Strengths and weaknesses:
- high speed motoring
- slow to launch
- door closings sound tinny
- rear seats don’t fold flat
Fiesta makes merry
With the growing popularity of smaller cars, Ford sensed the time was right to reintroduce North Americans to Fiesta.
Fiesta was a creature out of the ’70s’ fuel crisis. At the time, Ford’s smallest offering was the Escort in two-door, four-door and wagon bodystyles but the European market was starting to see a swing to two-box designs and so Ford made Fiesta in 1976 to slot in below Escort. Fiestas were sold on this continent from 1978 to 1980, when they were replaced by a Mazda 323-based Escort (which lasted until 2000 in Canada). The Kia made Festiva hatchback slotted in below Escort in 1986 and it was replaced by Aspire in 1994. Everything was replaced by Focus (which debuted in North America in 2000).
Fiesta, meanwhile, carried on in Europe and with the latest introduction of a sedan bodystyle, all the ducks were in a row for the nameplate’s re-emergence in North America. Here, it will be available in four-door and five-door iterations sourced out of the Cuautitlan plant in Mexico that currently builds F-Series pickups.
Even the brief period we spent with a five-door model was enough to firmly implant in our minds the sound decision to bring this car to Canada. Of note, though, is that our brilliant white Fiesta didn’t get the attention from passers-by we would have expected from (a) a new and prominently displayed nameplate, and (b) a car that looks quite from any present offering wearing the blue oval.
Roughly the same size and shape as a Chevrolet Aveo5, Honda Fit and Kia Rio5, Fiesta drives very much like many small European hatchbacks with taut steering and suspension bits that made it easy to enjoyably toss about. The ride was firm but not jarring and the interior stayed relatively quiet during all types of cruising.
Although Ford is not yet committing to trim levels and powertrains, our test car was probably the basic powertrain configuration for our market (if not the only one) – 1.6-litre gasoline four-cylinder engine sending power to the front wheels via a five speed manual transmission. Acceleration was acceptable for the segment with the car not getting up to speed quickly but able to run with the best of them once it is up to speed. The transmission felt notchy but precise, meaning I didn’t flub too many gears (except for reverse, which required an authoritative pull to engage). The clutch is light and progressive. A four-speed automatic would likely also be offered.
The driving position is typically European, with the driver sitting at arm’s length from the wheel. The seats are flat but supportive with upholstery that is also typically European – with funky patterns that somehow suit the segment. As expected, the rear seat is tight but roomy enough for two to sit comfortably on medium to long trips. The seatback folds forward in a 60/40 split, but not flat to the cargo floor.
Our test vehicle came with a host of features – fog lights, remote keyless entry with push button start, auto climate control, front seat side impact airbags, control centre in the dash, upgraded sound system and Bluetooth connectivity - that would likely be offered in upper trim levels, since none of them are offered on basic trims in the European theatre.
It also didn’t have Sync, which it will likely have in North America, and it did have plenty of cupholders (which seemed odd for a European car).
But setting aside all the little things that differentiate lower end from upper end trim levels, and regional differences that influence equipment levels, and you get a sense that this will be a fine addition to our market.