Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta SES Five-Door

2011 Ford Fiesta SES - Subcompact Culture
For years, there’s been a consensus that Americans didn’t like small cars or hatchbacks (or small hatchbacks, for that matter). It’s also been said America can’t build a good small car. Well you can forget about that nonsense, because the Ford Fiesta is an excellent car—regardless of its small size, and people are buying them.

The Ford Fiesta proves that the American auto manufacturers are taking the small car market very seriously. It also proves that Americans are finally embracing hatchbacks. In fact, Ford stated that the majority of its Fiesta models—which are available in both sedan and hatchback form—are being sold as hatchbacks.

2011 Ford Fiesta SES dashboard
2011 Ford Fiesta interior
This was my first time spending more than a few hours in the subcompact Ford. Luckily for me, it is a great place to spend time, as this is a small car with substance. The Fiesta’s interior showcases a very well-engineered dash board and great overall ergonomics; outstanding interior materials with easy-to-operate tech features; optional heated leather seats—it’s very comfortable. My top-of-the-line SES test model had all the bells and whistles, too including a great stereo with Ford’s SYNC voice recognition and easy-to-use Bluetooth functions; color-changing lighting in the foot wells, dash board, and cup holder; and slick stereo/media center interface. Really, this isn’t just a great small car interior, this is a great interior for any sized car.
2011 Ford Fiesta SES rear cargo area
Hatchbacks are known for their ability to swallow scads of cargo with the rear seats folded down. While the Fiesta's rear seats do fold down, they don’t fold flat, so you can’t get quite as much stuff in a Fiesta that you can some other hatchbacks. If you’re looking to haul people as cargo, the Fiesta holds up to five people (four comfortably), but the back seat is a bit tighter than some of its competitors. There is, however, a deep, moderately sized (for a subcompact car) cargo area behind the seats. So although not the largest interior in its class, the Fiesta is still very nice inside. It is also very nice on the outside, too.

The Fiesta's European good looks have made their way to America. It's sophisticated, modern, and attractive. It’s not overly polarizing like a Kia Soul or Nissan Cube, but isn’t bland like the Scion xB or Toyota Yaris (and I own a Yaris). Of note, the front bumper’s chrome inserts, which house white LED lights; a chic touch. In fact, that is one of the few visual cues that separates it from the European models. The SES’s 16” alloy wheels, high-mounted rear taillights, and distinctive front end set the Fiesta apart from the competition in the appearance department.

On the road, the Fiesta feels substantial. It’s got wonderfully weighted steering and it rides firmly, yet smoothly. Once again, this does not feel like what most people would envision as a “subcompact car.” The car is comfortable on the highway, although passing does require downshifts. Luckily, the shifter is good, with precise movements, albeit, somewhat long throws. Power isn’t neck snapping, but it isn’t glacial, either. When equipped with a manual transmission, the Fiesta is EPA rated at 28 city, 37 highway; my time with the Fiesta yielded 30 MPG in mostly city driving. Not bad.

Handling is outstanding, and makes the Fiesta very entertaining in the curves. Really, it's a hoot to drive. I had a chance to really test the vehicle’s handling months ago at the vehicle’s launch in San Francisco where we took a highly spirited drive through the hills. My week with the Fiesta in Oregon reinforced the fact that this car loves the corners.

2011 Ford Fiesta SES - Subcompact Culture
Dare I say this car is the best in its class? Indeed I would. The mix of high quality interior materials, outstanding driving dynamics, and plenty of available amenities makes this a class standout, if not the leader. Plus, the car is a solid value: The top-level SES starts at $17,120; this specific car was $19,305 (it had heated leather seats and a host of other options). This car truly is that good, inside, outside, under the hood, and at all four corners. It is 100% proof positive that not only can America build a good small car, it can build a world-class small car that can take on the best from Japan, Europe, and Korea.

Ford Fiesta on


nlpnt said...

- Hopefully the sales outcome means they'll offer a base model hatch, I dig the two-tone seats in the S but it's sedan-only at this point.

-Speaking of two-tone interiors I wonder why the SES with light-colored leather seats has them in an otherwise all-balck interior instead of using the S/SE light door panel trim.

-Shame about their not using fold-and-tumble rear seats like the old Focus hatch/wagon had.

-I wonder who's buying the SEL sedans? I also wonder if sedan sales'll pick up, and the total mix'll skew more towards cheaper versions once the old-model Focuses are cleared out. They built them up until the end of November so there must be quite a few left even now.

- The Yaris is NOT bland, it's just old. It's been around since '06 and was the most adventurously styled mass-market Toyota in ages (yeah, I own one too). Now the NEW Vitz/Yaris is another story...

D2M said...

Wow! Great review! So you think Ford did a pretty good transition from Europe to the USA? I know a lot of people were worried Ford would water it down for the American market.

I've only seen two Fiesta's in my area. One was a white sedan on the road. (White is not a flattering color for this car.) The other was the hatchback on display. It was up for a very short time. It seems like they don't get many in our dealerships, or they get them and they're gone fairly quickly.

Which might be normal in other areas of the country, but in my town they love their Ford, GMs, and Dodges. *Love them*. I was expecting to see more Fiestas on the road or in the dealerships by now. :-/

Anyway, looks like a sweet little car. If I ever see any in the dealerships again I might try to test drive it.

Marc said...

"It’s also been said America can’t build a good small car. Well you can forget about that nonsense, because the Ford Fiesta is an excellent car"

"The Fiesta's European good looks have made their way to America."

"It is 100% proof positive that not only can America build a good small car, it can build a world-class small car that can take on the best from Japan, Europe, and Korea."

Well, isn't this 'just' an European car after all? So can Americans built a good car, or has Ford done a clever 'import' from abroad?

Nevertheless, it's a great little .. erm.. small car!

RM said...

The Fiesta was engineered in Europe, and the units sold in the US are built in Mexico.