With Ford getting ready to launch the Fiesta sub-compact in North America, the big American automaker decided to bring over a few of the European-spec models to give the media an idea of what to expect. Competing against cars like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Chevy Aveo and Hyundai Accent, Ford arranged for AutGuide to drive the Euro-spec Fiesta and even test out its handling characteristics against some of the competition on an autocross course.
But before we get to the tire screeching, let’s take a look at the rest of the car.
In terms of design, it’s obvious this is not a North American car – in a good way. Because sub-compact vehicles aren’t anywhere near the top of the food chain in the U.S., they don’t often get to have top quality designers work on them. This couldn’t be less true of the Fiesta, as it has its own unique look that is both modern and sporty. When the Fiesta launches, it will join the Honda Fit as the only B-Class car that actually looks like it was designed in the past 10 years.
Inside, the car is equally stylish with a dash that was inspired by the Motorola Razor cell phone. As for the seats, they are comfortably thick and actually have side bolstering (absent in most cars in this segment).
Around town there’s a good amount of power from a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that makes 119hp. We only tested the five-speed manual version so the automatic is likely to feel a bit more sluggish, but even then it will easily accelerate more briskly than a Yaris.
The shifter is excellent with a light clutch pedal and we really have to say we loved the steering. With electric power assist, it turns with almost no effort at low speed but is heavier on the highway – a perfect combination.
The car also felt like a solid package, muffling outside noise quite well, while offering the driver and passengers the feeling of being in a more substantial vehicle.
On the autocross course the car showed its true colors as a sporty European model. The Toyota Yaris was no competitor at all and neither was the Nissan Versa, which exhibited a comedic level of body lean. The only competitor in the fun department was the Honda Fit and we have to say that the fight might not have been all that fair due to some rather pricey rubber on the Euro-spec Fiestas, with one model running Pirelli P Zero Neros and another a nice set of Continentals.
That being said, the Fiesta understeered significantly less than the competition and body lean was minimal. We didn’t time the autocross laps, but the Fit still felt slightly more nimble and a bit faster.
The only drawback about the Fiesta we spotted was the cargo room. It’s actually very good, at 10.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 34.6 cu.-ft. total, but that’s nowhere near the Fit’s space (not that any vehicle in this class is).
Overall, we’re seriously impressed by the Euro-spec Fiesta and hope Ford keeps as much of the model intact when it finally makes its way to North America next year.
We can’t wait to get into that car for a longer period of time and hope it looks as good and drives as well as the European model. Chances are it will be close; as one Ford exec told us over lunch, “In the sub-compact market, we’re not interested in being a bit player.”