Chassis: Simply Ingredients, Exemplary Results
The Fiesta has a simple strut-type suspension setup in front and a relatively rudimentary beam axle in the rear. Chassis tuning is exemplary, easily beating the car's Japanese competitors. The Sport model features the usual stiffer springs and dampers, a 10-millimeter-lower ride height (less than one-half inch), and more torque feedback for the steering, for better feel. The brakes are vented discs at the front, drums at the rear. ABS and stability control are standard. Wheel sizes range from 14 inches in diameter to 15, 16, and 17 inches.
The Best-Driving Car in the B-Segment
In base form, the Fiesta provides a very compliant ride and quite good body control, especially side-to-side. The brakes are responsive, with good pedal modulation, but there is some minor pitch and dive under braking. The steering is among the best of any small car's; very communicative and accurate and full of feel, such that we always felt confident tossing the car into a corner on the hilly two-lane roads that we drove between Grossetto and Sienna, Italy. The thin-rimmed steering wheel is also nice, as it feels good running through your hands.
As impressive as the base car is, the Fiesta with the Sport package is a revelation. The car is incredibly tied down, the steering has even more feel, and body control is remarkable. We had a blast in a two-door, gasoline-engined Fiesta Sport on an early-morning run along a road that twists its way up and down a mountain near Sienna. The car was completely composed, never put a foot wrong, and was downright fun to drive. With a curb weight of approximately 2553 pounds, the Fiesta reminded us of the rewards of driving a modestly powered but properly tuned, lightweight car. While we were blasting along that road, it occurred to us that we were having more fun than we would be in a high-powered sports car or grand tourer. The Fiesta, of course, is front-wheel drive, not rear-wheel drive, but understeer is minimal and it's easy to push the car through long sweeping curves and to make minor corrections to the steering wheel without upsetting your intended path.
Ford's North American engineering team is still pondering whether to bring the Sport package to America, but if they don't offer it as an option, they are fools. It shouldn't be standard spec, of course, because most Americans will be happier with the base suspension calibrations, but it should certainly be available to those who want it.