The 2011 Ford Fiesta is based on Ford's global B-segment platform (it's been a hot seller in Europe since 2008, but hasn't been available in America until now), and has only a few changes from the sharp-handling European version. Auto writers welcome the European style and driving character. Automobile Magazine's Jason Cammisa describes the U.S. Fiesta as "a little car with big style, a big smiles-per-mile factor, and big mpg numbers."
The Fiesta's handling is a strong point, reviews say. Cammisa writes, "Drive the Fiesta aggressively, and you'll know why the rest of the world considers this Ford to be the small-car-handling benchmark. It makes the Honda Fit feel like a cargo van."
Reviewers call the Ford Fiesta's exterior styling sleek, modern and attractive, especially with regard to the hatchback's sporty look. The sedan loses points among critics for its "stubby trunk" proportions as well as its reduced utility. Critics like the Fiesta for looking more upscale and expensive than it actually is. TheTruthAboutCars.com's Michael Karesh says that, "In hatchback form, the Fiesta is the segment's best looking car."
The Fiesta comes as either a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. For more utility, reviewers recommend the hatch, with its 15.4-cubic-foot cargo area that expands to 26 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Note, however, that the Fiesta's backseats don't fold completely flat. The sedan has a 12.8-cubic-foot trunk and a 60/40 split folding rear seatback.
Interior space is small, even for the subcompact class, with either body style. Automobile Magazine's Cammisa explains that size is "where the Fiesta comes up short, particularly in rear legroom: it has 3.3 inches less legroom that the Fit and a shocking 6.8 inches less than the (Nissan) Versa." He adds, "Sadly, there is no enormous trunk to make up for it, either -- the Fit has 34 percent more cargo room, and its seats do an origami flip-and-fold that the Fiesta's don't."
While reviews praise the interior layout for its attractive design and high-quality appearance, some critics are disappointed that the softly padded dash material wasn't used more widely. "Far more important in most cars are the door panels, where arms and elbows regularly rest," explains Cars.com's Kelsey Mays. "The Fiesta's are rock-hard, and I'm not sure why Ford didn't invest there instead of on the dash." But he adds, "Materials are handsome for this class, with high-rent stereo and climate controls."
Also, families will probably want to bring the clan along to try the Fiesta out for size before buying. In MotherProof.com's mom-with-kids oriented review, writer Sherrice Gilsbach says while the Fiesta is "not aimed at families, it could work for smaller families who have traded the bulky child-safety seats for booster seats."
A smooth, quiet ride is another high point for the Fiesta. Motor Trend's Scott Evans calls the ride quality "well sorted, giving enough to make it comfortable as a daily driver but sufficiently tight to keep you more than entertained on winding roads." The solid ride contributes to a quiet cabin, reviewers say. Dan Neil writes for The Wall Street Journal, "The Ford can get a little tinny and loud under pressure -- despite a lot of sound-abatement materials -- but around town the Fiesta's cabin is notably plush."
All Ford Fiestas are equipped with a 120-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual gearbox, while Ford's PowerShift six-speed dual-clutch automatic is available as an option. This twin-clutch gearbox system helps save fuel, but many critics say it's still disappointing. USA Today's James Healey says, "It seemed tuned more for mileage than fun. Downshifts often were reluctant," and it was "sluggish off the mark." More disturbing to several critics is the automatic's lack of manual-shift override controls, such as steering wheel paddles.
In a three-car comparison test, Car and Driver rates the Fiesta in last place behind the winning Honda Fit and lighter and even more fun-to-drive 2011 Mazda2 (Base MSRP: $14,180 to $15,635). Editors were disappointed in the Fiesta's heavy curb weight and slow acceleration.
Other reports with test-track data also demonstrate the Fiesta's sharp handling, but slow acceleration. Road & Track says the Fiesta with a manual transmission is "considerably slower than the Honda Fit (9 seconds), Nissan Versa (9.2 seconds) and Toyota Yaris (8.5 seconds)." The automatic transmission is even slower at 9.9 seconds to 60 mph. Cars.com's Mays explains what this means on the road: "Getting up to highway speeds requires a steady prod on the accelerator, and uphill stretches call up the engine's full reserves to maintain speed, but this is the norm in the entry-level class."
