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The 2011 Ford Fiesta Hatch SE
We hope to share some interesting insight about our week-long experience with this compact vehicle

Last week we had the privilege of test driving the 2011 Fiesta Hatch SE which was provided to us by Ford.  This subcompact features Ford's next-generation 1.6L 16-valve Duratec I4 engine.  The engine is pretty light on power, producing 120 hp @ 6350 rpm and 112 lb. feet of torque @ 5000 rpm.

The vehicle features a MacPherson strut front and twist-beam rear suspension. The vehicle features an electronic power-assisted steering (EPAS) system, which may turn off some auto enthusiasts, but Ford promises sporty handling will be preserved.

Riding in the Fiesta for a week, we traveled 366 miles, and used approximately 1 tank of gas.  That places our gas mileage for the 12 U.S. gallon (45 liter) tank at 30.5 mpg.  This is slightly below the EPA-rated 32 mpg, but it was likely due to the fact that much of our time on the highway was spent in stop-and-go and we were at times a bit aggressive in our engine use to test the vehicle's power.  Thus we wound up closer to the rated city mileage (28 mpg) than the rated highway mileage (37 mpg).

This is a good fuel economy performance, but falls short of hybrid engines such as the Ford Fusion hybrid or the Toyota Prius.  Of course the price of the Fiesta starts at a much lower price -- $13,320 MSRP for the base sedan Fiesta versus $23,050 for the base Toyota Prius.

The best thing about the Fiesta, in our minds, is the handling.  The car turns tightly and is capable of swift maneuvers.  It takes the curves beautifully.  The suspension allows you to "feel" the road's uneven character, without discomfort, offering the perfect blend of sport and comfort.

One important thing to bear in mind for those who haven't previously owned a subcompact, is that the class lacks power compared to larger compact and midsize sedans.  The Fiesta is slightly more powerful than two of its chief competitors -- the 117, hp 1.5L Honda Fit, or the 106 hp, 1.5L Toyota Yaris hatchback.  For those used to driving midsized sedans, the car will still feel underpowered, though.  It is also slightly less powerful than the 2009 Toyota Prius (134 combined hp), which we test-drove last year last year.

dual-clutch 6-speed option option is provided, which may help with power needs, by utilizing the engine's power a bit better and having a better gear distribution.  Our vehicle came with the base-level 5-speed transmission.

With our 5-speed we took the car up to 80 mph in the top-gear (see updates below)and under controlled highway conditions then floored the accelerator.  It took approximately 10-15 seconds in several trials to reach 90 mph.  Acceleration at the higher end of highway speeds was a crawl and felt painful and unnatural.  We could see this as being a problem if you wanted to pass vehicles on the highway, say to make an exit or something.  Of course, this is a problem that effects most of the cars in this class, so it's largely the nature of the beast.

And the Ford Fiesta is a pretty light vehicle -- 2,537 for the high speed hatch-back version -- so the lack of power isn't quite as glaring as some vehicles in its class.

If you can get past the power, the Fiesta offers a compelling experience.  Looks are highly subjective, but we felt that the Fiesta looks attractive.  Of numerous American automotive designs, the Fiesta is among the best in preserving the aggressive look of its concepts in the actual production model (versus vehicles like the Volt that featured bold concepts, which were transformed into more sedate production looks).

As mentioned, the handling and gas mileage are both pleasant experiences.  And we experienced little noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) during our rides -- another desirable factor.    To top it off, the interior is relatively spacious for a vehicle of this class.

Minor gripes about the interior include that the seats feel a little bit rigid/hard, which may turn off some (we found them sufficiently comfortable, though, and felt they fit with the "sporty" feel) and the storage space in the middle was limited.  For us the latter gripe was definitely the hard one to deal with, as we found ourselves using cup-holders as a place to hold your cell phone, etc. -- not exactly a desirable stowage situation.  We would have preferred a bit of recessed space between the center console.

Our version of the car had one more compelling positive, that's worth noting -- SYNC.  We were preoccupied with testing the vehicle's performance and weren't able to extensively test SYNC, but as we've previously stated, this is a pretty powerful tool if you want to make calls in-car or play music from your iPod or other USB device.

In all the 2011 Ford Fiesta is a vehicle well-suited for day-to-day commutes and chores, while offering a definite "fun-factor".  The sweet price point, inclusion of SYNC, and the strong gas mileage all help the vehicle overcome the inherent downside of subcompact vehicles -- power.  We feel this car -- like any one -- has its negatives.  But overall the 2011 Ford Fiesta Hatch SE is a compelling option in its class.

Ford's product page for the vehicle can be found here.

Update 1 -- Tues. September 28, 2010:
As some commenters pointed out, the key to accelerating with a lower powered manual like the Fiesta is to put it in a higher gear.  Of course this will spike your RPMs quite high -- probably above 4k.  But if you have to speed up, this is the obvious way to do it, albeit at the cost of fuel efficiency. 


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RE: 90mph is the top speed?
By tng on 9/28/2010 9:15:56 AM , Rating: 2
I drove a Skoda Fabia (1.9L diesel I think) several years ago in Austria for a week. Great car and you could get out and it would really go. Unfortunately here in the US having a top speed above 90mph is a waste for most people, since there is no place that they can go that fast nearby and not get caught. I would rather have a more efficient use of power between 0-70mph here in the US.

I also find it sad that there was not more attention paid to the Sync package. As all these cars in this class meet a certain level of economy for those of us with long commutes, things like Sync is where they will stand out and where allot of us will make out purchasing decisions.


RE: 90mph is the top speed?
By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 10:09:30 AM , Rating: 1
I hit 150 a few weeks ago... ;)


RE: 90mph is the top speed?
By AssBall on 9/28/2010 10:30:18 AM , Rating: 2
Good for you! Keep doing the bulimia therapy and you you will get even more next month!


RE: 90mph is the top speed?
By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 12:25:02 PM , Rating: 2
If I was a 16 year old teenage girl that might've been funny.


RE: 90mph is the top speed?
By ekv on 9/28/2010 3:02:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
above 90mph is a waste for most people, since there is no place that they can go that fast nearby and not get caught
Umm, ever drive in LA? If you ain't doing 80 you're kind of getting run over. It becomes kind of a safety thing. 95 is fairly common. CHP is cracking down some due to budget crunch and increases in fines.

San Jose, similar story. [Try to tell Jobs to slow down, hah!, even if you could catch him, money talks.]

Would also like to see more on SYNC though....


RE: 90mph is the top speed?
By tng on 9/29/2010 10:15:18 AM , Rating: 2
I typically drive each day into the SF East bay from the central valley, about 50 miles one way.

In the morning I get to work at about 5AM so there is little traffic on the freeway and I can just cruise at 65.

I leave work at 4PM and everything changes. While in the morning I get to work in less than an hour, on the way home that changes to ~2 hours and I use a different route to go home. Going even 60 is not an option most of the way home, so I have different priorities when it comes to speed.

Since I spend so much time literally in my car, having good options for listening makes it so much nicer. That is why I would like to see more info on the Sync package in these cars. For instance, can I fully control the Ipod from the touchscreen (change playlists, find podcasts, sort music by name/artist)? How is the Bluetooth integrated? Currently my Alpine will download my full phonebook from my phone along with sent/received/missed calls. Will the Sync package do this?

So many buttons I want to push....


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