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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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By etherreal on 9/28/2010 9:21:43 AM , Rating: 2
What kind of progress are we truly making, when a "fuel efficient" subcompact in 2010 can only get 30MPG? My 1996 Civic hatchback has the same amount of power and gets 45MPG. Some of the older CRX Civics can go 50MPG+.

Where have all the 40MPG+ gas vehicles gone?

By Chris Peredun on 9/28/2010 9:30:02 AM , Rating: 3
Word. I've gotten 37mpg (measured, US miles and US gallons) in the city in my 05 Civic - of course, that was with me driving gently. Not like a nun on a rosary run, just not jackrabbiting away from stoplights, looking ahead to avoid trying to beat lights that I'll never make, etc.

By othercents on 9/28/2010 3:38:46 PM , Rating: 2
In my 99 Civic I typically get better than 30MPG for my commute where I drive aggressive and some stop and go traffic. It is amazing on how much fuel efficient the older Civics are compared to the new vehicles especially with the discrepancy in cost.


RE: "Fuel Efficient Vehicles" these days are a joke.
By tng on 9/28/2010 3:53:17 PM , Rating: 2
I have a 99 Civic and just driving reasonably I can get 42mpg out of it. I am on board with the fact that yes newer cars in this class should get better mileage despite the weight gains that have been mandated by a nanny government.

BTW my commute is ~50 miles each way, so allot of highway miles and some stop and go if I get out to late in the day...

By wiz220 on 9/28/2010 4:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
"nanny government"

Really? My impression was that many manufacturers strive to make cars safer (and therefore heavier) and use those added safety features in marketing. Almost every car on the market today greatly exceeds basic government standards. Manufacturers could do less if they wanted to. Just today I saw a Mercedes commercial where the entire ad was focused on the safety features of their cars. Frankly, this is one area where the free market seems to have worked well. people demanded safety, and got it, it's a top concern for many buyers.

By JonnyDough on 9/28/2010 6:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
This is what I was thinking too. Does your 05 civic have sync? Airbags?

By Souka on 9/28/2010 6:47:11 PM , Rating: 3
My old 76' Datsun 280Z (2.8L straight-6) would get 35mpg cruzing at 60mph from Eugene, OR to Everett, WA

Of course I tended to drive in the 100+ on occasion, 120mph on the flats...then my economy would drop to 18MPG or less. :)

I dunno why I posted it...just felt like it.

By JonnyDough on 9/29/2010 5:08:21 AM , Rating: 2
See mine and OmegaD's post below. There are reasons we don't get the same efficiency. For one, we are no longer polluting the air nearly as badly.

By tng on 9/29/2010 8:21:10 AM , Rating: 2
If you are talking about my post it is a 99 Civic and yes it has airbags. As for Sync, I have installed a similar system from Alpine. Touchscreen control for my Ipod, CD/DVD player, Bluetooth, Sat Nav, backup camera. Great system and I now that I have it when I get a rental somewhere that does not have the Ipod and Bluetooth I miss it.

So you see my Civic really does not need Sync.

By Omega215D on 9/29/2010 2:58:54 AM , Rating: 2
Not only that but emissions equipment play a role in reducing fuel mileage. The higher the standards the less mileage you will get.

My source came from my motorcycle magazine with an in depth view on the whole thing (for those who doubt this).

By tng on 9/29/2010 8:14:50 AM , Rating: 2
Frankly, this is one area where the free market seems to have worked well.
Yes and no, in my opinion. Most of the safety comes not from manufacturers that voluntarily install this equipment, but from many years of mandates by government and insurance companies. The fact that car safety can be marketed by companies like Mercedes to generate more sales is a by-product. I like the fact that people are thinking about this stuff.

By Samus on 9/29/2010 10:35:44 PM , Rating: 2
Well sure, my 238 whp supercharged SVT Focus CAN get upward of 30MPG, but cars like it aren't really designed for fuel economy.

Ironically, between my truck and my Mustang, it's the only car I own that achieves anything considered 'decent' fuel economy these days.

I just wish Ford would bring the performance version of the Kuga over next year as the Escape Sport or something, but they'll just throw a clunker V6 in it and call it sporty, and I'll never be able to consolidate ALL my cars into one. Economy, light towing, performance.

By CBRbrutha on 9/28/2010 9:35:53 AM , Rating: 5
The progress is in safety, which comes at the expense of the progress made in efficiency. Your '96 Civic would fare far worse in just about any type of crash than would a modern subcompact. The increased safety standards come with a weight penalty. Until that changes, increases in efficiency will continue to be offset - to one extent or another - by increased safety equipment.

