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Battle Fiesta: Hatch Vs. Sedan, Auto Vs. Stick
FIN has driven every Fiesta combination...and has come to conclusions.
www.FordInsideNews.com
March 9, 2011
By: Nick Saporito


Last August during the launch of the 2011 Fiesta sub-compact, FIN reviewed the sedan variant of Ford’s first entry into the segment. Fast-forward to now and a hatchback version of the Fiesta just left the FIN Garage. Not only have both body variants now been tested, but both transmissions and a varied level of equipment have been tested as well. Despite the two testers being the same car, there is a clear winning mix for the Ford Fiesta.

As we made very clear in our full review of the Fiesta SE Sedan in August, the Fiesta is a terrific small car. Our sedan tester was equipped with the car’s optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which is part of the ‘Super Fuel Economy Package’ – making the Fiesta good for 29 MPG city and 40 MPG highway.

On the flip side, our recent Fiesta Hatch tester was an SES model with the car’s standard five-speed manual transmission. Being decked in SES guise, the hatch also sported more equipment, including: leather seats, LED accent lighting on the exterior and keyless ignition.

After just one day with the manual transmission in the hatch tester, it was clear that there is a real winner among drivetrains in the Ford Fiesta. Without a doubt the winner of this bunch is the PowerShift six-speed automatic. We raved about it in our sedan review and driving the manual just made us appreciate its dual-clutch glory even more.

Where we could easily breach 40 MPG—even when sustaining speeds of 80 MPH—with the PowerShift equipped sedan, the manual hatch struggled to maintain fuel economy figures in the mid-30’s.

For the record, the manual gearbox in the Fiesta is not a bad one. Shifts are smooth, the clutch is extremely easy to operate and the throws are of good length. The thing is, the automatic seems to do a better job of managing the Fiesta’s 1.6-liter. Often times it felt like the manual’s gears were not optimized for, well, anything. The automatic gave the Fiesta both more spunk and better fuel economy.

As the case for most gearheads, the manual gearbox is more fun to pilot in the Fiesta, but the fun factor is still not enough to justify not opting for the automatic. This is particularly true considering the massive fuel economy gains achieved by opting for the automatic. That said, the Fiesta automatic placed in ‘low’ is not boring to pilot anyway.

Body Battle

With the best transmission nailed down, one must select the best body style for the Fiesta. This too was a fairly easy decision for us.

While design is subjective, it is certainly something worth factoring in on a debate between the Fiesta sedan and Fiesta hatch. Whereas the sedan features some awkward angles, particularly in the rear, the hatchback is very flowing and looks terrific from any angle. It is as if the Fiesta was designed as a hatchback from the get-go and the sedan was an afterthought, but most small sedans suffer some awkwardness by the nature of their proportions. It is also worth noting that the hatch is 13.5-inches shorter than the sedan, but holds the same wheelbase. This certainly helps the hatch in the design department.

From a usability standpoint, the hatch wins as well. While interior space is almost identical between the two, the hatch is the more flexible of the two. With the rear seats folded and the privacy screen removed, one can fit some rather oddly shaped items in the hatch cargo area that the sedan’s trunk could never eat up.

The one problem we ran into with the hatch (more so than the sedan) is that the front seats almost always have to be moved forward in order to get the rear seatbacks to fold flat. The only alternative is to remove the headrests. Neither option is terribly convenient, but arguably a drawback to buying a sub-compact car.

After experiencing Fiesta in a couple of different flavors, it has become clear to us which configuration is the best- and it’s a combination of the Fiesta’s we tested. The significantly enhanced fuel economy and fun factor that comes with the optional six-speed PowerShift automatic make it a no-brainer over the standard five-speed stick.

The best mate for that transmission is undoubtedly the hatchback. It’s a bit more utilitarian and arguably looks much better than the sedan. Actually, it looks good enough that one could argue that it might be the hatch to make all hatches ‘cool’ in the United States once again. Initial sales results seem to suggest that as well.

Which Fiesta would you pick?



 

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Mercury C557
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excellent re-review, Nsap


tho an old OrderGuide only shows .1" (One TENTH of an inch) difference in the rear headroom (37.1 sedan vs 37.2 hatch),
to me it felt much more like a full inch or more
with my head grazing the sedan's headliner but no problem feeling comfortable in the hatch (I'm 6"1½")
&
a question for you,
Any preference on options/trims?
 

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I guess one idea for the seats to fold flat would to buy two more center head rests for left and right seats. I think the US market is the only one to get the full size ones in the rear.
 

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Nice to see the DCT get a good review. I am surprised that the manual didn't do as well for fuel economy.
 

