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First Drives: Ford Fiesta

Posted: Apr. 26, 2010

The 2011 Ford Fiesta has already been crowned the new king of the small cars class (really, it leads our ranking of the best Affordable Small Cars, based on the collective opinion of the automotive press). But most reviewers haven’t even driven the final version of the car. Reviews up to this point have been based on European versions of the Fiesta. The American version of the car is slightly different from the Euro-spec model.

Reviewers were given their first chance to drive the American Fiesta late last week, and the results are still excellent.

Jalopnik sums up critical opinion, “It is heavier and less chuckable than its European counterpart, but it's still the best small car you can buy in this country. … If you are possessed of a driver's license and a functional brain, you will get yourself to your local Ford shop and arrange a test drive as soon as cars become available.”

What’s the difference between the European and American Fiestas? Weight. The U.S. car, Jalopnik explains, is “up roughly three hundred pounds, to 2500-ish, a number that varies with specification and comes thanks to U.S. safety regulations — and interior packaging.” The U.S. Fiesta looks slightly different, which a larger nose and slightly restyled rear bumper thanks to the heavier crash bars required to pass U.S. safety tests. The suspension includes slightly larger springs to accommodate the added weight. Inside, the dashboard has grown to accommodate the larger airbags common in American cars, and some additional padding. That’s about it, as far as differences go. We also get a third cup holder, just the right size for a can of Red Bull. No, we didn’t make that up.

Motor Trend reports, “Out on the road, the Fiesta remains a superbly handling car. Turn-in is sharp and the car is incredibly easy to place precisely where you want it.” As an inexpensive, small car, it doesn’t come with a monstrous engine -- just a 1.6-liter four-cylinder putting out 120 horsepower. MT reports, “On paper, it doesn't sound like all that much until you see the feathery 2600-pound curb weight. Careful gearing selections on the five-speed manual and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions keeps the engine in its sweet spot and makes for reasonably peppy straight-line acceleration.” For those who insist on more power, a turbocharged EcoBoost engine may be in the works.

And, being a Ford, the Fiesta offers impressive connectivity. Autoblog reports, “If you revel in your connectivity, the Fiesta is two-and-a-half steps beyond anything in its class.” It comes equipped with a new version of Ford’s well-liked SYNC system, which “uses your phone's voice line to transfer weather, sports and news to the infotainment system so you won't incur excessive mobile data charges.”

It feels fairly upscale for a sub-$20,000 car as well. Kicking Tires comments, “With sharply raked contours and cell-phone-like center controls, the cabin is big on style. It's a good thing there's substance to back that up. Materials are handsome for this class, with high-rent stereo and climate controls.” One problem, however -- the Fiesta may not fit taller drivers. KT’s reviewer notes, “I'm 5-foot-11, and anyone much over 6 feet may deem the Fiesta too small. Indeed, total passenger volume in both the sedan and hatchback is 85.1 cubic feet -- that's Yaris-sized, and some 5 to 10 cubic feet short of a Versa or Fit.”

Those not worried about the height problem, though, may find a lot to like in the Fiesta. Jalopnik concludes, “It is small on the outside, relatively roomy on the inside, good-looking, fashionable, and economical. It is not fast, but it can be made to do fast-car things. It's nimble as hell, chuckable as the day is long, and it makes you giggle when you spank it down a winding road. Also, it can hold four adults in comfort.”

LINK: First Drives: Ford Fiesta - U.S. News Rankings and Reviews
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