Ford joins the subcompact party with a stunner!
Mike Sefton and Andrew McGuckin - CleanMPG
- Aug. 7, 2011
Our 2011 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch parked at the Route 66 Restaurant in Santa Rosa, NM.
Without a small car offering in North America for more than 10 years, rising fuel prices and an increased interest in the subcompact segment gave Ford a good reason to rejoin the party. Enter the Fiesta. With over 15 million Fiestas produced since its introduction in 1976, it has proven to be a very popular choice in Europe. The latest sixth generation went on sale in 2008 overseas and was designed from the beginning to be Ford’s first true “World Car”, intended for sales around the globe. The Fiesta also marks a shift in strategy for Ford’s small cars; instead of selling a low-priced but somewhat undesirable subcompact as they may have done in the past, the new Fiesta has gone upmarket with plenty of standard amenities and a full array of safety features.
How would Ford’s re-entry into the North American B-segment turn out? CleanMPG took a 2011 Fiesta SES hatchback with the 5-speed stick on a week long, coast-to-coast drive to see what the car could do.
2011 Ford Fiesta Specifications
The Fiesta is available in both the 5-door hatch and 4-door sedan body styles, with two trim levels offered on the hatch and three on the sedan. Features such as stability control, a class-leading 7 airbags, and blind-spot mirrors are standard on all Fiestas. Complete specifications including standard and optional equipment can be found on the 2011 Ford Fiesta Specifications page
As a 2012 Ford Fiesta SES 5-Door Hatch, our tester prices out at $19,090 with Equipment Group 301A (Push button start, a proximity key system that Ford calls Intelligent Access, heated front seats, Chrome Beltline and decklid moldings) and includes Destination and Handling.
Meet the 2011 Ford Fiesta 5-door
2011 Ford Fiesta Exterior
2011 Ford Fiesta SES 5-door Hatch as it would roll off a dealerships showroom floor.
The Fiesta stands out from much of its B-segment competition with its edgy, European appearance. Splashes of chrome trim around the side windows and in the lower bumper brighten up the already lively appearance, and along with features such as turn signals integrated in the side mirrors, good-sized alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler, give the car an expensive look.
Panel gaps were tight and consistent and the paint well applied. The Fiesta has a good selection of vibrant colors for the owner to choose from, which is a welcome change in a segment dominated by boring shades with little color.
The fang-like light strips in the lower front bumper look distinctive at night but unfortunately do not provide much additional illumination.
Sharp creases and the car's stance give it a look of dynamic energy even while standing still. There is a strong character line beginning at the front fenders which flows to the rear and tapers off just behind the rear doors. Together, the shape of the side windows and character lines give the impression of motion. Door handles are nicely integrated with the crease on the doors, cleaning up the appearance. Overall, the car has clean lines and a unified look.
"Fangs" are eye catching at night / Fiesta rolling down highway
2011 Ford Fiesta Interior
There is a price to pay for the Fiesta’s bold styling. The slope of the roof helps clean up aerodynamics at the rear but the tradeoff is reduced rear visibility and less headroom in the back seat. Side mirrors are excellent, with small integrated convex blind-spot mirrors providing a much wider view than what most mirrors usually provide. Dash materials are good, with soft-touch plastics on many surfaces and a comfortably padded steering wheel. As with the exterior, bits of chrome and lighter colored plastics help to liven up the appearance and break up the large amounts of black in the interior. Unfortunately, the large black dashboard gets hot in the sun and with a “shiny” surface, tends to reflect in the windshield. Climate controls are simple and easy to operate, though the SYNC/entertainment controls are complicated at first glance and take some figuring out. Setting the climate control to “defrost” or “defrost and feet” engages the air conditioner in “stealth mode”. The AC indicator does not illuminate but testing the air temperature on a hot day revealed that the compressor was definitely engaged. With no indicator to show this action, many drivers will unknowingly reduce their performance and mileage. Gauges are straightforward and easy to read. The included seat heaters were fast to heat up but only the seat bottoms were wired. In addition, there was only 1 setting. No Hi/Lo. The built-in FCD does not accumulate during a FAS and therefore was next to useless for some of the drive.
Your space in one of the best subcompacts on the road today.
