Bikes returned, we left for home. As the Fiesta cruised confidently down the highway, quiet and stable despite a short fifth (top) gear, we reflected on our journey. We hadn't filled stadiums with young admirers, and the only person willing to towel off the Fiesta for the camera had been the stocky assistant manager of a local car wash. But both the town and the car, it turns out, offer more sophisticated thrills.
Web 2.0 marketing notwithstanding, the Fiesta is a substantial, grown-up car. If Ford can keep pricing for the U.S. model, due here next spring, within range of the spunkier but less well-mannered Honda Fit, it will have a rare commodity: a car suited to both Facebook and the real world.
- Mickies Dairy Bar. Serves farm fresh breakfast and a classic country diner atmosphere in the shadow of Camp Randall Stadium. 608-256-9476
- Machinery Row. No offense to the Fiesta, but the best way to get around is on a bike, which this shop rents for $20 a day. machineryrowbicycles.com
- Memorial Union Terrace. People of all ages gather here to have drinks and enjoy the lakefront breeze.
- State Street Brats. The cheese curds are to die for a good thing, since deep-fried white cheddar won't exactly prolong your life. 608-255-5544; statestreetbrats.com
- State Street. This bustling thoroughfare connects campus with the state capitol and features lots of eclectic shops, theaters, and restaurants.
- Tornado Steak House. Great if you want a substantial cut of beef or a tasty fish dish (vegans should stay home). 608-256-3570; tornadosteakhouse.com
- Ella's Deli. If you have kids in tow, stop here for ice cream and a ride on the merry-go-round. 608-241-5291; ellas-deli.com
- Ian's Pizza by the Slice. Bigger kids will likely head back toward campus for some revelry. Ian's Pizza, famous for its macaroni-and-cheese topping, stays open until the bars close. 608-257-0597; ianspizza.com
- Natt Spil. Go here if you want a nightcap without having to fight for standing room with drunken coeds. You'll need help finding it, though - its storefront on King Street has no sign, and the owners don't believe in phones.
- Mansion Hill Inn. The building dates back to 1857 and oozes old elegance, but it just underwent a thorough restoration. mansionhillinn.com
The Specs: 2011 FORD FIESTA
On sale: Early 2010
Price: $15,000 (est.)
Engine: 1.6L I-4, 118 hp, 112 lb-ft (European-market output)