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tho an old OrderGuide only shows .1" (One TENTH of an inch) difference in the rear headroom (37.1 sedan vs 37.2 hatch),
to me it felt much more like a full inch or more
with my head grazing the sedan's headliner but no problem feeling comfortable in the hatch (I'm 6"1½")
I noticed that too. The only cars at the autoshow I had trouble with rear headroom were the Fiesta sedan and the Hyundai Sonata. I would not never ride in the back of the Sonata, as my head has no protection from the rear glass and frame in an accident.
 

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The Spaminator
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^^^
I think it could use a 6 speed manual. Though there could be a slight size issue for that size of car. There would also be an issue with "how many gears is ideal for a person to shift."

The 6 would improve fuel economy, but those might be the drawbacks.
 

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I'd still probably go for the manual sedan. I'm sure the hatch DCT is a better car/more fun, but it starts at $16,900. Add the SFE package and SYNC, and you're at $17,900. For that kind of money, I'm buying something bigger/more powerful than a Fiesta with 120hp/112 ft.lbs

Give me bare bones for under $14k or give me a bigger car with more engine.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Nice to see the DCT get a good review. I am surprised that the manual didn't do as well for fuel economy.
To be honest, I was a little surprised as well. I drove both Feista's in the same conditions and the manual was consistently 5-7 MPG lower than the auto sedan. The only difference was that the manual was driven in slightly colder temperatures, but nothing extreme (30-50 degrees the whole time).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
gear ratios?

of course then I'd wonder if it was deliberate to get the PowerShift off on its best foot
Could be. I am surprised that Ford has not tried a bit harder to educate the public that the automatic gets better fuel economy than the manual. The rule of thumb has always been manual = best fuel economy in small cars.
 

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Just my two cents, I liked the Manual and getting a short throw kit is the way to go. I feel it deserves a 6 manual however, the majority of the power-train is carry-over with 2 exceptions: The 6 Auto and adding Ti-VCT to the I4. In the next MCE, adding a 6 manual, a select-shift to the DCT and DI to the I4 would be a huge leap in base power-plant. For me, I am very satisfied with my purchase. Using the auto in Low can get some beans out of the engine. as well, the hill-decent feature is really good too. There's nothing wrong with the Auto.
 

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To be honest, I was a little surprised as well. I drove both Feista's in the same conditions and the manual was consistently 5-7 MPG lower than the auto sedan. The only difference was that the manual was driven in slightly colder temperatures, but nothing extreme (30-50 degrees the whole time).
The auto DCT had the SFE package, while the manual did not, correct? What does the SFE package entail? Lower rolling resistance tires, and?

Also, do you happen to remember the RPM numbers at certain highway speeds?
 

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One has to take any of Nick's Ford reviews with a grain of salt. Sometimes the grain seems to be a ton in size.

This is one of those times.

While thinking people like many of the posters here noted substantial and noticeable areas where the sedan was weak compared to the hatch (interior dimensions and feel of spaciousness or lack thereof), Nick offers us rather tepid excuses to like one body style over another. But then again, this is the same nitwit that tried to snowplow a road with an Explorer without trying the same with the vehicle he says competes with it over at Obama Motors.

As to manual v automatic transmissions, all I can say is that I'm never game for a slushbox over a manual. Never. I'm perfectly able to average 45-48 mpgs on the highway with a 1997 Escort (hitting 51.3 on one trip), so I find Nick's weak results more a result of "stupid is as stupid does" rather than an indictment of a manual transmission. Considering that this vehicle has .4 liters less powerplant and near equal weight and better aerodynamics than my Escort, I figure the issue with the manual results is the driver, not the car. I find it odd that Nick would drive 80 miles per hour and then slam a transmission with one less gear. I don't have the final ratios in front of me, but I suspect that the five speed is automatically (no pun intended) at a disadvantage to the additional gear of the slushbox. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist (but evidently above a Nick pay grade) to figure out the manual is at a disadvantage.

But is the slushbox worth $1,000? I say definitely not. Knowing that how you drive a vehicle influences fuel economy, I will turn the $1,000 in savings into a couple of car payments saved without worrying about any fuel economy effects. Nick doesn't bother to run 0-60 times to see if there is a performance winner, so we are just left with a nitwit's viewpoint on fuel economy and his opinion on style (which hasn't given him much street cred with his koolaid drinking over at GMI about Government Motors' style reviews).

In the end, we know no more about anything dealing with the Fiesta after reading this review than we already knew. We did learn from real posters who took the time to give more educated observations. So we are left with yet another Nick review that manages to showcase his limited ability to identify an orange from an apple.
 

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This makes me happy. I leased a Fiesta hatch with the auto yesterday. I'm very impressed with it. This may be a keeper when the 24 month lease ends.
 
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