Review: 2011 Ford Fiesta

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
review 2011 ford fiesta

Everybody knows a “Mr. Euro”. Hell, you may even be “Mr. Euro” to your friends. Mr. Euro is the guy who, for some reason, wants the cars he cannot have in the United States. He’s the guy who says he would drive a 520i “in a heartbeat” given the chance, the dude who thinks we’re missing out because the Renault Twingo stays on the froggy side of the pond, the fellow who desperately wants a Vauxhall Zafira for child-lugging purposes. I still fondly remember the conversation I had with a similar fellow, whom I shall call “Mr. JDM”, around 2004 or so:

“I would buy a Japanese Skyline sedan in a heartbeat, if only they would bring them here, and I’m not worried about the money.”

“Good news. They did. It’s called the Infiniti G35. Allow me to drive you to the dealership so you may make your cost-no-object dream a twenty-nine-thousand-dollar reality.” Alas, the grass is never so green when it’s cut into sod and shipped to our lawns, and perhaps that’s why so many Mr. Euros find themselves conspicuously absent from the lists of Saturn Astra or VW Rabbit owners. It’s also possible that the loudest voices on the Internet buy the fewest cars, which would also explain why the current Ford Focus has been such a roaring success despite the heretical nature of its US-only design and execution.

Nonetheless, Ford has given Mr. Euro his best chance yet to see what it’s like to be a typical Continental bloke. Before you sits the 2011 Ford Fiesta. Unlike any mass-market B-segment car in American history, but exactly like the B-rides of Europe, the Fiesta is a high-content, engineering-laden, no-excuses-made small car chock-full of every goodie from continuously variable valves to contrast-piped leather seating. For all those people who have said they wanted a full equipment list and top-notch NVH in a small car… here’s your chance. The line forms on the right, and if you pre-order the car you’ll get a free SYNC system capable of reading tweets and playing Pandora ‘Net radio.

For the attention-challenged TTACers, here’s your one-sentence review: The Fiesta is as much better than the Honda Fit as said Fit is better than the Toyota Yaris, and for most of the same reasons. Want more details? Here you go. Inside and out, the Fiesta is trimmed and assembled like a decent German entry-luxury car. It’s quiet and fast on the freeway. There are a few ergonomic missteps (where’s the steering-wheel radio volume control?) but from the Vertu-like center console to the tightly assembled instrument panel, this looks and feels like an expensive car. The Fit used to set the standard in this market but it’s not even close to the Fiesta.

On the move, the Fiesta is the most rapid of the B-cars. The dual-clutch automatic is not pitched as a sporting choice, and it slurs shifts like a torque-converter car rather than slamming them home in the fashion of an Audi TT-S. Still, it will shift for itself and pull 40mpg in the EPA highway test. Choose the manual shift instead and enjoy a disturbingly rewarding back-road experience. Nothing else in the class will keep up in a straight line or down a fast backroad. On Ford’s autocross course, the Fit felt more nimble but the Fiesta had more ultimate grip and pulled out of corners where the Honda simply bogged and moaned. Better still, the Fiesta actually has enough brake for its pace. It took me the better part of thirty miles to put any serious mush in the pedal, and that was operating at what even I felt to be a rapid back-road velocity around some very tight descending corners.

Ford’s worked very hard to make this car feel upmarket, even sinking the seating position perhaps a touch too far in an attempt to make it “cockpit-like”. The body is extremely stiff — I counted welds and examined the mating surfaces on a bare chassis and was amazed at how much metal is in the structure — and it’s very resistant to potholes, road vibration, and all the stuff that makes small cars feel crappy.

The penalty is in weight: the Fiesta is 2600 pounds in most trims. This ain’t the lightest little car out there.

Nor is it the cheapest. Ford’s priced the sedan about five hundred bucks above the Yaris at $13,995, while the better-equipped five-door is right in Fit territory. The tester sedans and hatches I drove were priced in the $18K range but had wine-colored leather seating and some very nice equipment. Never in American history has a small Ford been sold on excellence, rather than price. It will be a tough pill for the dealers to swallow. In the same way that Fit transaction prices often exceed those of base Civics, many Fiesta intenders will be walking right by a Focus that is cheaper in real dollars. Only time will tell if they keep on walking to the better, smaller car.

If you know a Mr. Euro, send him by the Ford dealer. This is the Continental experience: plenty of goodies in a car about seventeen inches longer than a 1979 Civic. Speaking personally, I’d rather have a no-options 2011 Mustang V6 than a loaded Fiesta. Faster, don’t you know, and I’ll put a boom box in the back seat. Most of you will feel differently, and after two days of driving the little Ford I won’t criticize your choice.

Ford provided the vehicles, gas and insurance for this review

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  • Marxster Marxster on Jul 19, 2011

    We've had the 2011 For Fiesta SES automatic for a couple of months now. After 7,000 km it is now in the shop with transmission problems. It's jerky at slow speeds and occasionally lunges forward abruptly. At idle it's "hunting". Problems occur at low speeds, and are more apparent during stop-and-go traffic. Ford hasn't addressed this officially but has started to replace some people's transmission completely. It's too bad this problem persists as I think it's otherwise a pretty decent car.

  • J-3cub J-3cub on Dec 05, 2011

    Well my Ford Fiesta had less then 1800 miles on it when the transmission started chattering while holding a steady traffic speed of 30 MPH after it warmed up. Now it does it bad between 30 and 55 MPH, still after it is warmed up. It’s nine with its cold. Also twice after putting 2900 miles on the car, the transmission would not release when trying to stop at a stop light. It drove me through a red light, TWICE. It was as if I was driving a manual transmission car and forgot to put the clutch in. Scared me to death, but I am forced to keep driving it. Took it to Kline Motors, a Ford dealership in Winfield KS. They said they worked on it for 2 hours and charged me over $175 and did absolutely NOTHING except tell me the transmission need replaced for $5200. For 2 hours work they did not even up-date the computer that drives the transmission. I bet they mechanic never even touched it. Ford will not cover it because the car was in a very minor fender bender and the title was marked rebuilder. What a cop out. What ticks me off about Kline’s is I told them I re-built the car, which was nothing more than a front bumper cover and AC lines for the most part and all the parts were OEM parts. I asked Kline’s to check the VIN to make sure Ford would cover it and they said it would still be covered to 36,000 miles. Why the car was flagged by the insurance company I have no idea, but Ford is sure using it as an excuse not to touch it. In any case I got a piece of crap Ford Fiesta that I am scared to death to drive but for now am stuck with it every day, and every day wondering if it’s going to drive me through another intersection to get hit by someone. If I was Ford I would be scared to death with these cars on the road. This should be a safety issue and the NTSB should force them to make a re-call on them for safety reasons. So, does anyone have any ideas on what parts I need to replace to fix this transmission? I sure can’t afford a new one at $5200. That is crazy.

  • FreedMike Race car drivers are all alpha-types. Aggression is part of the deal. I think you see more of that stuff in NASCAR because crashes - the end result of said aggression - are far more survivable than they would be in F1 or IndyCar.
  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.