2011 Ford Fiesta Review and Prices
The 2010 Ford Fiesta is the best car for you if you want to downsize without downgrading. Think of the 2011 Ford Fiesta as automotive espresso: lots of flavor, a bit of a kick, no filler.
Distilling everything Ford’s estimable European designers know about building a subcompact car, the 2011 Ford Fiesta is a game-changing blend of fuel efficiency and driving brio. Offered as a four-door sedan and four-door hatchback, this new-to-the-U.S. car boasts daring styling, a near-$14,000 starting price, and 40 mpg on the highway – with automatic transmission. It offers Americans a high-feature subcompact born of a culture in which cars like this are primary transportation for middle-class families.
Should you buy the 2011 Ford Fiesta or wait for the 2012 Ford Fiesta? Buy the 2011 Fiesta, as it’s not likely to see any changes for model-year 2012. You’ll be driving a small car with head-turning design while it’s still fresh and will avail yourself of an additional year’s ownership in its current form.
2011 Ford Fiesta Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 Fiesta is the smallest and least expensive car Ford sells in the U.S. but it shares with the upcoming 2012 Ford Focus compact a dramatic ensemble of swoops and wedges Ford calls “kinetic” design. Fiesta and the redesigned Focus both have roots in Ford’s overseas styling studios and represent the company’s new global approach to car design.
The 2011 Fiesta four-door hatchback is about as long as the Honda Fit four-door hatchback. The Fiesta sedan is a substantial 13.5 inches longer – it’s one of the longest cars in the subcompact class. Both Fiesta body styles ride the same wheelbase. This distance between the front and rear axles is a primary determinate of a car’s interior volume, and Fiesta’s 98-inch wheelbase is par for the category. The 2011 Fiesta sedan has a lower starting price than the hatchback. It’ll be the better-selling of the two body styles. The hatchback is the more adventurously styled of the two and is being positioned upscale of the sedan. The hatchback is better proportioned than the Fiesta sedan, but both look awkward from some angles – the hatchback from the side, for example, and the sedan from, well, most perspectives.
Both Fiesta body styles use the same dashboard and general cabin decor. The instrument panel is highlighted by a central section of buttons, knobs, and an information screen. It’s laid out to mimic the keyboard and LCD window of a mobile phone.
The 2011 Fiesta shares its basic engineering with the Mazda 2 from Ford’s Japanese affiliate. Fiesta and the Mazda 2 have long been on sale throughout Europe and Asia; Fiesta is in fact Europe’s No. 2-selling car. The cars have different styling and different engines, but both are based on Ford’s global “B” car platform -- “B” referring to an international size category. Tiny “city” cars like the Smart ForTwo occupy the smaller “A” class and compact cars like the Honda Civic and Ford Focus are in the “C” class.
Mechanical: The 2011 Ford Fiesta employs conventional small-car components: front-wheel drive, a beam rear axle, and front-disc/rear-drum brakes. But it aims for a more sophisticated feel than subcompacts designed exclusively for the U.S. The only engine is a dual-overhead-cam 1.6-liter four-cylinder with all-aluminum construction and variable camshaft timing. It’s rated at 119 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are par for the class, as is use of a five-speed manual as the standard transmission.
The 2011 Fiesta breaks rank, however, by also offering what gear heads call a dual-clutch manual. This mimics the operation of an automatic transmission but actually is a self-shifting six-speed manual without a clutch pedal. A dual-clutch manual is lighter and less complex than a conventional automatic transmission, change gears more quickly, and offers substantial advantages in fuel efficiency. Ford markets this one as the PowerShift six-speed automatic. With it, the 2011 Fiesta has higher fuel-economy ratings than it does with the five-speed manual transmission. Ford does not, however, give PowerShift drivers the ability to manually choose gears via steering-wheel paddles or a separate floor-shift gate.
Fiesta is Fords’ first U.S. product to offer PowerShift but gets in line behind several recent Ford cars and crossovers in use of the company’s new electric power steering. Standard on all 2011 Fiestas, it puts less power- and fuel-robbing drag on the engine than the old-fashioned hydraulic steering system. And Ford programs it to counteract the destabilizing effects of crosswinds and road crowns and to iron out vibration from an imbalanced wheel. Also standard on all Fiestas is an antilock brake system (ABS) for better control in emergency stops and Ford’s AdvanceTrac antiskid system designed to mitigate sideways slides. Wheel sizes are 15- and 16-inches standard and 17- inches optional, depending on model.