RE: "Fuel Efficient Vehicles" these days are a joke.
By Goty on 9/28/2010 9:41:26 AM , Rating: 2

We have a winner!

RE: "Fuel Efficient Vehicles" these days are a joke.
By ipay on 9/28/10, Rating: -1
By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 2:22:39 PM , Rating: 4
While some things you say are correct, I suggest you seek professional help.

By NullSubroutine on 9/28/2010 5:32:19 PM , Rating: 3

By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 10:02:35 AM , Rating: 3
You'd likely die in either one if hit by a truck. But yes you're correct. Safety standards keep increasing the weight of cars which make it ever harder for auto manufacturers to meet the absurd mileage standards also being imposed. Then you have the emissions requirements which cause an engine to potentially be less fuel efficient than it otherwise could be.

Basically the auto manufacturers are like a college girl in the middle of a three way gang bang.

By Motoman on 9/28/2010 11:16:14 AM , Rating: 3
...and there's a herpes-carrying retard at each end.

RE: "Fuel Efficient Vehicles" these days are a joke.
By goku on 9/28/2010 11:50:20 AM , Rating: 5
Actually you're wrong.. Just go to the IIHS website and compare the '96 Civic with the latest Fiesta and you'll see the Fiesta only does slightly better. Go to and you'll see the same.. (Difference between IIHS and Federal Crash Testing is that IIHS does offset crash testing while NHTSA does full width crash testing)

Crash testing procedures are DIRECTLY COMPARABLE across all model years but NOT class sizes. Meaning you cannot accurately compare the crash rating of a Civic (4 stars) and that of a Chevy Pickup (3 stars) due to how the test is conducted. The Federal Crash Test standard hasn't changed at all since it was instituted and revised by 1977. A 1984 Corolla's 5 star crash test rating on the NHTSA standard is directly comparable to a 2010 Corolla's 5 star rating on the same test. The only things that have changed since that time is the addition of additional tests, such as side impact testing. The IIHS is an independent organization that started offset crash testing in 1995 which is more rigorous than the full width test the NHTSA conducts. This means that while the '84 corolla and the '10 Corolla get the same NHTSA rating, the '10 corolla is safer only because it was designed with the IIHS testing in mind as well (offset crash testing is harder than full width). So, if a MY 1997 and a MY 2010 car of the same class both score highly on the NHTSA and IIHS, then the scores are directly comparable.

What people don't understand is, manufacturers aren't going to make their cars significantly safer if there isn't a way to be able to differentiate their cars from the rest of the pack. I.e. They're generally not going to go out of their way to make a car survive a 45mph if crash testing is only conducted at 35mph. This is why some cars in the Early 90s were starting to get 5 Stars (Federal Standard) which looked good but then when they came out with the IIHS test, these cars fell flat on their faces since an Offset crash is so much worse.

In terms of crash testing and its ratings, things really haven't changed since 1997 when the IIHS and NHTSA agreed to start conducting Side Impact crash testing.

By tng on 9/28/2010 4:10:11 PM , Rating: 2
Good post

By phantom505 on 9/29/2010 12:32:47 PM , Rating: 2
Not a good post at all.

First top pick in that class by IIHS (see August 25th post), sounds like it's safer than all subcompacts before it to me. Not that it says much but if you have to measure.....

This Fiesta is 2011. There is no NHSTA rating as of yet, and for all 2011 model years the requirements are much more strict.

So yeah, bad post, well at least uninformed post passing off as informed.

By sprockkets on 9/30/2010 10:15:49 PM , Rating: 2
What the heck are you talking about? The 1996 gen got an acceptable rating vs Good of the current gen.

No, unlike you, I'll post proof:

The Fiesta got a Good in EVERY category.

You losers who rate up people without even checking the facts should be ashamed of yourselves.

By Ristogod on 9/28/2010 10:02:28 AM , Rating: 2
Even in my 2005 Corolla XRS, which I drive hard all the time, I get 27-30 mpg. So yeah, when I hear about these even smaller and even less powerful cars getting only about the same or worse, it really makes you wonder what is going on. Some one always has to mention the addition of weight because of all this safety equipment. But My car is only 5 years old and pretty current on safety equipment itself. What could they possibly be still adding in regards to safety that is adding weight faster than they can make engines more efficient?

By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 10:08:13 AM , Rating: 1
You also have to realize for these smaller cars with smaller engines, you need more aggressive gearing in order to get the marginally adequate performance out of them you do get. A larger engine doesn't suffer from this problem so the gearing can be less aggressive, thus resulting in the same or close to the same fuel efficiency. You could reduce the aggressiveness of the gearing with the smaller engine but then its even more anemic than before. But for the targeted audience of drivers that a boring car like the Corolla goes for, this is ok.