The base Ford Fiesta S sedan (Base MSRP: $13,320) includes air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power mirrors, AM/FM radio with MP3 jack/USB connection and manual windows. The Fiesta SE (Base MSRP: $14,320 to $15,120) sedan or hatchback adds power windows, remote keyless entry, trip computer, CD player, metallic interior trim. The top-of-the-line Ford Fiesta SEL sedan (Base MSRP: $15,990) and Fiesta SES hatchback (Base MSRP: $17,120) hatchback add 16-inch alloy wheels, premium sound system with satellite radio, Ford Sync connectivity system, heated mirrors and additional trim features. Optional equipment varies by model or option package, but includes an alarm system, leather upholstery, heated seats, a power moonroof and push-button start.
The voice-activated Sync system allows the user to integrate portable media devices such as an iPod, MP3 player or USB thumb drive with the car's existing controls and voice commands. It also adds Bluetooth hands-free connectivity for phones and audio streaming, and is praised by reviewers for its ease of use and the fact that few other entry-level cars offer a system like it. Via a GPS module, Sync also provides turn-by-turn driving directions -- a useful feature, especially considering a navigation system is not available.
Regardless, the Fiesta offers more than many other small cars, auto writers say. In addition to options such as heated seats, leather upholstery and the dual-clutch automatic transmission, Automobile Magazine's Cammisa adds, "Standard features such as three-blink turn signals, blind-spot mirrors, and a capless fuel filler aren't available from any of the competition, either."
Fuel economy is one of the Fiesta's strongest points, reviews emphasize. With a manual transmission, the Fiesta gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. The automatic transmission increases fuel efficiency by 1 mpg across the board: 29 city/38 highway/33 combined. Finally, the Fiesta SFE (Superior Fuel Economy) package for the automatic-equipped Fiesta SE adds low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic enhancements to boost highway fuel economy to 40 mpg (the city/combined numbers remain 29/33).
Standard safety equipment in the 2011 Ford Fiesta includes ABS, electronic stability control and seven airbags: driver and passenger front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, and a driver's side knee airbag. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names the 2011 Ford Fiesta a Top Safety Pick -- the only vehicle in the minicar class to be recognized as such. In IIHS tests, the Fiesta scored the max rating of "Good" in front and side impact crashes, as well as the roof-strength evaluation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Fiesta an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5 for its performance in federal crash and rollover risk tests.
The most common competitor mentioned in reviews is also the de facto benchmark in the subcompact class: the 2011 Honda Fit (Base MSRP: $15,100 to $16,860). Reviewers credit the higher priced Fit for having a much larger interior, but they generally say the Fiesta has better handling, is quieter and has more available equipment.
The Ford Fiesta also beats the Fit and other conventionally gas-powered subcompacts in fuel economy. The 2011 Nissan Versa (Base MSRP: $9,990 to $17,190) beats the Fiesta on price, ride comfort and roominess, but fails to match the Ford's refinement, style and handling, critics say.
Edmunds.com editors note that the 2011 Suzuki SX4 (Base MSRP: $13,499 to $18,999) "presents a strong value proposition." But versus the competition, Edmunds.com claims, "if you want the one that equals or betters them at their own games, it's the Fiesta."
Cars.com, Edmunds Inside Line and Motor Trend provide three of the most comprehensive evaluations. Additional valuable critiques with plenty of behind-the-wheel driving opinions can also be found at The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Autoblog.com. Car and Driver conducts a thorough, three-car comparison test with the Fiesta up against its chassis-mate, Mazda2, and Honda Fit. Road & Track compares the Fiesta to the Mazda2 in a brief, but insightful, article.
This extensive review by Cars.com staffer Kelsey Mays gives plenty of details and driving impressions of the Ford Fiesta. Charts show that the Fiesta beats most competitors in fuel economy, but trails most rivals for cargo volume.
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta, Kelsey Mays, April 25, 2010
2. Car and Driver
The Ford Fiesta finishes last in this three-car comparison test, behind the Mazda2 and first-place Honda Fit. While the test vehicle averaged 32 mpg, that figure was less efficient than both rivals. The Fiesta was also the slowest of the three, taking 10.1 seconds to reach 60 mph.
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs. 2010 Honda Fit, 2011 Mazda 2 -- Comparison Tests, Michael Austin, Sept. 2010
3. Edmunds Inside Line
Edmunds Inside Line's thorough review includes track testing figures and good driving impressions of the Ford Fiesta SES hatchback. Editor Dan Edmunds notes that the Fiesta offers a "longer list of standard and optional equipment than most, if not all, subcompacts." But he suggests starting with an SE model and avoiding some more expensive, unnecessary features.
