For a long time in North America, subcompacts didn’t offer much beyond high fuel economy and a low price tag. Options sheets were limited to a few comforts such as air conditioning, cabins were utterly devoid of technology and cool wheels were completely off the menu. Those days are officially gone with the arrival of the 2011 Ford Fiesta. The combination of downsizers and twenty-somethings that possess no small car stigma has finally created a market for a high tech, lightweight, fuel-efficient and affordable subcompact on our side of the pond. Not that the car’s performance in Europe should be overlooked – so far it is the market’s top seller for 2010. Sometimes, however, a few things get lost in translation on the trip across the Atlantic. And if a glance at the spec sheet doesn’t convince you that little has been changed in the name of localization – a six-speed dual-clutch automatic and engine capable of 40-plus mpg will catch your eye – a quick stint behind the wheel will assure you that this is, in fact, a lithe, nimble and truly involving vehicle. What’s more, it is primarily being marketed as a hatchback , proving that truly, the game has changed.
What's to Like
Efficiency is the Fiesta’s primary selling point, and at 40 mpg, it’s hard to argue with it, especially when you consider the low base price. Ford is also offering a lot of proper, premium technology in a small package, such as a fuel-saving dual-clutch transmission, an LCD display and voice-activated SYNC audio control.
What's Not to Like
Drum brakes in the rear don’t exactly fit well with the Fiesta’s upmarket mission statement, but they do work well. No ability to select gears manually in the automatic transmission aside from Drive and Low.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Lithe and full of character, the Fiesta is a great drive whether sedately cruising along or being wrung within an inch of its life. The quick helm exhibits good steering feel for an electronic power assist (EPAS) system, and the suspension is firm yet surprisingly compliant over bumps and potholes. The engine needs to be revved to make power, but the upside is fantastic fuel economy. Still, passing needs to be well planned, and a turbo version in the future would be much appreciated. Unfortunately, aside from ‘Drive’ and ‘Low’, drivers can’t select gears with the PowerShift dual-clutch transmission, which would be ok if it didn’t feel as if it were constantly searching for the proper ratio on anything but a perfectly flat stretch of road. Of course, there is a perfectly good five-speed manual available if you really want to have...