2011 Ford Fiesta hatchback, North American  (Source: AutoBlog)

2011 Ford Fiesta sedan, North American  (Source: AutoBlog)

2011 Ford Fiesta, leather seat option  (Source: AutoBlog)
Well engineered and attractive, it appears that Ford has a winner on their hands with the Fiesta

Ford's European Fiesta has been a wild success, and is celebrated among auto enthusiasts.  Now following a surprise profit, Ford looks to continue its newfound success. 

With the 2011 Fiesta for North America, Ford's basic formula is the same -- take a car with attractive interior and exterior and heap on performance, a fuel economy that bests competitors, and loads of high-tech standard features.  The vehicle was previewed at the 2009 LA Auto Show.

Beginning with the exterior, the first thing you notice is how strikingly similar it is to the Euro Fiesta, despite the fact that it only has 60 percent of its parts in common with its Euro twin.  About the only changes to the exterior are the removal of the fog lights, which have been replaced with a strip of chrome-accented LED lamps, and the removal of Euro-style grill, which is replaced by a similar colored grill in the hatchback version and with a metal grill in the standard version.  Both alterations have drawn some minor criticism, as can be expected when one modifies a beloved design, but overall the response to the familiar exterior is strong.

Turning to the interior, the Fiesta can be had with optional leather seats.  Also, to suit American demands, leg room has been increased from the Euro version, along with the addition of a knee airbag.

The car is also packed with loads of consumer electronics.  It predictably features Ford's popular SYNC system (optional), powered by Microsoft.  It comes push button start, a 4-inch LCD display, and an MP3 player auxiliary port.  It is also the only car in its class to feature automatic climate control.  The car also features high-tech mirrors, standard, which have surface heating and turn signal indicators.  More typical fare -- a moon roof and power seats come as optional features.

In terms of power, the Fiesta's 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 119 horsepower and 109 ft.-lbs. of torque provides ample thrust to drive the light vehicle.  You can get it with one of two attractive transmissions -- a five-speed manual transmission or Ford's new six-speed PowerShift electronic dual clutch automatic transmission. 

Ford's PowerShift is reportedly 22 lb lighter and more compact that a typical six-speed and offers an 8-10 percent fuel economy savings versus a four-speed transmission.  The dual clutch transmission should be more than ready when the American Fiesta gets an Eco-Boost engine as it is over-engineered to currently handle up to 185 lb-ft of twist.

Ford is tweaking the suspension, but promises to retain the same "fun" factor as the Euro model.  Its chief objective is to minimize the harshness when riding over rough surfaces.  Ford also has slapped on Electronic Power Assisted Steering, also featured in the new Mustang.  Ford insists that its not overdoing it, and that the feature will be unobtrusive.

The fuel economy on the Fiesta, like that of the new 30 mpg Mustang, is another show-stopper for Ford.  It proves that gasoline engines can be fuel efficient, as it gets 40 mpg highway, over 3 mpg better than the closest competitors in its class.  It also gets 30 mpg city.

That outstanding fuel sipping doesn't come at the expense of safety, though.  The car is brimming with airbags, with side curtain airbags and lower bags to protect your hips, in addition to traditional front airbags.  It also features 55 percent high strength steel, including Boron steel-reinforced door crossbars and at the A-pillar to B-pillar.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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