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2011 Ford Fiesta SES Hatchback

 

2011 Ford Fiesta SES Hatchback

Car Tested 2011 Ford Fiesta SES 
Body Style Five-door hatchback
Engine 1.6L four (119 horsepower)
Transmission Five-speed manual
Base price $18,899
Price as tested

$19,399 (Passive Entry/Passive Start package)

Market Fact
The Fiesta shares its platform and some suspension parts with the Mazda 2.

History
The Fiesta has just returned to Canada after a 31 year absence, but has been in continuous
production elsewhere since 1976.

Key Competitors
Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Mazda 2, Nissan Versa.

  

Pronounced wedge profile of the Fiesta hatchback

Performance
The Fiesta's 1.6L four doesn't give its best until spinning past 3000 rpm, but it's smooth, flexible
and emits a pleasing growl at higher revs. With smooth clutch engagement, precise (though the
throws are long) gearchange and good synchromesh, the five-speed manual transmission is a
pleasure to use. Only pronounced gear whine in second gear lets this transmission down. The
tractable powertrain is a delight in traffic as minor changes in speed are accomplished smoothly,
without the bucking experienced in some other cars. The Fiesta has a relaxed highway
demeanour. The Fiesta's steering has a fluid, precise feel with just the right amount of power
assistance. With adroit handling and a firm yet resilient ride, the Fiesta's suspension reflects
much careful development by Ford. The suspension is generally quiet as well, although large
road imperfections can elicit reverberating clunks from the rear of the car. The Fiesta is stopped
by strong, progressive brakes with a nice pedal feel. The driver's footwell is short on space and
the throttle and brake pedals are located very close to each other. Driving the Fiesta with boots on
might be a real challenge. Outward visibility is good to the front, and helped by large door mirrors,
vision to the sides and rear are acceptable despite the sharply rising window line. Some drivers
complained that they couldn't see the front of the car from the driver's seat. The Bluetooth function
of Ford's Sync system is incompatible with some cellular phones.

Flamboyant Fiesta dashboard

Interior
The Fiesta's cabin is fronted by a very dramatic dashboard. It is dominated by a large faux
alloy centre panel holding the radio controls flanked first by piano-like keys for minor controls,
and then by dash vents. Above this panel resides a radio display screen, below it are the
partially hidden but brilliantly-simple three dial climate controls. In contrast, the radio controls
are difficult to fathom, but listeners are rewarded by a sound quality that is rare in this segment.
The upper dashboard bears a distressed linen pattern, and unusually for a car in this class,
is padded. The remainder of the Fiesta's plastic cabin trim is hard to the touch, but with matte
finishes, easy on the eyes. The view of the small, plainly-marked instruments is framed by
a very large steering wheel.

With long, supportive cushions and backrests that locate, but don't restrict their occupants,
the front seats in the Fiesta are very comfortable. The chief drawback of the Fiesta's cabin
is a distinct lack of space. Despite similar exterior dimensions to some of roomiest cars
in its class (38 mm [1.5 inches] shorter than the Honda Fit, 228 mm [9 inches] longer than
a Toyota Yaris hatchback, and 117 mm [4.6 inches] longer [despite the same wheelbase
and cabin dimensions] than the Mazda 2), the Fiesta feels tighter inside than any car in this
class except for the Mazda 2. Even front seat passengers complained about narrow footwells,
intrusive, width-robbing front door pulls and of feeling cramped. While the rear seat is amply
supportive, legroom is in short supply and the high body sides leave some occupants feeling
a bit hemmed in. While a number of drivers conceded that the Fiesta was a delight to drive,
they would dismiss the car in favour of any number of rivals that feature roomier cabins. With the
rear seat in place, the Fiesta's deep, regularly-shaped trunk can hold a fair amount of luggage.
The rear seats don't fold flat, and don't flip forward, making for an uneven load surface.    

 

 Deep, regularly-shaped trunk for a B-segment hatchback

  

Rear seats take up a lot of floor space when folded

Reliability
The Fiesta is too new to predict reliability. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, five
years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
The S sedan (with no air conditioning option) is marketed solely to advertise a low introductory price.
Except for the good value SE-SES hatchback upgrade, trim levels are priced to reflect extra content.
The sedan body style is $700 cheaper than the equivalent hatchback model. Options like heated leather
seats allow drivers to combine a compact, fuel-efficient vehicle format with luxury amenities. Finance
terms are not compelling, as payments (60 months) are only about $20 less per month than they are
for the new 2012 Focus SE hatchback. Leasing is offered, but payments (48 months) are too close
to those for financing to make leasing worthwhile. Payments for most B-segment cars compare
poorly with those in the compact class (Civic, Mazda 3 et al). However, in tight urban quarters (the
Annex in Toronto or the Plateau in Montreal), their svelte dimensions are very attractive to buyers
and worth the high total cost of acquisition. 

Safety
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are standard on all Fiesta models. The Fiesta was a
Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, rated Good in the IIHS Frontal, side,
rear and roof strength tests.

  

Dramatic rear styling of the Fiesta hatchback