2010 Ford Fiesta
It's been a long time since Ford has offered U.S. buyers any kind of subcompact, but in far away Europe, the Fiesta - remember the Fiesta? - has found more than 170,000 customers since being redesigned last fall. And it's on its way here.
After sampling a European-spec Fiesta on our own roads, we can see plenty of reasons for the car's success. Compared to the sprightly, yet sometimes nervous Fit, the Fiesta is more relaxed and comfortable. Quick steering and a rev-happy, 118-hp four-cylinder allow you to zig-zag through traffic and have fun doing it, but there's just enough suspension compliance to make life easier on pitted streets. And as one would expect of a European design, the Fiesta displays better high-speed manners than your average city car. Like the Fit, it lacks a sixth gear, meaning it revs rather frenetically on the interstate, but it's reasonably quiet, and doesn't get skittish until you've hit 85 mph or higher.
The interior is more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, soft-touch materials and interesting textures make for a more pleasant cabin than the utilitarian Fit. However, the Fiesta can't come close to the Honda's versatility. The rear seat backs don't fold completely flat, and the seat bottoms don't fold at all. There's still enough space for two or three people and their luggage, but not much more.
There's still a good deal we don't know about the Fiesta. European fuel economy ratings don't tell us much about how the Fiesta will perform in the EPA cycle, and there's no guarantee Ford won't try and "improve" the suspension for U.S. customers (though it promises us it won't). The big question with the Fiesta though, is price. As we saw with General Motors' effort to market the Opel Astra Stateside, Americans aren't always willing to pay for European refinement in their domestic small cars. Ford will be building the American-market Fiesta in Mexico in effort to keep the costs down, and company officials say pricing will be competitive with other subcompacts, but haven't heard specifics. That said, if a Fiesta like the one we sampled hits the market for about the same money as our well-equipped Fit, it certainly will be worthy alternative.
|Base Price:||$15,000 (est.)|
|Body style:||4-door hatchback|
|Transmission type:||5-speed manual|
|EPA Fuel Economy:||N/A|
|On sale:||2011 (est.)|