Also its a question of what else did they put in. How much does the interior weigh and all the other included features.

By mcnabney on 9/28/2010 10:50:32 AM , Rating: 3
The CRX-hf had a curb weight of 1713lbs.
The stock Fiesta has a curb weight of 2462lbs

That is closing in on a 50% weight difference, so expecting similar mileage is hardly fair.

Anyway, people driving the new Fiesta primarily on the highway are reporting 40+mpg. That actually compares well with the 52-55mpg that the CRX-hf would get on the highway.

By goku on 9/28/2010 12:25:58 PM , Rating: 3
The 1992-1995 Honda Civic VX weighs around 2100lbs and got very nearly the same mileage as the CRX-HF.. however one trick up its sleeve was lean-burn, something that cars today don't have thanks to the Federal Tier 2 Bin 5 emission regulations.. The only way we're going to get that kind of boost in mileage again is if and when engines become capable of HCCI operation. (HCCI lets gasoline cars behave like a diesel while cruising)

By SanLC504 on 9/28/2010 10:36:43 AM , Rating: 2
And how many airbags did that LeBaron have? And how many crumple zones? And pedestrian crash zones?

Oh, zero. Right. Did it even have ABS?

To follow the status quo when it comes to safety, you must add weight.

By YashBudini on 9/28/2010 11:44:35 AM , Rating: 2
All cars get bigger and fatter with age. The latest Civic is probably bigger than the original Accord.

By mcnabney on 9/28/2010 4:25:52 PM , Rating: 2
It is. Likewise, the new Corollas are bigger than Camrys from the 90's.

We are soooooo fat.

By YashBudini on 9/30/2010 1:14:27 PM , Rating: 2
Engines too.

By dubldwn on 9/28/2010 1:20:04 PM , Rating: 2
I used to routinely get 35 mpg in a late 80's LeBaron that had a 2.4 Turbo. I got this mileage while driving the piss out of the car.

lol by "35", do you mean "17"? Although I don't recall a 2.4 turbo.

By Ammohunt on 9/28/2010 2:12:34 PM , Rating: 2
the internal combustion engine design is over 100 years old and really hasn't changed much in that timeframe.

By teldar on 9/28/2010 4:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, engines haven't changed? We sill have open ports instead of valves and we have points and condensers instead of electronic ignition. We probably don't have emissions controls, fuel injection, turbo, fuel pumps, or anything else that would increase power, efficiency, or pollution emissions.
I'm sure you're right, there's really no difference between now and 100 years ago, I mean the DO still burn fuel.

By Ammohunt on 9/29/2010 12:30:05 PM , Rating: 3
Wow! The basic principles and componenets of the internal combustion engine haven't changed everything you listed don't change the basic design; e.g. if we put a lab coat some glasses and a pocket protector on you. It wouldn't change the fact that you are still a basic dumbass.

By SoCalBoomer on 9/28/2010 7:46:54 PM , Rating: 1
I seriously doubt that you got that in a LeBaron - piece of turd! Had one, in supposedly "good" shape. . . hated it. Ugh.

However, I drive a 97 Neon (2.0 DOHC ACR) and get between 27-30mpg regularly (237 miles on 8.5 gallons last fillup) . . . so I agree with your point, just not with your example. . .

By dubldwn on 9/28/2010 12:30:45 PM , Rating: 2
My 1996 Civic hatchback has the same amount of power and gets 45MPG.

No it doesn't. It has less power, weighs less, and still only achieves similar mpg. Are you talking about the mpg *you* get?

By etherreal on 9/29/2010 9:17:03 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, I am talking about the MPG I get. 40 if I drive it real hard, 47 if I drive it real easy, 44-45 for normal driving.

By xprojected on 9/28/2010 2:04:46 PM , Rating: 2
The '96 Civic is rated (by current MPG standards, see anywhere between 26/35 and 24/32 mpg (depending on manual/auto or VTEC). So if you are managing 45, I'd think you could manage at least that much with the Fiesta. The 80s-early 90s CRX did get higher mpg than most current cars, but it was also much, much lighter.

By BookofRage on 9/28/2010 4:26:05 PM , Rating: 2
The European Version gives 65 MPG

By Spivonious on 9/28/2010 5:04:51 PM , Rating: 2
1.2 imperial gallons to 1 US gallon, plus the mileage tests are very different.

By walk2k on 9/29/2010 9:20:59 PM , Rating: 2
You lost me at "twist beam".

Same as the FIT.. and the new CRZ hybrid.

Why don't they put decent suspensions on these cars? They would be SO much fun stripped down and powered up a little, like an old Civic/CRX. But no, they have to saddle them with terrible suspensions.

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