Storage space up front was better than expected, however the rear doors did not have any side pockets and there was no pocket on the back of the driver’s seat. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat provides good cargo flexibility, though the seats do not fold flat and the cargo volume with seats folded lags behind some other competitors. Brandon Daly, whom rode along for a few days, pointed out that rear leg room is helped by what could be considered "knee pockets" in the rear of the front seats. A handy USB port in the center console was useful for powering USB devices. The Fiesta also included footwell lights with a push-button to cycle through several different colors should the driver want to start a disco party. The mood lights do take their toll on the battery so we disabled them at night.
Missteps: Slightly odd but there was a lack of a center armrest and coat hangers, especially in a car with so many other standard features? The car could also use larger or telescoping sun visors as they did not cover the entire length of the side windows.
There is plenty of driver position adjustability with a telescoping steering wheel and height adjustable seat, which allows for most drivers to find a good seating position. The lower seat cushion was too low and short for those with longer legs however. In the rear, the Fiesta gives up an inch or two of legroom, headroom, and shoulder room compared to its competition but was still liveable for longer journeys.
Blind-spot mirror and sun visor
Without the Blind-spot mirror, the silver car would be invisible. Sun visor was too short.
2011 Ford Fiesta Safety and Crash Test Results
Designed with safety in mind, the Fiesta was the first subcompact car to receive the IIHS’ “Top Safety Pick” award since the addition of the roof strength tests. More than 50% of the Fiesta’s structure is composed of high strength or ultra high strength steel, enabling a distinctive design while still retaining excellent crash performance.
Standard safety features on the Fiesta include Vehicle Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions with shoulder height adjustment and pretensioners for the front seatbelts. The Fiesta comes with seven airbags, which includes front, front-side, side curtain, and a driver’s knee airbag.
The Fiesta received an overall score of 4 stars on NHTSA’s tests, with a 5-star rating for side impacts and a 4-star rating for rollover and front impacts. The IIHS gave the Fiesta a “Top Safety Pick” award and rated it as “Good” across the board for frontal offset, side impact, and roof strength tests.
IIHS Top Safety Pick
NHTSA 4-Star Crash Test Rating
Black Triangle Notification: Due to the intrusion of the left rear door during the side impact test, the interior door panel struck the torso of the rear passenger dummy, causing a high lower spine acceleration. High lower spine accelerations, in excess of 82 g's have a higher likelihood of thoracic injury.
Note: Although not included in the star rating, the rear passenger's thoracic rib deflection was elevated.
2011 Ford Fiesta Driving Impressions
Out on the road, the Fiesta’s European roots show through with a comfortable and controlled ride that doesn’t sacrifice handling performance. While navigating through LA, a slow GPS and unfamiliarity with the area required a few sharp maneuvers, to which the Fiesta responded with agile reflexes. Avoiding the odd opossum on the interstate was also drama free. Wind noise was well muted up front but tire noise was louder than expected when tires were pumped up. Wind noise was more audible in the back seats though we could never find the source. The electric power steering system gives good feel and responds well to driver input, and because the system is electric, steering feel is not affected during a FAS. A lower air dam below the front bumper suffered a few scrapes going up and down ramps into parking lots. It was no worse for wear, but we suspect that it may not be in such good shape after a few winters plowing snow and ice.
The 1.6L engine has Ford’s Ti-VCT variable camshaft timing to help improve power and fuel economy and serves up 120 HP. It felt slightly underpowered at lower engine speeds, although the car was also carrying plenty of weight in the form of passengers and luggage which undoubtedly dulled its responses. The 5-speed manual transmission has longish throws but offers good feel. As with most manual transmissions, the top gears are far too short resulting in an inordinate amount of wasted fuel and an unnecessary amount of NVH at highway speeds. In top gear at 60 mph, the engine was running at just under 2,700 rpm. This gearing was good for long climbs where the engine’s full output was required; on flat ground is where it hurts as it was running too high for good mileage without incorporating advanced techniques. We would have preferred that Ford ratio 4th gear where 5th currently is and allow 5th or even a 6th overdrive gear to reduce NVH and more importantly, increase highway fuel economy. It would require a downshift in the mountains but still allow better fuel economy on the flats. If an owner is willing to shift up and down through the gears to get to highway speeds, the occasional downshift for steeper grades should not be an onerous task.
