2011 Ford Fiesta SES: Quick Drive

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Photo: Anne Proffit

If we Americans are going to start driving smaller cars, Ford has certainly made it easier to embrace the idea. The 2011 Ford Fiesta SES is a lively and fun front-wheel-drive hatchback that exudes the type of elegance one never expects from a small and relatively inexpensive vehicle.

A true “world” car, the Fiesta came to the U.S. market late in 2010 as a 2011 model.  Its looks are perky, its demeanor sassy and its capabilities boundless.  Think a young (very young) Valerie Bertinelli on four wheels and you’ve hit the mark.  

From its articulated headlamps that sweep across the sides of the post-mounted hood, seemingly trying to reach the rear of the hatch, to its defined body crease, swoopy rear end with mini-wing and upswept rear tail lamps, the Fiesta looks modern and purposeful.

The Fiesta shares some underpinnings with the Mazda2, one of the final collaborations of the Mazda-Ford marriage that has had a no-fault separation.  It is a trifle longer (160.1 inches), wider (66.8 inches) and taller at 58 inches, but both ride on the same 98-inch wheelbase, giving the Fiesta and Mazda2 very little front and rear overhang.  

The Ford is a wee bit heavier in SES guise to the Mazda’s Touring model at 2537 pounds, but still feels lithe and agile.  It turns in 34.4 feet.

Photo: Anne Proffit

Motive power comes from a 1.6-liter in-line four-cylinder DOHC engine that produces a healthy 120 horsepower at 6350 rpm (redline is 6500) and 112 lb-ft of torque at 5000.  This particular Ford Fiesta has a longer-throw five-speed manual transmission that, despite its length is extremely precise to the touch.  The review model has more than 4000 miles on the clock and has been ridden fairly hard.

Steering is light but direct and Ford fits ABS disc brakes at all four corners with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.  Standard tires for the SES model (top of the line right now) are [Hankook] P195/50R 16-inch with articulated five-spoke alloy rims holding the rubber to the road.  There is an option for 17-inch tires.  There are two tiny exhaust pipes that don’t give much of a symphonic rush.  

Ford fits MacPherson independent strut and torsion beam rear suspensions with dual stabilizer bars that give good rebound and allow the Fiesta to conquer all but the most invasive driveways.  The feel is one of comfort but when prodded the Fiesta takes a set nicely in hard cornering.  

Amongst the passive safety items are a full array of front, side and front/rear head airbags, together with turn signal repeaters in the mirrors – and an inserted wide-angle mirror on either side to assist in lane changes.  At first this is a bit disconcerting, but after a while is second nature.  There are stability and traction controls as active driver aids, as well.

The Fiesta is rated at 28/37 mpg from its 12-gallon tank with regular fuel indicated.  With mostly around-town jaunts during our week together, I found the mileage to be appropriate, but bet any smooth operator can achieve 40 mpg over the road.  An “upshift” light (at 3000 rpm) aids in gathering good fuel economy.

Photo: Anne Proffit

One more item that appears to be part of a former alliance is the extra cost yellow blaze metallic tri-coat paint ($300), which reminds us of a Volvo color we saw during the two manufacturers’ recently ended alliance.  This color truly enhances the voluptuous lines of the Fiesta and gives it a rich look.  

As is, the 2011 Ford Fiesta SES starts with an entry fee of $17,795 including freight fees.  There were two options on this vehicle, including the paint.  The second is “Rapid Spec 301A," which includes heated front row seat cushions, belt line chrome molding, keyless entry and start, decklid chrome molding and anti-perimeter alarm for $795.  The upshot is a total list of $18,890.  

From the driver’s perspective, the office is a lovely place to operate the vehicle.  There are dark gray gauges with white numbers and red pointers.  While there is no covered storage in the 2011 Ford Fiesta SES, there are cubbies everywhere and there’s the customary 12-volt, auxiliary and USB ports at the base of the central stack.  The plastics don’t feel overtly hard and the driver’s seat has height adjustability.  There are ambient courtesy lights that, in this case had been set to a calming blue.

Trip computer operation can be achieved in two ways, at the end of the left stalk and through the odometer/trip computer pushbutton on the dashboard.  A light touch on the turn signals gives up three blinks (nice for lane changes) and the audio controls – which look way more complicated during the day than when lit at night – include a single CD player and Ford’s Sync/Microsoft system.  There is a screen atop the central stack that gives audio information, tilting upwards.

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