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta SES Full Test, Dan Edmunds, May 4, 2010
4. Road & Track
This brief comparison test includes track performance of the Ford Fiesta vs. the Mazda2, but doesn't choose a winner. The less expensive Mazda2 had 20 fewer horsepower, but proved faster and nimbler, thanks to its 275-pound weight advantage. Editors say, "The Fiesta feels more substantial than its competitors, and offers a surprisingly supple ride."
Review: Ford Fiesta vs. Mazda2 -- Comparison Test, Editors of Road & Track, Oct. 5, 2010
5. Motor Trend
Scott Evans discusses the small-car market in America, and how Ford's Fiesta combines low price, a good level of equipment and good handling into a strong competitor. With good technical detail and driving impressions, this article describes the Fiesta quite well.
Review: First Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta (U.S. Spec), Scott Evans, April 23, 2010
In this comprehensive article, Autoblog.com writer Chris Paukert says, "Unlike, say, the Honda Fit or Nissan Versa, the Blue Oval has chosen to prioritize aesthetics over interior space and flexibility, and that's a trade-off you'll have to decide if you can live with."
Review: Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta SES Promises the Democratization of Fun, Chris Paukert, Aug. 5, 2010
7. Automobile Magazine
In a detailed review, editor Jason Cammisa gives a good description of the Ford Fiesta, its European background and some of its technological features. He says, "Suspension calibration is essentially unchanged from the European version, and body control is, in a word, brilliant."
Review: Driven: 2011 Ford Fiesta, Jason Cammisa, July 2010
8. The Wall Street Journal
Auto critic Dan Neil provides excellent insight into the American small-car market segment and the Ford Fiesta's place in it. There are driving impressions as well, in which Neil says, "Ford tried very hard to keep this a European-feeling small car -- stiffly sprung, lively, reactive, more about corners than straightaways."
Review: Small Wonder: The Fiesta Delivers, Dan Neil, May 8, 2010
In this Edmunds.com summary, John DiPietro discusses the small car market and how the Ford Fiesta is offering more than most rivals. Among his negative points are the small cargo capacity and that a traditional navigation display is not available.
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta SES Road Test, John DiPietro
10. USA Today Magazine
USA Today's auto writer James Healey adheres to his standard road-test evaluation format, providing a good summary review of the Ford Fiesta with comparisons to rivals such as the Honda Fit. He says, "Ford has hit the mark pretty squarely with its Americanized Euro-market Fiesta subcompact."
Review: Test Drive Review: Ford's New Fiesta Has Honda Fit Beat, James R. Healey, April 30, 2010
Among the three Ford Fiesta reviews on TheTruthAboutCars.com, this one is the most critical. Michael Karesh likes the Fiesta's ride and feels that most folks will be happy with the handling, but he adds, "But for anyone with an interest in driving, the Fiesta's handling falls short of (admittedly high) expectations."
Review: Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta, Take 3, Michael Karesh, Sept. 29, 2010
MotherProof.com is unique in that its writers approach all vehicles from the perspective of how it handles duty shuttling around not just adults, but their children as well. In this review, reprinted at Cars.com, the Ford Fiesta is evaluated with family-friendliness in mind
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta, Sherrice Gilsbach, June 30, 2010
In ConsumerGuide.com's standardized review, editors rate three variations of the Ford Fiesta, and give it their Best Buy recommendation. One test car averages 36.9 mpg and another gets 34.6 mpg. Editors warn that "low-speed acceleration suffers" with the optional automated manual transmission.
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com
ConsumerSearch automotive editor Alex Nunez test drives the Ford Fiesta and gives a recap of its features, driving impressions and positive and negative aspects. He calls the Fiesta "a highly competent subcompact that's both attractive and enjoyable to drive."
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta: Hands-on Review , Alex Nunez, Nov. 10, 2010
15. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback its Top Safety Pick honor for its top ratings of "Good" in crash tests. The Fiesta is the only vehicle in the minicar class to achieve the Institute's top award.
Review: Ford Fiesta Sedan, Editors of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
16. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The 2011 Ford Fiesta hatchback and sedan earn the second highest rating overall, 4 stars, in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta 5 HB FWD, Editors of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration