Sunday, July 4, 2010;
Bottom line: The Fiesta is a welcome and worthy addition to the U.S. subcompact-car market. But it remains to be seen whether it and its rivals -- models such as the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris -- will be here for generations, or only until Americans reacquaint themselves with optimism and the belief, however flawed, in endless economic growth and cheap oil.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The Fiesta is a joy in city traffic. It's tight, agile. It rides well on poorly maintained streets (MacPherson strut suspension up front, twist beam in the rear). Acceleration is more than good enough for the city, adequate on the highway.
Head-turning quotient: It's cute (some translate that as "girlie").
Body style/layout: A front-engine, front-wheel-drive subcompact economy car available as a sedan or hatchback.
Engine/transmission: It comes with a 1.6-liter, 16-valve (variable valve timing) in-line four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission is standard at this writing. An optional six-speed automatic, which also can be shifted manually, will be available in late summer or early fall.
Capacities: Seats for five. Luggage capacity with rear seats up is 15.4 cubic feet. With rear seats down, luggage capacity is 26 cubic feet, still below that of rivals such as the Honda Fit. The fuel tank holds 12 gallons; regular gasoline is recommended.
Mileage: I kept this one mostly in the city, where I averaged 27 miles per gallon -- one mile below its federal mileage rating.
Safety: Front disc and rear drum brakes are standard and more than adequate, though I would prefer four-wheel discs. Other standard equipment includes four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, side and head air bags, and electronic stability and traction control.
Price: The 2011 Ford Fiesta SE hatchback starts at $15,120. Dealer's invoice on that model is $14,578. Price as tested is $15,975, including $180 for the optional "red candy metallic clear-coat" paint job and a $675 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $15,409. (For those of you who asked: You're better off with a portable navigation device in this one.)