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LEFT LANE NEWS TEST 2011 FORD FIESTA
WILL THIS CAR BE THE SUBCOMPACT BREAKOUT FOR AMERICA...PERHAPS...AS LONG AS IT COMES IN COLORS OTHER THAN LIME SQUEEZE


By Andrew Ganz

Hailed by many as Ford’s – and the entire subcompact segment’s – savior, the Ford Fiesta has finally arrived after an extraordinarily lengthy build up.

After years of hinting that its European-bred products might make their way to the land of the SUV, the Ford Fiesta is finally here. It is hardly the first Ford of Europe product to make the journey, but it is certainly the most hyped and, potentially, the most significant.

Let’s take this line green (officially Lime Squeez Metallic, which makes us want a mojito) 2011 Fiesta five-door for a spin on the streets of Middle America. Does it have what it takes to downsize American car buyers?

What is it?
Technically the sixth-generation Ford Fiesta, the car you see here actually launched in Europe all the way back in 2008. Its voyage to the United States and Canada was a slow one, since it first had to spend a year being paraded around (in German-spec) as the official vehicle of Ford’s Fiesta Agents. That unique product introduction helped build interest and it connected Ford with its potential buyers in a way no automaker has ever done.

As Leftlane has discussed before, the U.S./Canada Fiesta is actually a little different than the one you’ll find overseas – or even south of the border in Mexico, where it has been on offer since shortly after the European launch.

It shares its basic platform with the Mazda Mazda2, but the Fiesta goes way upmarket in terms of its specifications, topping out with available leather trim and more for upwards of $23,000. Our tester was a more modestly-equipped five-door SES with a manual transmission and a few niceties that rang the cash register at a still hefty $18,590. Mazda2s, which make natural rivals, top out at around $16,500 with a stick.

What’s it up against?
Chief rivals include existing players like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, as well as the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. And, of course, there’s that similar-but-different Mazda2.

In Europe, rivals stretch to brands most Americans have never heard of, like Renault, Fiat, Peugeot and Opel.

Any breakthroughs?

The Fiesta offers lots of features for the money, but its biggest breakthrough for the segment is certainly its European breeding. Fiesta-class vehicles are family cars in Europe, meaning it isn’t quite meant to be a cheap throwaway runabout for college students like subcompacts have traditionally been in this market.

As such, you’ll find decent sound insulation, plenty of design flare and a generally grown-up feel throughout.

How does it look?
Since it was introduced in late 2007 in Europe, the Fiesta slots in about halfway through Ford’s kinetic design language cycle that has primarily graced the automaker’s European offerings. Americans will probably find similarities to the Ford Taurus and the upcoming Ford Focus, like the gently creased fenders and trapezoidal design elements.

A four-door sedan meant for Americans (and Chinese buyers, interestingly enough) is also on offer, but we prefer the Euro-centric five-door like our tester. It is clean and balanced, only looking a little too narrow and tall when viewed directly on from the front or rear.

Especially nice cues include the available light bars where Euro-spec cars get traditional projector beam fog lamps and the neat C and D-pillar treatments, which don’t look nearly as heavy as many rivals.

Just give us ours in any shade other than Lime Squeeze.

And on the inside?
Looking like something out of a futuristic space ship, or at least a Transformer toy, the Fiesta’s dashboard is anything but average. The biggest adjustment for drivers used to more conservative designs is unquestionably the center stack, which offers lots of buttons and a small toggle-style switch that control a square red-on-dark red screen mounted up high.

Below these buttons rests a trio of climate control knobs so utterly conventional that they almost seem out of place. A narrow center console lacks a factory-supplied center armrest, but it does have plenty of large cupholders.

A three spoke steering wheel is wrapped in leather on uplevel models like our tester and it boasts convenient cruise, Bluetooth and radio controls, although it lacks volume control. It’s a minor annoyance, but it’s one of several that subtly remind you that, even though there are plenty of features aboard, you’re still in a subcompact car built down to a price point.

At around 68 inches in overall width, the Fiesta might be a bit of a shock for Americans looking to downsize. Don’t think it isn’t a roomy car – it’s actually remarkably spacious – but broad-shouldered passengers won’t find much leftover space if they’re wearing winter jackets. At least our tester featured nifty optional heated cloth seats.

The Fiesta offers a great driving position and solid visibility once you get used to the way-the-heck-out-there front dashboard and short nose. The front seats are firm but supportive and they’re wrapped in the kind of overstyled cloth you expect to find in a European hatchback.

The rear seat offers decent space for two, as well as lots of foot room under the seats. Behind the rear bench is a conveniently sized cargo area that expands significantly when the split-folding second row is flopped down.

Our SES tester also featured adjustable mood lighting and keyless access with push-button start, two features most buyers won’t expect to find in this class.

Materials are a mixed bag, as we’d expect at this price point. Everything was generally well-assembled on our tester, although we did notice an annoying, constant dashboard rattle and the rear portion of the headliner kept popping out of place.

