America is known for big cars, and lets face it, we like big cars. Even foreign companies that make great small cars in the rest of the world don’t usually attempt to bring them to the US because they know they will almost certainly be a sales flop. Or would they? When gas prices skyrocketed back in 2008, we had more demand than ever for small fuel efficient cars. Now that the cost of a tankfull has come back down to reality, is their still a demand? I think we are about to find out.
The Fiesta was first introduced in America back in 1978 with the first generation Fiesta. In 1981, the Fiesta was replaced with the Escort in Ford’s American market. Although it wasn’t being sold over here any longer, the Fiesta lived on in Europe. Refined and updated through the years, the Fiesta has gone through six generations. Ford’s new business plan is to create more cars that can be cross-sold in more markets worldwide. The Fiesta is the first such car to be sold in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the Americas. This strategy is significant for a few reasons. First, it will make cars cheaper to produce by having most parts exactly the same. Second, it allows Ford to bring cars into the American market – and vice versa – that we normally wouldn’t see. The Fiesta has been a hit in Europe even participating in many racing venues. Ford is hopping for the same success in America.
So how did they do? First of all, when you would buy a subcompact car in America, it was always the bottom of the line. The small car meant that it was the cheap car. Well that won’t ring true anymore. Our test Fiesta was the SES Hatch with a 5-speed manual transmission. This package will set you back a total of $18,590 including destination and delivery charges. That’s one hefty price for such a small car, but look at what you get. The SES package afforded us nice 16” wheels, power windows and door locks, leather wrapped steering wheel with steering wheel mounted controles, cruise control, heated seats, SYNC voice activated system, iPod connectivity, advancetrac, ABS breaks, 7 air bags, and keyless entry and start. Thats a long list of features you would never have seen in the small cars only a few years back. But you dont have to go all out to get all the benefits of the Fiesta. The starting price is only $13,320 and you still get what makes the Fiesta great – fuel economy and a fun ride.
Speaking of a fun ride, how can you have fun in a small car with a 1.6 liter engine and only 120 horsepower? Well it’s most definitely not a quick car. I dont even care to waste my time looking up the 0-60 time, but that’s really not the purpose of this car. European handling and road feel are what brings this car to life. The tires gripped the pavement well, even though with some quick shifting you can break them loose in second gear. The body roll is at a minimum and the steering is a breeze. It gives you that, always lusted after, go-cart feel.
Your next question might be, is it big enough for everyday use? And the answer would be mostly. We were able to fit 4 adults in the car with no problem. Carrying groceries home from the store was easy with the space afforded to us with the hatchback. Carrying a bag of golf clubs on the other hand, well lets say you better be only taking 2 people to the golf course because you’ll have to fold down the back seats to fit the bags in. Other than golf clubs, we never really had a problem with the size.
The build quality of the Fiesta is not reminiscent to the small cars America is used to either. There are cheap materials, but Ford has done a great job of putting the right materials in the right spots. The dash for example is really soft and rubbery, where in most small cars it’s a hard plastic that inevitably ends up rattling at some point. The steering wheel felt as nice as some 30k and up cars I’ve driven. There wasn’t a lot of road noise in the car which was good, but there was some wind noise. The wind noise, in the car we tested, came from the back driver side door. That would be right by the drivers ear and quickly became annoying. Other than that, we had no complaint about rattles or noise inside the car.
The Fiesta, in the end, lived up to the hype. Would I spend the money on this car considering the growing number of options in the American market in this segment? Would we pick a Fiesta over a Suzuki SX4, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, the soon to come new Hyundai Elantra, the Chevrolet Aveo, or the cousin of the Fiesta the Mazda 2? Well, yes, I think the Fiesta is one of the best looking and best built cars in the segment. I am a big fan of Mazda and Suzuki, but there are little things about both cars that I’d turn away from. If I had the money in my hand ready to buy, I’d get the Fiesta.