Although the Fiesta's engine lineup is by and large in sync with the competition, one cannot help noticing the absence of a six-speed manual transmission that would cut revs, noise, fuel consumption, and emissions. It's also hard to understand why a brand-new model like this is let down by a four-speed automatic gearbox conceived in the dark ages of motoring. Out of the four gasoline engines rated at 60, 82, 96, and 120 hp, we drove the top-of-the-range 1.6-liter engine, which musters 112 lb-ft of torque at a high 4050 rpm. For more grunt, there's a 90-hp, 1.6-liter diesel, which offers 150 lb-ft of torque along with excellent fuel economy (56 mpg combined in European tests). The Fiesta gasoline-fueled 1.6 Ti-VCT can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 9.9 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 120 mph. Sadly, the four-banger is neither particularly quiet nor smooth-running, and if the air-conditioning compressor cuts in at the wrong time, it feels as though 25 horses momentarily have given up the ghost. On the credit side, we noticed a slick and well-spaced manual transmission, brisk throttle response, and a perfectly intuitive clutch that is both smooth and progressive.
While the Zetec S version is a touch on the stiff side for most tastes, the high-end Titanium model has road manners worthy of a bigger and more expensive car. Traction and stability are rarely an issue, the ride is as good as it gets in this segment (easily bettering the Mazda 2's), the strong roadholding benefits from the optional 195/45VR-16 tires, and the handling is both safe and quite entertaining. Devoid of such classic vices as excessive body roll and early understeer, the new Fiesta turns in with reasonable sharpness, steers with due precision, and keeps torque steer at bay. The strong grip also enhances braking performance, which is prompt, easy to modulate, and never short of staying power.
The 2009 Fiesta doesn't reinvent the small car, but despite certain idiosyncrasies, it is good enough to compete with the leaders of the small-car pack both in Europe and America, especially in terms of styling, where the Fiesta is a class leader. If all Ford offerings were as solid as this one, the company would have probably never faced the dilemma it is currently in.
Why We Want It:
Because the European Focus isn't here yet-this is the next best thing.
Why We Need It:
It's a no-excuses Ford for Joe Everyman.