The Bottom Line
Ford's subcompact 2011 Fiesta won't hit American streets until early 2010, but the car is on sale in Europe now, and I got a chance to take an early test drive. It's important to note that I drove a mildly-modified European-spec Fiesta, and the US version may vary in terms of powertrain, suspension setup and other details. Even so, I got a good feel for the 2011 Ford Fiesta's styling and practicality -- and a good feeling that, if Ford doesn't change it too much, the Fiesta is going to be very successful here in the States.
- Great styling inside and out
- Lots of fun to drive
- Reasonably roomy and practical
- Not quite as roomy as the Honda Fit
- No word as to what changes will be made to the American version
- Fiesta has been a staple in Ford's European lineup for years
- On sale in the US in early 2010 as a 2011 model
- Hatchback and sedan versions expected for US market
- Final specs for US-market Fiesta have not been announced
Guide Review - 2011 Ford Fiesta preview drive
Let's start with the Fiesta's styling, which may be a bit far out by American standards, but looks great to me -- as I'm sure it will to the young buyers at which the Fiesta is aimed. I drove the five-door hatchback, but Ford plans to offer a four-door sedan for US buyers.
Inside, it's hard to believe this is a Ford -- the design is refreshingly unique and the materials are several grades nicer than what you'll find in a Focus or a Fusion. The front seats feel a little narrow -- Europeans don't eat like we do -- and while a 6'5" colleague raved about the head and legroom, something about the Fiesta felt a little claustrophobic to me. The back seat is comfy and has lots of headroom (tight on legroom, though) and the cargo bay is smartly shaped, though a bit small.
Second to the styling, the best thing about the Fiesta's is the way it drives. Automakers generally soften their cars' suspensions for the US market, but I'm hoping Ford will leave the Fiesta alone -- it's a great little handler, lots of fun to drive, and the ride is comfortable enough for American tastes. The Fiesta I drove had a 118 horsepower 1.6 liter engine with a 5-speed stick, which was pleasantly zippy, albeit a bit noisy and coarse. Hopefully Ford can certify this engine for US emissions rather than substituting something else.
Overall, I was really impressed with the Fiesta. Finally, we have an American-branded car that compares favorably against the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and even the pack leading Honda Fit -- it's not quite as roomy or versatile as the Honda, but it looks just as good and is even more satisfying to drive. Of course, the Fiesta will have to be modified for US sale, and I'm concerned that the essence of this car will get lost in translation. If Ford can Americanize the Fiesta without screwing it up, I think it's going to be a hit. -- Aaron Gold
UPDATE: The production version is here, and they didn't screw it up! Check out my 2011 Ford Fiesta test drive and review.