Features: The 2011 Ford Fiesta sedan comes in three levels of trim: entry-level S, volume-selling SE, and uplevel SEL. The 2011 Fiesta hatchback comes in two models: SE and top-line SES. Fiestas can be optioned with features seldom seen in the subcompact class. These include automatic climate control, remote start, and keyless entry with pushbutton ignition. Heated front seats, leather upholstery with contrasting-color piping, a moonroof, and heated mirrors also are available. So is mood-altering lighting that cycles through seven shades of cabin illumination. Fiesta buyers can even order custom exterior graphics of tattoos or op-art flowers.
A few subcompacts offer navigation systems that display maps and directions on a dashboard screen. The 2011 Fiesta isn’t among them. SE, SEL, and SES models have a 4-inch LCD dashboard screen, but it’s used to display various audio, climate, and trip information. For navigation, the Fiesta buyers have to settle for Ford’s Microsoft-developed Sync infotainment system that furnishes turn-by-turn directions via text on the display screen and verbal instructions through the radio speakers. It’s optional on SE models and comes standard on the SEL sedan and SES hatchback. This navigation service comes with a complimentary three-year subscription, and also furnishes real-time traffic, weather, and news. Sync includes steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth cell-phone and audio streaming, and a USB interface for iPods and other digital devices.
All 2011 Fiestas have an auxiliary audio jack, plus a tilt/telescope steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, and cup holders adjustable to cradle Red Bull cans or to Big Gulp cups. All versions also come with Ford’s EasyFuel system that eliminates the conventional gas-filler cap. A 60/40 split folding rear seatback, air conditioning, and power mirrors and locks also are standard on every 2011 Fiesta. Passive safety features include head-protecting curtain side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag.
2011 Ford Fiesta Test Drive back to top
From behind the wheel: Pooling global resources to develop a state-of-the-art car design that can be tweaked to suit individual markets seems like an obvious approach to cost-efficient car building. But only now are U.S. automakers getting serious about it.
Ford calls its initiative “ONE Ford” and the 2011 Fiesta – along with the all-new 2012 Ford Focus – are its spearheads. This guarantees the Fiesta sold in the U.S. is the same basic design built to satisfy demanding European drivers. It also means our test drive of a Euro-spec 2011 Fiesta SES hatchback with manual transmission, leather seats, and 16-inch wheels is a good representation of how its U.S. counterpart performs.
The 2011 Fiesta accelerates eagerly and the 1.6-liter four is revs smoothly to overcome a bit of low-rpm sleepiness. The manual linkage engagement is friction-free but has longer travel than you’d find in a sports car. With 119 horsepower pulling just over 2,500 pounds, Fiesta’s power-to-weight ratio is spot-on for a class in which no car counts acceleration as a selling point. Ford should, however, sell lots of 2011 Fiestas on the strength of the car’s road manners: they’re impressive for any class of vehicle.
Steering is naturally weighted and responsive. Tight, slow turns reveal wonderful maneuverability. Tight, fast turns trigger some noseplow and tire scrub. But the 2011 Fiesta has a friendly nature that encourages spirited driving. It’s what enthusiasts call “tossible.” Also remarkable for such a small, light car is a suspension that keeps the Fiesta stable over highway-speed dips and furrows yet nicely isolated from the shock of potholes and bumps.
Dashboard and controls: The 2011 Ford Fiesta dashboard sacrifices some functionality in the name of design. The main instrumentation – a speedometer and tachometer bracketing a gas gauge and a small message screen -- crowd into a compact binnacle directly before the driver. They avoid obstruction by the steering wheel rim – barely – but won’t invite easy viewing by drivers’ whose, uh, maturity renders small type difficult to read.
Ageism also is evident in the dashboard’s central stack. Ford touts it as “designed to feel as useful and familiar as the keypad on a mobile phone.” If you’re familiar with controls designed for an automobile dashboard, however, you may not find it easy to use this Blackberry-style, double keyboard of small, lookalike buttons. Worse is the climate-system ensemble – a trio of undersized controls with tiny markings tucked below the central stack, well out of easy reach and sight. Thankfully, every button and knob is sharply backlit, including the small but efficiently positioned audio and cruise rockers on the steering wheel.
