In case you haven’t noticed, gas prices are going up and it doesn’t look like they will come down much. So if you are planning on a family car, reconsider that big SUV and think more European.
In Europe, drivers are used to paying $7 to $9 per gallon of gas and consequently there are a lot of small cars on their roads. With rising fuel prices in the U.S., we are starting to see more of these small cars that were available in Europe and Asia. One of those is the Ford Fiesta, which has been available in Europe for a few years and is making the transition across the ocean.
Often when U.S. manufacturers bring one of their European cars here, the cars are watered down and lose their edge. Ford promises that the Fiesta is a world car and there won’t be very many changes. One change that we did notice is that the U.S. Fiesta is available as a four door-sedan not available in Europe.
Americans, analysts say, don’t like hatchbacks, so a formal sedan had to be made to satisfy the American tastes. But the sedan looks weird, where the five-door hatchback is an attractive piece with flowing lines.
Up front, Fiesta sports the global Ford face, centering the blue oval badge on the grille over the signature inverted trapezoid lower grille opening. Adding eyes are sweeping, elongated headlamps that frame and connect the hood to muscular, sculpted front fenders.
At the rear, design elements merge, including the chamfered rear liftgate glass, the low roofline sweeping into a spoiler and taillamps with honeycomb detailing mounted high in the five-door’s corners.
Fiesta’s interior is well-designed and feels like it came from a much more expensive car. Boldly sculpted surfaces, contrasting colors and comfortable, supportive materials make the interior as individual as the driver.
The instrument panel centerstack, a focal point of the new Fiesta interior, was designed to feel as useful and familiar as the keypad on a mobile phone. The best part is the amount of space available. The front seats are very roomy and comfortable even on the longest trips. There is plent of room for two people in the back seat for long trips and the trunk can swallow a huge amount of room.
Under the hood lives a 1.6-liter four-cylinder power plant manufactured in Brazil. The DOHC engine delivers 120 horsepower and 112 ft.-lb. of torque, giving drivers decent performance. Fiesta features twin independent variable camshaft timing, which allows the engine to be downsized for fuel economy while continuously optimizing camshaft phasing for throttle response, performance and flexibility. Ti-VCT gives variable, yet precise, control of valve overlap or the duration of time in which both intake and exhaust valves are simultaneously open.
Valve overlap management by sophisticated controller mechanisms is critical to eliminating intake and exhaust flow compromises. This technology also optimizes phasing on both intake and exhaust camshafts by spinning them ever so slightly to advance or retard valve timing, resulting in improved throttle response at initial throttle tip-in, reduced emissions at part throttle and enhanced efficiency at higher rpm.
Fiestas are available with a new six-speed automatic transmission called PowerShift that Ford claims combines the responsive performance of a manual shift with the convenience of a traditional automatic. Fiesta’s PowerShift transmission gives better fuel efficiency than a traditional torque convertor automatic or manual shift transmission.
Twin internal clutches keep the PowerShift in constant mesh, continuously optimizing for maximum responsiveness and fuel efficiency, depending on engine speed, vehicle speed and input from the driver’s foot on the accelerator pedal.
PowerShift is a dual dry clutch transmission, operating with sealed internal lubrication, reducing friction and adding to Fiesta’s fuel economy. The lack of pumps and hoses reduces complexity, saves weight and contributes to fuel efficiency.
All of this technology is great but is not perfect. The engine isn’t very powerful but it’s not gutless either and has no problem keeping up with traffic and merging on the freeway. It just doesn’t sound good when you rev it. The other problem is the transmission which seems to suck the fun out of the car. If you just want a car to drive to work, it isn’t a problem. The transmission is smooth and you won’t notice it. But if you want to have fun on the way to work, you really have to opt for the standard five-speed manual.
The Fiesta is a small car that a driving enthusiast wouldn’t mind driving. In tight turns it can keep up with much more expensive sports cars. The electric power steering communicates with the driver about what is going on and the chassis is solid. The dampers are well chosen for a comfortable ride, but keep sporty handling that does not get sloppy on a canyon road.
In Europe, there are many more engine choices with diesel engine options that can get as high as 65 mpg. Why we don’t have those engines in the U.S. is baffling but is partially due to the tax system in Europe that favors diesel power. The U.S. Fiesta with its gas powered engine is not bad, either.
Ford has kept the Fiesta very light which helps acceleration and fuel economy. The 2,500-pound Fiesta gets 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. And it does it while burning 87-octane gasoline.
The other nice thing about the Fiesta is the price. The Fiesta sedan starts out at just over $13,000. And for that price you get a car with lots of standard features such as tilt and telescopic steering wheel, audio input jack, carpeted floor mats, rear window defroster, intermittent wipers, 4 inch LCD screen, air conditioning, 60/40 split back rear seat and many others.
The hatchback is a bit more expensive — it starts out at about $15,000. Our SEL sedan is the top of the line sedan model and starts out at $16,320 and with all of the bells and whistles still came to $18,885.
The Fiesta is the perfect choice for so many people who need affordable transportation. It gives you great fuel economy but you don’t have to sacrifice room and performance. You can still have fun while driving and since it is a good looking car, you look stylish at the same time.