But does it go?

A 1.6-liter four-cylinder with Ford’s twin-independent variable camshaft timing puts out 120 horsepower and 112 lb-ft. of torque, figures that don’t seem like much until you consider the Fiesta’s modest 2,537 lbs. curb weight.

Our tester’s five-speed manual transmission made the most of available power, although we acknowledge that most buyers will wind up with the six-speed twin-clutch automatic. Gearing is spaced out for a nice balance between around town and highway driving, although we kept reaching for a sixth gear. The clutch is light and throws are easy, which hardly gives the Fiesta a sporty feel, but makes shifting simple and seemingly second-nature. Previous experience with the automatic has left us less-than-impressed with its balky low-speed shift quality, making the five-speed stick an even easier sell – at least in our minds.

The four-banger is fairly refined and it stays smooth until about 5,000 rpm, when our tester got a bit grumbly and buzzy. By comparison, the 250 lbs.-lighter Mazda2′s 1.5-liter is down on power, but it is sewing machine smooth throughout the rev band. We’d consider this one a toss-up, although the Fiesta’s better highway fuel economy might give it the nod. For the record, we saw around 26 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway, just shy of the EPA’s 28/37 figures.

Front disc and rear drum brakes aren’t sophisticated, but they’re cheap and, in true Autobahn style, they gave our tester solid braking power with copious amounts of brake dust. We’ll take well modulated brakes over low dust pads any day.

The Fiesta’s handling also proved to be rather European once we got out of the city and explored twisty two-lane roads. The electric-assisted tiller isn’t quite as communicative as the Mazda2′s, but the Fiesta is extremely well balanced and generally very entertaining. There’s more body lean than you’ll find in the Fit or Mazda2, but the Fiesta impressed us with its overall competence and unflappable feel. Aside from the ever-enjoyable Mustang, it is Ford’s most entertaining curvy road offering in North America.

When the road turns straight and fast – think interstate highway travel – the Fiesta naturally begins to reveal its econo-car roots. Crosswinds toss it around, while its short wheelbase and firm suspension inevitably don’t quell rough pavement like a larger car. At least the laminated front windshield and wind tunnel-tested shape keep things quiet and comfortable on smooth, straight roads.

Why you would buy it:
You’re interested in downsizing but don’t want a basic city car.

Why you wouldn’t:

You think that a subcompact should be cheap, cheap, cheap.

Leftlane’s bottom line
We definitely enjoyed our time behind the wheel of the 2011 Ford Fiesta, which single-handedly rewrote so much of what we thought we knew about subcompact cars. It’s comfortable, well built, stylish and comes with a number of nice features and designs that set it apart from cheap and cheerless cars like the Toyota Yaris and Hyundai Accent.

Then we saw our decently-equipped green Fiesta’s $18,590 as-tested price. Talk about a buzzkill. That kind of money can get you behind the wheel of a nicely-optioned Mazda Mazda3i Touring sedan or a 2011 Hyundai Elantra, not to mention a whole host of late model pre-owned cars.

But if any car is going to change buyers’ mindsets to make them realize that a subcompact might be all they need, it’s going to be the Ford Fiesta.

Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.

2011 Ford Fiesta SES Hatchback base price, $17,120. As tested, $18,590.
Package 301A, $795; Destination, $675.
Article courtesy of Left Lane News.com and can be found HERE.

So...your thoughts? The Fiesta has been out now for more than a few months, and although the Sub Compact market hasn't lit up...given the relatively stable price of gas in the United States...what are your thoughts on the Fiesta?

If you were buying one, which body style...Sedan or Hatch...and more critically, which color?

I want to hear your two cents!
RG59061
 

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I have thought seriously about one. I would buy the base sedan. Im a tight wad and all the horns buttons and whistles dont do anything for me. Probably white or silver since they dont show dirt as bad and it would stay outside. One complaint is that you have to upgrade big money just to get cruise. All I want in a car like this is for it to be cheap, AM/FM radio, AC, and cruise. Thats it. I look at them to get to point A to B cheap. If its fun to drive thats a plus. I know I am in the minority but I would rather blow the extra money on a Mustang.

I know right now sales are not all that great but not that bad either. My local dealer at most has two at a time and thats it. Granted, they sell a ton of F series trucks but they just never have many of these cars in stock. Im not sure what the deal is with that. Maybe they dont order many I dont know.
 

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Fiesta is not doing as well as expected due to pricing. With vehicles like the Elantra and Kia Spectra, perhaps Ford needs to decontent and lower entry price. For the money one can upgrade to a well used Fusion or Malibu
I agree. I just can't see myself spending that much on that small of a car. I talk to a lot of people about car buying and almost all of them start with a price range in mind primarily, then think about"market segment". You can get so much more car out of a similarly priced Focus
or 1 year old Fusion, that its really hard to justify a Fiesta no matter how many gizmos it has.
 

