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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 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
quote:
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.


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