On a rainy afternoon, we hurled the 2011 Ford Fiesta over winding mountain roads to tests Ford's claim at a presentation that morning that its new Fiesta has sporty handling. While it's far from a dedicated sports car, the Fiesta proved to be surprisingly competent under the shaky control of a group of wild-eyed automotive journalists.
We say "surprisingly competent" because, having driven many subcompact cars, we didn't get behind the wheel with high expectations. However, Ford's new Fiesta rode into the corners with little understeer, stayed as flat as its sway bars could keep it, and came through to the ensuing straight showing no drama, all while maintaining a smooth and well-damped ride.
Powering out of turns with it isn't really on the menu as the Fiesta's front wheels are driven by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine cranking out 120 horsepower and 112 pound-feet of torque. As we flogged the car around, we could hear this little engine cranking hard, trying to give us everything we asked of it. While the car didn't feel slow going up hills, it didn't have much of a power reserve.
Ford equipped the car we were driving with its new six-speed Powershift transmission; essentially it's a dual-clutch automated-manual gearbox. A five-speed-manual transmission is also available. This transmission would have been more exciting if it had a manual model; it merely had a low range and a descent control mode. That said, it delivered the engine's power well, and we suspect Ford programmed softness into the gear changes so it would feel more like a traditional automatic transmission.
With the Powershift transmission, Ford estimates the Fiesta will get EPA fuel economy of 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. A quick check of the our trip computer after putting the car through plenty of full throttle hill climbs and hard cornering showed 27.4 mpg, which isn't bad. Ford projects that its manual transmission version is projected to get 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.
This wild ride through the mountains was our first chance to drive the U.S. version of the 2011 Ford Fiesta, Ford's bid to offer a popular world car and increase its share of the small car market in the U.S. Ford's Fiesta is the bestselling car in Europe during the first quarter of 2010. Since the small car segment is growing fast in the U.S., Ford's timing for bringing the Fiesta to the States looks good.
The Fiesta looks pretty good, too. We drove a hatchback version, which definitely has the edge on the Fiesta sedan in styling. A base Fiesta hatchback cost $15,795, while the sedan will start at $13,995. Our test car was the top trim SES model, coming in at just more than $20,000.… Read more