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Part of the problem with sales right now imo is that you can buy a better equipped Focus for the same and most time less money. That has to be a factor for somebody just looking for 4 wheels that roll. I know it would matter to me since I really dont get into these type of cars. Plus, its a natural progression as the older they get the more money gets on the hood. Ford is banking an average of 18K a piece on the Fiesta and that is impressive no matter who you are.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
You've got that right 3Mach1, the current Focus is being discontinued and replaced by a new model...so most dealers are discounting them so heavily, that it makes a mid level Focus SE cheaper than a standard Fiesta S...I've seen some Focus' advertised as low as $10,995...much lower than the Fiesta's $13,995 entry price.
 

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You've got that right 3Mach1, the current Focus is being discontinued and replaced by a new model...so most dealers are discounting them so heavily, that it makes a mid level Focus SE cheaper than a standard Fiesta S...I've seen some Focus' advertised as low as $10,995...much lower than the Fiesta's $13,995 entry price.
I tried to find the add but could not. I saw a S Focus for 11K and some change. I cant remember the exact amount but wow that is a lot of car for a little money these days. The Fiesta S Sedan on the other hand is about 14K as you mentioned and I can tell you that is what your going to pay on it give or take a hundred. There simply is no money in that car for the dealer. There are no rebates or anything. By the time they fill it up with gas and wash it they might make a couple of hundred.

We will see what the new year brings but in my mind the Fiesta is a viable competitor. Sales numbers are not everything. Making money is. I think Mulally is way to smart to fall into that trap. I remember him saying they would make money on every single car or truck or they would not make them. (Isnt that a novel idea?) While the sales numbers are not spectacular right now I bet the profits are in line.
 

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Fiesta is not doing as well as expected due to pricing. With vehicles like the Elantra and Kia Spectra, perhaps Ford needs to decontent and lower entry price. For the money one can upgrade to a well used Fusion or Malibu
I agree 100% on that. Pricing is and will continue to hamper the sales potential of the Fiesta. People flip out over compacts being in excess of $20,000, so when they see a sub-compact on the lot with an MSRP of $19,000 they really blow a gasket.

To some degree, the issue may lessen when the old Focus is no longer parked next to it on the lots. The new Focus will be priced accordingly and well above the Fiesta. Otherwise I think it's going to take $4.00/gallon gas to make the Fiesta move in big numbers.
 

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I don't understand this talk... the Fiesta is selling in good numbers, its not that far off from the competition and last month didn't it outsell the Aveo which was leading the pack the month before?

I have been seeing them pop up all over, to say its a failure and selling bad is ridiculous
 

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I don't understand this talk... the Fiesta is selling in good numbers, its not that far off from the competition and last month didn't it outsell the Aveo which was leading the pack the month before?
It outsold the Aveo 3,4xx to 3,2xx in November, both a little more than half the Nissan Versa sales at 6,7xx. In October the Aveo sold more than 6k units, but the Fiesta was at 3,8xx I believe. Quite a bit off the pace.
 

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It outsold the Aveo 3,4xx to 3,2xx in November, both a little more than half the Nissan Versa sales at 6,7xx. In October the Aveo sold more than 6k units, but the Fiesta was at 3,8xx I believe. Quite a bit off the pace.
This. Fiesta volumes are not that great yet.
 

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People should not confuse volume for profit.
That is exactly right! It would be interesting to know if the average transaction price is for the Fiesta is still 3 to 4K above the current Focus and higher than the Civic and the Corolla. That was certainly the case by the end of September.

LINK
 

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Guys you are absolutely right...volume of sales is great...but what is more important is the transaction price per each unit...and the average of those transaction prices...Ford is making more as Sobe so rightly points out per unit and customers are ticking the options box more on their Fiesta.

It may not be moving as many units as the others, but it is fetching more per unit...that makes a difference.

RG59061
 

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Guys you are absolutely right...volume of sales is great...but what is more important is the transaction price per each unit...and the average of those transaction prices...Ford is making more as Sobe so rightly points out per unit and customers are ticking the options box more on their Fiesta.

It may not be moving as many units as the others, but it is fetching more per unit...that makes a difference.

RG59061
I'd place money that Ford management isn't happy with sales volume on the Fiesta yet. The per unit margin is nice, but is it enough to cover the manufacturing costs? Sometimes high volume + smaller margin is better in a manufacturing situation.

I hear that argument a lot about Ford.."well its making money." So? I don't think there is an OEM producing cars just for the sake of volume today (and not making a decent margin).
 

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I'd place money that Ford management isn't happy with sales volume on the Fiesta yet. The per unit margin is nice, but is it enough to cover the manufacturing costs? Sometimes high volume + smaller margin is better in a manufacturing situation.

I hear that argument a lot about Ford.."well its making money." So? I don't think there is an OEM producing cars just for the sake of volume today (and not making a decent margin).
Remember this plant has to service not only the US, Canada, and Mexico...but also Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, and countries in Central America.
 
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