The 2011 Fiesta breaks no new ground for the quality of its interior materials, but you have to hunt and peck for plastics that feel flimsy. Surfaces you’ll contact regularly are padded, skinned, or grained appropriately, and brushed-metallic-look trim does a fair job of teching things up. Overall, Fiesta’s cabin feels busy, with multiple curves, cutlines, pods, and plains designed to excite the eye rather than sooth it.
Room, comfort, and utility: By prioritizing design elements like a rakish roofline, Ford shows it’s willing to trade some function for styling personality outside, too. The 2011 Fiesta isn’t notably roomy for a subcompact car – certainly not as spacious as the Honda Fit. But Fiesta’s roof is tall enough to insure expansive head room for front-seaters. And those under 5-feet-8 or so won’t brush the ceiling in back. Front-seat travel seems sufficient to accommodate drivers with long legs, but even tall grade-schoolers will find their knees pressed into the front seatbacks and their Skechers squeezed by the small footwell.
The 2011 Fiesta’s front bucket seats aren’t generously sized but are supportive and do a sufficient job holding you place as lateral g’s build. The rear seat has no surplus of cushioning but is adequately contoured for comfort. Demerits for a too-low center-console armrest in front and for absence of any center armrest in the rear. Credits for impressive suppression of unpleasant mechanical, wind, and road noises. Ford says it took pains to fit Fiesta with a specially laminated windshield, enhanced door seals, foam-baffled roof pillars, and other sound-deadening measures. The 2011 Fiesta is one subcompact that won’t mount a sensory assault on long drives.
At 12.8 cubic feet and augmented by folding seatbacks, the Fiesta sedan’s trunk is among the more spacious in a class where no sedan really has an expansive cargo hold. That’s one reason hatchbacks make more sense in cars of this size. Too bad the Fiesta hatchback’s lower rear seat cushions remain anchored in position, denying owners a flat load floor and diluting much of the hatchback-versatility formula.
2011 Ford Fiesta Prices back to top
Base prices for the 2011 Ford Fiesta range from $13,995-$17,795. These prices don’t include options and are for cars with the manual transmission. Ford’s PowerShift automatic transmission is a $1,070 option. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination charges; Ford’s fee for the 2011 Fiesta is $675.) Fully optioned, a 2011 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan or SES hatchback will breach $23,000.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta S sedan is priced from $13,995. In addition to the aforementioned standard equipment, it comes with manual windows, rear-seat heat ducts, and an AM/FM stereo with four speakers. The 2011 Fiesta S has 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers.
Options available on all Fiesta models include 17-inch alloy wheels ($1,950) and a cargo management system that adds a cargo net and compartmented trunk/hatch organizer ($115). Manual-transmission models can get a package that backlights the doorsills and the gear-pattern on the shift knob ($410). Fiestas equipped with the remote keyless entry can also be optioned with a touch pad mounted on the outside of the driver’s door that allows the owner to enter a code to unlock the door without accessing the key fob ($95).
The 2011 Ford Fiesta SE sedan starts at $14,995 and the 2011 Ford Fiesta SE hatchback is priced from $15,795. Both include as standard equipment remote keyless entry, the LCD dashboard screen, and a stereo upgraded to include a CD player. SE models get slightly fancier trim than the S sedan, and the SE hatchback gains a rear spoiler. Sync is optional on 2011 Fiesta SE sedan and hatchback for $595. A dress-up Sport Appearance Package ($495 or $995 bundled with Sync) includes Euro-style LED exterior marker lamps and puts a rear spoiler on the sedan; it also includes cruise control. A power moonroof is available for $695, and a package with the ambient lighting system and Sirius satellite radio is priced at $370. What’s more, a $695 Super Fuel Economy package for SE models includes specific wheels, spoilers, and air deflectors to help the Fiesta attain its advertised 40 mpg/highway fuel economy rating with the automatic transmission.
The top-of-the-line 2011 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan carries a $16,995 base price, while the Fiesta SES hatchback is a bit costlier at $17,795. They build on their SE counterparts by adding as standard the Sync system, an 80-watt six-speaker stereo with Sirius satellite radio, and power heated mirrors with integrated turn signals. SEL sedans and SES hatchbacks also have a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls. They come with power locks with remote keyless entry and alarm, and a one-touch up/down power driver’s window, trip computer, unique floor console, ambient lighting, an electrochromatic auto-dimming rearview mirror, and an auxiliary 12-volt power point for rear passengers. SEL and SES models have 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/50R16 tires.
