New car reviews

2011 Ford Fiesta Hatchback

Inexpensive Without Looking Cheap

Christina DesMarais, Fri, 25 Mar 2011 03:38:01 PDT

With gas prices well above $3 a gallon and expected to climb higher, Ford couldn't have picked a better time to reintroduce its globally-popular subcompact to the United States. Missing for decades here in America, the new Fiesta is as hip and fun as its name suggests.

A car with attitude

Several months ago, I first noticed a neon green Fiesta parked in a sea of cars at my local grocery store. The car was begging for an audience so I walked over and checked it out. One word came to mind: moxie.

Now that I've had the opportunity to drive one myself, I'm even more impressed with its zesty appearance. As of last August, the Blue Oval had sold nearly a million of the new Fiestas since its introduction to Europe in 2008. What used to be a boxy little car now is more rounded with a feisty attitude and a beefy backside.

The wind shield is huge and sits at nearly a 180-degree angle with the nose. This large window, along with mini triangular windows placed at the car's four corners where blind spots would normally be, makes seeing other vehicles on the road easy. Also, all of the car's exterior lights are large, angled and multi-dimensional. The side mirrors are heated (standard) and include blinkers and an extra "spotter" mirror to ensure your view is untarnished.

Inexpensive without looking cheap

What surprised me about the $17, 915 SES model I drove is that it doesn't look or feel like a cheap car. At that price, I would expect to see some skimping throughout. Not so. The cabin is outfitted in quality materials and includes features normally not offered in the subcompact class, such as Ford's SYNC voice-activated system that can play music from MP3 players, make hands-free calls with Bluetooth-enabled phones, call 911 in case of airbag deployment and provide traffic updates, turn-by-turn navigation and business search. I also appreciated other options not usually found in a subcompact, such as keyless entry/start and heated front seats.

My favorite standard feature was the variable ambient lighting that shines out from many nooks in the cabin. Feeling a little blue? You got it. Driving conservatively to save gas? Pick green. Personally, I preferred pink. This fun feature might be why Ford says the Fiesta is becoming increasingly popular with the younger crowd.

Fun and comfortable to drive

I drove a hatchback, but the Fiesta also comes as a sedan. Both come with a standard manual 5-speed transmission although a six-speed automatic is optional. The engine is a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder capable of 120hp and 112 ft. lb. of torque, which results in average, but competent acceleration.

The Fiesta is a fun little car that zips through traffic, handling with confidence and agility. Its steering and braking are responsive and bumps and ruts are soaked up nicely by Ford's suspension.

It's also remarkably comfortable for its size. The driver's seat molded around my 5'4" body. My husband, who is 5'11', was impressed that it could be moved back to the point where he couldn't reach the pedals, which means there would be plenty of room for someone taller than him.

Speaking of roominess, the cabin has 100.5 cu.ft. of capacity. Considering it's a subcompact, you might be surprised to know I was able to fit a large kitchen chair into the backseat (don't ask, but trust me-sometimes this does not work).

Looking into the trunk I'd guess it able to hold a full grocery cart of groceries, but as you'd expect for this size car, you're not going to fit a vacuum cleaner or 10-year-old's bike in there. That said, with seats in place the Fiesta's trunk (at 15.4 cu.ft.) is smaller than some of its competitors, such as the Honda Fit (20.6 cu.ft.) and Mazda3 (17 cu.ft.) To haul something bulky in the Fiesta you can fold down the back seats but they do not flatten completely.

A reasonable hybrid alternative

In short, the Fiesta is an excellent choice for buyers looking for a fuel efficient and affordable car. Even ultra-green hybrids might be on guard for Ford's entry-level vehicle. Once you find out that the Fiesta can get 28 mpg in the city and up to 40 mpg on the highway, the question arises, why spend much more for a hybrid when the Fiesta's boasts such great efficiency for much less money?



What used to be a boxy little car now is more rounded with a feisty attitude

Mini triangular windows placed at the car's four corners help to eliminate blind spots

The cabin is outfitted in quality materials and includes features normally not offered in the subcompact class

With rear seats up, the Fiesta has 15.4 cu.ft. of trunk space

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