesta's.
Operating the Fiesta hatchback's 60/40 split, fold down rear seatback is more than a little hassle; the head restraints have to come out for the seatback to clear the back of the front seat, and due to the low ceiling, the seatback has to be folded half the way down before they can be removed. No doubt some owners who regularly make use of the 26 cubic feet of cargo space with the seatback folded may end up leaving the rear head restraints on a shelf in the garage; for safety, make sure they're in place when someone sits back there. The Fiesta's 26 cubic feet of cargo space is just half of what can be found in the Honda Fit (57.3 cubic feet) and Nissan Versa (50.4 cubic feet).
Forward and side visibility is about average for the class. The small, triangular, fixed windows at the base of the A-pillar add an airiness to the forward vision. Rear visibility in the hatchback pays the price of that aforementioned taut styling, with kind of a tunnel vision effect from the inward tapering of the rear quarter panels and C-pillar. This is one area where the sedan is superior.
Interior fabrics and materials are neither rich nor cheap, save maybe for the headliner, which is kind of like sheared mouse fur. Seat upholstery feels durable, at least the test vehicle SEL's uplevel fabric; static time on the optional leather suggest its price point is about right. Major portions of the dash have a soft touch covering, but the way that part and the other fit and look together, with their different textures and contours, does not flatter. Our test cars were pre production models, and we expect the final production models to have tighter tolerances between trim and dash panels.
Ford is targeting the 2011 Fiesta at the urban/suburban market, and the first charge up a freeway onramp confirms the carmaker has succeeded. Once it gets up to speed, it'll run with freeway traffic, cruising reasonably comfortably at 70 mph and 80 mph. Hit a slight grade, though, or undertake an overtaking when running 10 mph or 15 mph slower, and the limitations of 112 pound-feet of torque become obvious.
We found ride quality in the Fiesta SES to be comparable to that of other subcompacts. Steering response was what was expected from the wheel and tire package, that is, not especially sharp but still sufficiently precise that there were no surprises. Driving it to the limit of grip, we found understeer (where the car wants to go straight instead of turning), which was easily controlled. On freeway and two-lane alike, the 6 speed, automated manual transmission's gear changes were frequent and not always consistent or predictable, shifting down or up in some situations but then doing neither in virtually identical situations. As uncertain as the 6 speed's shifts were at times, it still would be our choice any time over the Nissan's continuously variable transmission. The Fiesta's shifts when executed were quicker and more certain than in a regular automatic but not the equal of other, twin clutch automated manuals. Ford's box is unique, however, employing electric servomotors instead of the more popular, electronically managed hydraulics to effect the gear changes.
It's quite comfortable in its intended environs. Flitting around town, from the parking garage at work to dinner at the neighborhood bistro, the new Fiesta delivers everything as promised. Of course, those environs are where cell phone signal strength commonly is at its best and most constant, so the audio streaming in through SYNC is crisp, clear and full. It's tidy size lets if slip easily through narrow gaps in city traffic. Odd, seemingly whimsical shift points for the most part go unnoticed, as long as any impromptu stoplight grands prix are dutifully avoided. Also to be avoided is offering transit to any more than three people in addition to the driver. Likewise, it'll be quite competent for running over to the mall to pick up some kitschy frames for the latest classic cartoon cel addition to the collection. The shortage of truly usable cargo space militates against a stop at the gardening/hardware big box or warehouse store, however.
We noticed no brake fade after driving 30 miles on winding, two lane, hilly roads at a moderately aggressive pace, even though we saw a few wisps of smoke from the front brakes while stopping for a driver change.
Handling is easily controlled. We saw little body roll through the tight corners, the car maintaining a relatively flat composure. Powering out of those corners, however, did not shove our backsides into the seat cushion. On the other hand, over the 60-plus miles for that same drive, much of which was navigated with wide open or nearly wide-open throttle, the Fiesta managed 27.1 miles per gallon. That real world figure is in the neighborhood of the EPA's lower, your mileage may vary, city ratings for the Fit (27 mpg), Yaris (29 mpg), and Versa (28 mpg), but considering the equivalent EPA rating for the Fiesta is 30 mpg, that's a very respectable performance.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta is a fresh entry in an increasingly popular and important market, the small, fuel efficient runabout. It also shows smart thinking on Ford's part in the midst of a deeply troubled world economy, when building the same car, or nearly the same car, for most of the countries where Ford sells cars makes good economical sense. That the car works best where Ford wants it to sell the most is icing.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from San Francisco.
Ford Fiesta S 4 Door Sedan ($13,320); SE 4 Door Sedan ($14,320); SEL 4 Door Sedan ($16,320); SE 5 Door Hatchback ($15,120); SES 5 Door Hatchback ($17,120).
Cuautitlan Izcali, Mexico.
Options As Tested
6 speed automatic ($1070); Package 301A ($795) with keyless entry/push button start/stop, heated front seats and outside mirrors, chrome beltline and deck lid molding, perimeter alarm.
2011 Ford Fiesta SES 5-Door Hatchback ($17,120).
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