Exclusive to the SEL sedan and SES hatchback is an optional Upgrade Package ($795) that includes keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, heated front seats, a perimeter alarm, and chrome exterior trim.
2011 Ford Fiesta Fuel Economy back to top
The EPA rates the 2011 Ford Fiesta at 28/37 mpg city/highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission and 29/38 mpg with the PowerShift automatic. You’ll have to add the Super Fuel Economy package to either SE model with the automatic transmission in order to reach the Fiesta’s advertised 29/40 mpg.
Those are highly impressive numbers. No car in Fiesta’s competitive set averages more than 29 mpg in the city, and only the Hyundai Accent’s special fuel-miser Blue edition gets as high as 36 mpg on the highway. You’d have to spend around $20,000 or more for the similarly sized Honda Insight hybrid to get 40/43 mpg or pay over $22,000 for the larger Toyota Prius and its 51/48-mpg rating.
2011 Ford Fiesta Safety and Reliability back to top
In initial overall quality, the Ford brand ranked slightly above average in ratings compiled by J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer survey firm (jdpower.com). The 2011 Ford Fiesta was too new to be included in J.D. Power quality surveys at the time of this review.
For overall reliability, the Ford brand rated about average in J.D. Power surveys measuring problems reported by owners of three-year-old models. Again, the 2011 Fiesta was too new to be included.
2011 Ford Fiesta Release Date back to top
The 2011 Ford Fiesta is on sale now. U.S.-market Fiestas are assembled at Ford’s plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico.
The 2011 Fiesta, by the way, isn’t the first car by that name sold here. Ford imported a tiny, high-mileage two-door hatchback Fiesta for model-years 1977-1980. It was sourced from the automaker’s operations in Germany and Britain, where the Fiesta has been an ongoing member of Ford’s lineup.
What's next for the 2011 Ford Fiesta back to top
Having made its debut overseas in 2008, engineering for the 2011 Fiesta will already be about halfway through its lifecycle by the time in hits U.S. showrooms. The car will look fresh to American eyes, but Ford is even today toiling away on the next-generation model, due perhaps for 2013 or 2014.
To save money, Ford could decide to keep the current-generation Fiesta in play for the U.S. market well past 2014, perhaps giving it a cosmetic facelift. It could also introduce a sporty model, perhaps with Ford’s 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, around the time the new-generation car goes on sale overseas. However, that sort of staggered product timeline does not seem compatible with the ONE Ford global product strategy, so Americans may see a redesigned Fiesta sooner than we think.
2011 Ford Fiesta Competition back to top
2011 Honda Fit: Fiesta can’t match this roomy little wagon’s class-leading cargo utility or rear-seat space, but it does compete for driving fun, comfort, and design sophistication. That’s high praise. Fit’s fuel economy is a pleasing 27/33 mpg with manual transmission, 28/35 with automatic. Base price range is $15,850-$19,990, and its fold-flush-with-the-floor rear-seat design helps make it the most functional car in the class. Fit’s next major changes will likely come for model year 2013.
2011 Toyota Yaris: A visual dullard compared to the Fiesta and Fit but no slacker for value or refinement. Yaris is among the few B-class cars to offer three body styles. Its four-door hatchback beats out its two-door hatchback for versatility and surpasses the four-door sedan for good taste. Any Yaris model is highly refined for this class and fuel economy is a pleasant 29/36 mpg with manual transmission, 29/35 with automatic. Prices range from $13,615-$14,375. Yaris will be redesigned for model-year 2012.
2011 Hyundai Accent: This little car from South Korean has forced its way to the top of the subcompact-class sales race, taking the lead by a nose over the Honda Fit. Credit goes to sales generated by the Cash for Clunkers program, but also to Hyundai’s smart marketing and Accent’s impressive value-for-money equation. The Accent two-door hatchback starts at $10,705 for a special stripper model. More viable hatchbacks are priced from $13,415-$16,065, with the sedan starting at $14,415. Accent’s the oldest and least refined car in this group, but it’s solidly built and fuel-efficient, rated at 28/36 mpg with a manual transmission and 27/34 with an automatic. Accent is due for a model-year 2012 redesign.