When a Ford executive calls the new Fiesta “perky,” you’d better take him seriously. That’s exactly what Jim Farley, VP of global marketing sales, said about Ford’s newly made Fiesta, the biggest thing to hit the small car market.
The Auto Show season started with the Los Angeles Auto Show. It’s here in California that I got a sneak peak at the 2014 Fiesta, and that’s not by coincidence. Ten percent of all Fiestas are sold right here in the City of Angels, with retail sales up 19 percent in California.
The Fiesta is Ford’s second-best seller globally, and is also their number one conquest vehicle. Apparently, perkiness counts.
The most notable feature of this tiny go-getter is the 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder Ecoboost engine. Perky? Yes. Robust? Definitely. Does it feel like a 3-cylinder? Not a chance.
To make a point out of its small size, Ford guys actually took the 52-pound engine block and put it in a suitcase as a carry-on. And yes, they got it past security.
The 5-speed manual transmission was smooth and responsive, never getting anywhere near the red.
Before I develop self-image issues over the fact that I actually weigh more than an engine block, let me tell you it delivers 123 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. As a tongue-in-cheek comparison, the Lambourghini Aventador delivers 108 horsepower per cylinder, so, technically… but I digress.
The proof, however, is in the driving. I took the famous Mulholland drive from Santa Monica to Camarillo. Winding canyon roads, steep ascents, and hairpin turns were no match for the Fiesta.
The engine hummed along, almost begging at times to be pushed even more. The 5-speed manual transmission was smooth and responsive, never getting anywhere near the red.
Later on, we had the chance to put the Fiesta through the paces at an abandoned airstrip, where a slalom-type course was laid out for us. I believe I only knocked over one cone (take that, Ken Block!).
Suspension and braking were tight and crisp, and not something you’d expect from a standard sub-compact. In fact, the Fiesta behaved more like an Impreza, except for the fact that it gets 40+ miles per gallon—the main reason to love the new engine.
The phrase “Ford DNA” was used by Ford people throughout the day. It begins with the styling of the new Fusion and is carried through in the Fiesta. The grill and headlamps are updated to reflect the look and feel that make it uniquely a Ford.
Inside, the Fiesta offers connectivity, including Ford SYNC and MyTouch technology. With over 28 smart features like voice recognition, navigation, and simplified phone pairing, the new Fiesta will pack a lot of punch into a small package.
As if that weren’t enough, a Sony 8-speaker sound system comes standard, while leather seats are offered as an option. Leather? In a sub-compact? Actually, yes.
As a teaser, we also got a quick look at the Fiesta ST, though it wasn’t available to drive. Outfitted with a stiffer suspension, performance brakes, and a high-mount spoiler, the ST will thrill with 197 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque. You’ll even find red-trimmed Recaro racing seats inside.
I guess we’ll all have to wait a few months before giving it a perkiness rating. I’m willing to bet it moves from perky to bossy. Ford is gunning to compete with the Cooper S, at a lower price point.
The Fiesta is a car that should (and does) have broad appeal. Whether the reason for buying one is fuel economy, crowded urban areas, or something with some personality, the Fiesta fits the bill.
Finally, I sent a picture of a lime green Fiesta to my 13-year-old daughter, whose immediate response was, “Bring me one!”
I don’t think it gets much perkier than that.
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