The engine has a tendency to hold revs for a second or so when shifting or driving advanced which we found annoying until we were used to it. The FAS procedure is as follows:
- Clutch in
- Shift to neutral
- Release Clutch
- Hold the push-button start for a second and the ICE powers down.
- Quickly push and release the pushbutton start to reboot.
Important Notes: If the pushbutton start is pressed while the clutch is depressed, it engages the starter, so the driver must clutch out again in neutral first.
The engine is slow to return to idle, requiring a second or two while RPM drops. If it is not low enough, the engine will come back to life when the car boots back up. Unlike the Focus, the Fiesta can be bump started.
2011 Ford Fiesta SES Hatch – Odometer Study
P&G vs. 20-miles per highway mile markers: Fiesta Odometer/Trip A/B – 19.6 miles vs. 20.0 miles actual.
Steady State vs. 35-miles per highway mile markers: Fiesta Odometer/Trip A/B – 35.1 miles vs. 35.0 miles actual.
2011 Ford Fiesta SES Hatch – 60-mph RPM Study
Calculated - 2,652
Actual - 2,700
2011 Ford Fiesta Fuel Economy Results
Loaded to within a few hundred pounds of GVWR, the Fiesta had its work cut out for it in terms of fuel economy. We’re happy to report that even with all the extra mass it had to carry, the Fiesta was still able to almost double its EPA rating. Final numbers were 2671 miles on 42.089 gallons for 63.46mpg
2011 Ford Fiesta 5MT FE ratings
|Units||City||Highway||Combined||CleanMPG Observed Fuel Economy|
|US||28 (mpgUS)||37 (mpgUS)||32 (mpgUS)||63.46 (mpgUS)|
|Imperial||33.6 (mpgIMP)||44.4 (mpgIMP)||38.4 (mpgIMP)||76.2 (mpgIMP)|
|Metric||8.4 L/100 km||6.4 L/100 km||7.4 L/100 km||3.70 (L/100 km)|
Individual tanks were as follows:
2011 Ford Fiesta FE Results
2011 Ford Fiesta SES Hatch – Steady State MPG Study
|Gallup, NM||647||11.219||57.7||0 - 4000 - 500 - 7350|
|Amarillo, TX||659||10.016||65.8||7350 - 5000 - 7000 - 5000 - 4500|
|Carlisle, AR||613||8.949||68.5||4500 - 5000 - 300|
|Pooler, GA||752||11.905||63.2||300 - 1300 - 0|
70-mph - 33.4 MPG (5th gear)
60-mph - 41.0 MPG (5th gear)
50-mph - 49.7 MPG (5th gear)
40-mph - 58.9 MPG (5th gear)
These results were completed by using CC on a relatively flat section of the Interstate +/- 20’ elevation delta’s over approximately 5-miles each. Winds were calm with a temperature range from 71 to 74 degrees F.
When we say the Fiesta was loaded up, we mean it!
Your intrepid lead author taking his turn in the “thick of it”
We were very curious to see exactly how much we had weighed the Fiesta down by absolutely stuffing it with camping gear and luggage from floor to ceiling. As we were crossing the country, we kept an eye out for weigh stations and it was not until finally just outside Atlanta; we found an open east bound station. Packed full with three people and gear, the car weighed in at 3360 lbs, 823 lbs over the curb weight and only 260 lbs under its GVWR. The Fiesta, which we had come to call "Orange Crush", had carried this load from one coast to another over the Sierra Nevadas and Rockies, the open plains, hundreds of rivers and streams, without a complaint and at over 63 mpg. If that isn't a good endorsement for a road-trip car, we don't know what is.
"Orange Crush" weighed in at a hefty 3360 lbs, 823lbs over its curb weight
Actual Weigh Station load out sheet.
2011 Ford Fiesta Conclusions
Overall, the Fiesta has a lot going for it when compared to its subcompact competition. The Fiesta’s ride, handling, and refinement are all at or near the top of the class. Add in excellent fuel economy and a “Top Safety Pick” rating and the Fiesta shows that small economy cars do not have to be penalty boxes. We are glad Ford realized this and hope that it sets an example for other manufacturers to follow in this increasingly important segment.
With graphics attached, there was not a better looking Fiesta or for that matter, subcompact available anywhere!