2011 Ford Fiesta
2009 European Ford Fiesta. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2009 Ford Fiesta

Toronto, Ontario – Things are busy behind the scenes at Ford. The company is hustling to bring new and revised products to market, including some top performers from Europe.

Not that Ford hasn’t brought European vehicles here before, but the inevitable process of “North Americanizing” them (softening the suspension, revising the appearance, “upgrading” the interior, replacing the powertrain) always seems to backfire. “Why can’t they leave well-enough alone?” is the mantra from auto-writers over the years (not only to Ford). Why, indeed?

Ford promises not to make the same mistake with the European Ford Fiesta, a sub-compact, front-wheel drive, four-passenger car — due for release in Canada next year as a 2011 model. If the performance of the 2009 model, here for a sneak preview, is anything to go by, “Hands off!” should be the order of the day.

2011 Ford Fiesta
2009 Ford Fiesta. Click image to enlarge

The reason is simple: here’s a subcompact that handles so well, while offering a ride so agreeable, that modification for North American preferences (which are surely evolving…) could not possibly improve its driving dynamics. The Fiesta raises the bar that much.

Already sold worldwide, the North American Fiesta will be built in Mexico, and sold here as a four-door sedan (they don’t have that in Europe), and a five-door hatch (they’ve got that). It will share its platform with the upcoming Mazda2, while engine choices are not yet confirmed. Ford says that “90-percent” of the Fiesta will be unchanged for North America.

Our preview vehicles were powered with a sweet 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder gasoline engine making 119 horsepower. That would be fine, thank-you-very-much, or something just like it. Of course, the Europeans also get a torquey 1.6-litre diesel which gets rave reviews. It’s probably too much to hope that we will see this engine, but many Canadians would love the opportunity.

2011 Ford Fiesta
2011 Ford Fiesta
2009 Ford Fiesta. Click image to enlarge

The cars are extremely well-equipped — a distinguishing feature of the Fiesta — with seven airbags, anti-lock brakes, optional leather upholstery, full-power amenities, heated seats and more. Our test cars came with a five-speed manual transmission, although an automatic will also be available (it’s a four-speed automatic in Europe).

We drove the Fiesta on a tight slalom course constructed at an Ontario Place parking lot. The handling is razor sharp; manoeuvrability, most impressive; braking, impeccable. The car feels very tight and strong — Ford says the body is 55 per cent high tensile steel – without the slightest hint of a squeak or rattle or creak as it was flung around the course.

Representatives from the “competitive set” were there — Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit — with the Fit the most competitive of the bunch. But in comparison to the Fiesta, it was still no contest. The Fiesta doesn’t have the Fit’s interior versatility, though.

Surprisingly, the kart-like handling didn’t translate into a harsh ride on the road. The car is smooth and quiet, with a ride that makes it feel like you’re in a much bigger vehicle. Visibility is excellent, with tilt and telescoping steering and a multi-adjustable driver’s seat (including up/down) enabling you to find the optimum driving position. The Fiesta feels quite roomy, even though it’s a pint-sized vehicle.

Interior fabrics and materials all seem high-quality, with a cell-phone-like control module in the centre stack to operate phone/audio functions, supplemented by voice-activated Bluetooth and Sync connectivity.

2011 Ford Fiesta
2011 Ford Fiesta
2009 Ford Fiesta. Click image to enlarge

One thing that should be changed is the big rotary knob, so hard to reach and operate, that adjusts the front seat-backs. Europeans seem to love that knob; they can keep it.

And at the rear, the cargo area seems unfinished (especially the back of the seat and the parcel shelf ties) but this was an exception in an otherwise finely rendered interior.

It’s way too soon to provide pricing on the 2011 Ford Fiesta, but the competitive vehicles in this sector range from a low of $12,498 for the base 2009 Nissan Versa Sedan, to $14,750 for the base 2010 Toyota Yaris sedan to $19,280 for a well-optioned 2009 Honda Fit Sport with manual transmission.
Not included in Ford’s list of competitors is the Hyundai Accent hatchback, but it’s a three-door car that has no planned North American Fiesta equivalent. The 2009 Accent sedan, however, has a list price starting at $14,295.

So, expect the car to be priced in this range, with exact amounts to be released closer to vehicle launch.

Look for the 2011 Ford Fiesta in summer, 2010, hopefully with a more comprehensive Autos First Drive in Spring, 2010.

Related articles on Autos
  • New Ford Fiesta to make cross-country tour, July 29th, 2009
  • Feature: Model T to Fiesta: 100 Years of Ford’s global cars, June 1st, 2009
  • Ford Fiesta topples VW Golf in Europe, April 19th, 2009
  • One hundred Ford Fiestas lent to U.S. “trendsetters,” March 26th, 2009
  • Ford launches Fiesta in China, March 5th, 2009
  • Consumers to road-test 100 new Fiestas in U.S., February 22nd, 2009
  • European Ford Fiesta a taste of what’s to come, February 12th, 2009
  • Ford Fiesta wins U.K. award , January 25th, 2009
  • Ford unveils Fiesta small car at Montreal show, January 15th, 2009
  • Ford Fiesta production begins in China, January 14th, 2009
  • Ford Fiesta sedan world premiere held in China, November 18th, 2008
  • Ford Fiesta “global car” begins production, August 14th, 2008
  • Ford unveils “ultra frugal” Fiesta in the UK, July 22nd, 2008
  • New Ford Fiesta to be built in Mexico in 2010, June 1st, 2008

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