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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: Real-world experience
By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 10:15:01 AM , Rating: 2
Pretty sad that people view having to DRIVE the car as a downside.

"I had to downshift. Who wants to do that when you want to accelerate?"


RE: Real-world experience
By CBRbrutha on 9/28/2010 10:35:31 AM , Rating: 2
"Pretty sad that people view having to DRIVE the car as a downside...


You nailed it, right on the head. Laziness is the ONLY possible explanation for someone wanting to have a free hand while driving.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by your inability to process the possibility that someone may have better things to do than constantly shift while driving, like using a cell phone, for example, or even something so mundane as holding my girlfriend's hand while on vacation (don't worry man, you may know what that feels like one day). Why don't you just say it man? "We need to all go back to the 1940's where 8mpg was considered...well actually it wasn't considered at all, and manual shifting was how MEN got places."

Yeah I'm over my surprise, considering that this comment came from the same mind that can't generate anything beyond a "college girl/gang-bang" analogy for auto manufacturers required to modernize with the rest of society.

You stay classy...

RE: Real-world experience
By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 12:34:33 PM , Rating: 2
I drive a manual and driving around town, I manage to hold my girlfriends hand just fine. You don't leave your hand on the shifter. Only teenage punks in riced out Civics do that.

And maybe I don't want the majority of people holding a cell phone. Most people can't drive with two hands, much less one.

RE: Real-world experience
By acer905 on 9/28/2010 12:50:43 PM , Rating: 2
I would really like to see a study done. Survey every person who has been at fault in a collision while using a cell phone, and find out how many collisions they were involved in without using the cell phone. I'd estimate that there would be more repeat crashers than first-timers.

RE: Real-world experience
By FITCamaro on 9/28/2010 1:00:01 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I agree. I think the problem is far more than cell phones. Hence my point that most people can't drive using two hands, much less one.

I have made calls with my cell phone while driving. It has never had a measurable impact on the safety of my driving. I typically do it when I'm on the highway and don't need both hands. And if I am in the city, I typically put it on speakerphone and hold it in my hand with my hand on the wheel. If I have to shift, I set the phone on my lap first.

RE: Real-world experience
By MarkK02474 on 9/30/2010 8:41:57 AM , Rating: 2
Most of my girlfriends like men who can operate equipment. They especially like it when I double clutch when downshifting! Their hand is on my thigh or crotch, maintaining contact and not holding my hand. Automatics are for girls and the lazy.

BTW, my 1986 Honda Civic Si weighed 1800 lbs. and its 1.5 l. engine won me good autorcross times and many speeding tickets. My next new car, a 1997 Miata is 2600+ lbs. with a 1.8l and slower. Safety regulations have produced obesity and poorer city mpg due to weight increases. Honda is leading the way now with adoption of stronger steel requiring less of it.

Gasoline composition is also responsible for decreased mileage than before. 10% ethanol means lower energy density than pure gasoline, requiring more of it. Less effective anti-knock additives available today limit engine efficiency with reduced compression ratios and/or retarded ignition timing. Catalytic converters are also responsible for poorer mileage - richer air/fuel ratios are needed to lower nitrate levels while the converter burns leftover fuel into (more) CO2 and water.

Despite having both hands tied behind their backs by safety and pollution regulations, auto makers have done a good job improving engines, while their bean counters have kept them to a fair rating on weight control.

RE: Real-world experience
By Amiga500 on 9/28/2010 1:57:36 PM , Rating: 1

That is fucking pathetic man!

I'm normally not in agreement with FIT on anything, but on this case he is 100% correct. If your going to pull out excuses like "holding my girlfriend's hand while on vacation" as a reason for an auto box/semi-auto box you've no argument at all. Or holding the mobile - ever hear of a hands free kit?

*IF* you had argued that you lived in a city and were looking an auto box to save your clutch, fine. Note, that doesn't apply to the dual clutch semi though.

If you were a semi-competent driver, shifts would easily be minimised by keeping appropriate distance from the car in front so you have a gap to maintain momentum. But I guess holding your girl would distract you from the small matter of being aware of what is around you on the road.

RE: Real-world experience
By bigbrent88 on 9/28/2010 2:58:56 PM , Rating: 2
I find that my girlfriend loves to have her hand on the shifter with mine over as a guide, rowing through the gears. Umm, I promise it is not as dirty as it sounds! She hasn't learned a manual yet so it's also a great way for her to practice. Basically, being a man turns most women on and driving a manual is pretty manly. At least, that's what I tell myself at night!

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