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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: "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.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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