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.A 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.
quote: Frankly, this is one area where the free market seems to have worked well.