I still remember the first Ford Fiesta, introduced in the UK in the late 70s. It was simple, boxy and underpowered. As a newly-licensed teenager it did nothing for me. Fast forward to 2011 and everything has changed. The sixth generation European Fiesta is now available in Canada, it's sophisticated, curvaceous, reasonably powerful, and it impresses the heck out of me.
Our tester was the Fiesta SE hatchback, finished in a colour called "Monterey Gray Metallic." From its sweeping front, with stylish headlamp clusters, along the sculptured aerodynamic body, right to the chiselled rear with high-mounted tail lights, it is a car that re-defines the sub-compact class. As if the design itself isn't youthful enough, it can also be had in such colours as "Lime Squeeze Metallic" and "Yellow Blaze Metallic Tri-coat." Don't forget your sunglasses!
Being a sub-compact the car is small, but once you're sitting behind the wheel, you might question that reality. I found plenty of headroom, legroom and shoulder room, and in keeping with accepted modern design, everything fell to hand nicely. I particularly liked the steering wheel, with nice grips at the 10 and 2 positions, complete with grooves for your fingers. It felt right, intuitive, a driver's wheel in a driver's car.
The gauges were clear, providing information quickly and easily. The trip computer sitting between the tachometer and speedometer was also easily readable, displaying the information in a sporty red lettering. On the wheel of our tester, buttons on the left controlled the voice-activated SYNC system, while a matching set of five buttons brought cruise control functions to hand on the right.
The centre of the dash was dominated by a hi-tech, four-inch multifunctional display screen. It allowed for easy adjustment of vehicle settings (clock, ambient light, and display language) plus instant warning of such things as doors left ajar and unsecured hood. The same screen displayed the audio choices, including radio, CDs, available SIRIUS Satellite Radio, and auxiliary digital media players. Navigation through the functions was via small "joysticks" right in the middle of the panel. There was also a cell phone-inspired number pad for hands free use with your Bluetooth phone.
Rear seat passengers have things a little tight. Yes there is room for three adults, but if the people "up front" are large, those in the back are going to find legroom a bit lacking. That's not to say the back is an uncomfortable place to be, certainly for in town commuting this is adequate to the task. Could do with a central arm rest in the 60/40 split seat, but then even my 2009 Malibu doesn't have one, and that's a whole two classes up market from this little Ford.
OK, so what do I think about this wee beastie? I love it. It's like driving a go-cart with tons of style. Although not a drag racer, it has nice power from the 1.6L four-cylinder up front, and an even nicer throaty growl at higher revs. Shifts from the optional six-speed automatic gearbox are tight and fast, and there was absolutely no evidence of torque steer.
Road holding is excellent, and the turning circle is small enough to loop you round on the highway without the need for reversing. The front seats are very comfortable, and even the headrest is in the right position, something you can't always say about Fords. The hatchback body style adds superb utility, with the lifting tailgate and dropdown rear seats providing plenty of space to carry larger items. To my eyes the hatch also has the edge on sporty and attractive style; it's just a whole lot more appealing than the sedan version.
I genuinely didn't want to give the car back to Merit Ford. It was stylish, youthful, and a whole lot of fun to drive. It made me FEEL good, it's not just a mode of transport, it's a happiness-machine! If I bought one of these, I'd go for the Yellow Blaze colour just to spread a little sunshine to people and to make 'em smile! And I'd be smiling too, at its miserly 4.9L/100km highway and only 6.8L/100km city economy.
Yes, the Fiesta has a lot going for it. It is light years ahead of the early versions all those years ago. Well-equipped, well-designed, well put together, it is an ideal first car for young people, and could be a great ride for those older folks wanting a second car with pretentions of youth and incredible economy. Ford has done a great job with this car; it's a perfect entry-level introduction to the brand. For more information go to www.ford.ca online or pick up a brochure at your local dealer.