So you may have heard me going on for months about this hypebeast eco-car from Europe-land. Well today I finally got some time behind the wheel in the form of a short dealership test drive. My impressions after the jump, but I will just say this: I don’t like it any less.
I know you’re probably sick of hearing me rant and rave about the 2011 Ford Fiesta. Why would I be so interested in a small car, which is focused on economy over sport? Why are you so fascinated about a car that’s primary function is to save you money, not stir your soul? Well before I get to the car itself, I thought I should justify my madness, even if you don’t understand. I don’t understand it sometimes myself! Personally though, I am a HUGE small car advocate. I think my Legacy is too big and heavy! Seriously, car’s don’t NEED to be any bigger. And I especially hate those stupid full-size trucks and SUVs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate those types of cars/trucks because I’m an eco-mentalist (my friends will tell you that’s furthest from the truth in fact), I hate them because they plug up our roads, cause more traffic than there needs to be, and generally just get in my way. So yes, this is a selfish me thing. Sorry about that.
Getting back to the small car though, I’m one of those that feel you don’t need a 400 BHP mid-engined Italian monster to get your passion-juices flowing. A small cheap car can do all the same things, for sometimes 1/10 of the price! Especially in a city such as Honolulu, because we don’t really have anywhere here to stretch a performance car’s legs, safely and legally anyway. You can have just as much, if not more fun driving a tiny car through a congested city. And that’s the reason I’m drawn to cars such as the Fiesta. Sure, I love a good Ferrari or BMW M, but are they really necessary to live with everyday for a petrolhead? No.
So then, the 2011 Ford Fiesta. The car that spearheads Ford’s commitment to a one-world lineup. A car which the Europeans bought in droves when it was first released over there a couple of years ago. A car that’s supposed to show American’s that you can have your small-car/big features cake, and eat it too. So, has it worked? Well, for me it has. But I still, unfortunately, question whether the normal ignorant American will still understand it. But let’s not dwell on market and such, let’s see how this thing feels and drives.
I won’t speak on the exterior styling too much, because we’ve been seeing it for months now. I will say that it looks a lot smaller in person than it does in print/pictures. And that’s a good thing in my book. It’s also a lot shorter in person as well, which I like. The interior however is where, predictably, it doesn’t quite live up to my expectations. Sure, it’s a lot better than our US-spec Focuses, but it doesn’t have that European feel a VW has. Again, that’s MY fault for expecting more, but still. All this hype about European engineering, you’d think they bring over a decent feeling interior. Perhaps the higher-spec models feel better, because the one I drove was more or less a base model. Also, because it was a base model I drove, it didn’t have all the cool toys they’ve been advertising (SYNC, push-button start to name a couple). Still, driving position is bang-on great, much better than a Honda Fit. Just sitting in the driver’s seat lets you know that this is a car that’s focused more on driving-feel than the white-goods feel of the Honda Fit. And at the end of the day, its a 16K car, so the interior is actually right on the mark for that.
Now we get to where I feel the Fiesta shines: behind the wheel. Anyone who’s read any press on the Fiesta knows that the thing everyone says about this car is that it seems to be a car that wants to be driven with gusto. It’s just a fun car to drive. I really thought it was all hype. I really thought it was just words, and that in reality it would drive like a normal 16K car. I was wrong, but only slightly. For it’s price segment, it’s just fantastic to drive. As I mentioned slightly earlier, it feels like it has some kind of soul, unlike a Honda Fit. It’s probably the steering feel most of all, it feels solid. It feels like it’s actually connected to the front wheels, which is rare now days, and almost non-existent in cars priced below 25K. It’s got better steering feel than a Hyundai Gen. Coupe for Christs sake! It feels great, I really love the steering feel. As far as the suspension, it feels fine, although a but harsh on Oahu’s crappy roads. But it’s never a bother, and the cabin is spooky-like quite, again something rare in this price point. As far as the transmission, the shifter feels good, although the throws could be a bit shorter. And the clutch is SOFT. I mean, it’s not mushy, but it aint a performance clutch that’s for sure. That being said, I would absolutely LOVE that clutch in stop and go traffic. I admit, I never got to really, you know, “drive” the car. So, while I can’t really comment much further, I can feel the potential. The only issue I have is perhaps the lack of power, but living in town the only place that may become an issue is on the freeway.
So, because this was a limited drive, I’m trying to keep this short, so in conclusion: The Fiesta is a GOOD car, for the price. And by that I mean in the 17-18K range. I would not pay anymore than that for it. It comes with a lot of car for that price, but not much more than that. And with all that being said, the Honda Fit is the better car. BUT, the Fiesta is better looking, and much better to drive, and for those two reasons alone, I’d choose a Fiesta over a Fit. So as you can see, the Fiesta is not for everyone. If you need a cheap hatchback to take you, practically and comfortably, to work and back, the Fit really is go. But, if you want to get there and back with a smile on your face, I really think the Fiesta is better. I know I’ve said this three-letter word far too much this post, but it’s just more FUN. And if you call yourself a car guy, that’s all that should matter.