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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 Denigrate on 9/28/2010 9:37:29 AM , Rating: -1
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.

It's ridiculous that newer cars with supposed high tech engines can't do better than 20+ yr old tech.


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
quote:
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. . .


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