Ford Debuts Fiesta in North America

For the first time in a long time, North Americans are invited to the party

By Brendan Moore


2011 Fiesta Red small

Ford is showing off their new 2011 Fiesta at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, and there’s good news, Mr. and Ms. America! You can actually buy a new Fiesta in the US in the near future. And by the way, so can you, Mr. and Ms. Canada.

Yup, Ford is going to sell the same supermini (B-Class) Fiesta in North America that they sell in Europe, and it won’t be a dumbed-down version of it, either, but rather, the real deal with minor modifications for the North American market. Ford is taking a chance in selling the small car here; a chance that they believe will pay off for them in both the short-term and the long-term.

The short-term is 2010, when the car goes on sale initially, and gasoline will still be cheap compared to the rest of the world where the Fiesta is sold. The small, 40 mpg Fiesta may be a tough sell to many Americans used to moving around their avoirdupois in larger vehicles because gas doesn’t cost very much, but Ford says they’re in it for the long haul, and believe that enough people will recognize the inherent goodness of the Fiesta so as to make sales here worthwhile until gasoline starts to climb in price again.

The long-term scenario in North America could be a rosy one for a car like the Fiesta.

This same new-generation Fiesta model was launched last fall in Europe, and then Asia, where it has garnered some great reviews, and more importantly to Ford, already notched over half a million units sold. It’s the Number 2-selling car in Europe, and it’s the Number 1-selling car in the Ford lineup in Europe.

I’ve driven the current Fiesta in Europe, and Ford held a press event in Detroit to show off the North American version a few weeks ago, which I attended (along with many dozens of other reporters), so I’m quite familiar with the car.

Owing to that familiarity, I have to say that I think many Americans will really like the new Fiesta. If the price of gasoline climbs back to $4.50 a gallon, they will like it even more, but, let’s focus on the here and now.

In its segment, the Fiesta will compete against the Honda Fit, the Nissan Versa and the Toyota Yaris in the US now, and will shortly be competing against the VW Polo, which VW intends to sell in North America next year. The 2010 VW Polo won Europe’s “Car Of The Year Award” on Monday, so the Fiesta will have its work cut out for it among its segment competition. In the US, unlike the rest of the world, the Fiesta will also be competing with cars in the next segment up (C-Class) for potential buyers, so it will have to punch above its weight as it struggles with cars like the VW Golf, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, the Mini, etc. for buyers’ hearts and minds. To Americans, those are simply all small cars; to Europeans, there is a clear segment demarcation between a C-Class and B-Class car.

There is no doubt that the Fiesta is a small car. If you’ve been in those other cars listed, then that will give you some idea of just how small the Fiesta is. If you have never been in one of its segment brethren, but are familiar with the next size higher, it’s smaller than a Volkswagen Golf or a Mini. The room up front is surprisingly good, but if you have two large people up front, the leg room in the back seat shrinks to almost nothing. As an example, another writer and I were sitting (very comfortably) in the front seats of the Fiesta during the press event, talking about the dash layout, and I happened to look behind me and noticed that the front seats were pushed back almost to the front lip of the rear seats, with only a few inches to spare. The other writer was 6’2” and I am a little over 6’, so there you are. Although it is probably pertinent to note that I drive in a fairly upright position, so the seat is back pretty far. While I’m at it, I should mention that there was also plenty of headroom for both of us up front.

For its size, the Fiesta is quite comfortable. But, as good as it is, it cannot bend time and space – it’s still a small car. When I drove one in Europe, there was only myself and a front-seat passenger, so we were loving the room. If you’re large, then you may wish to reserve the back seat for only occasional use. If you are, say, halfway between five and six feet tall, and your rear seat passengers are as well, traveling four-up becomes a much more practical option.

Now, about that driving.

I had a blast winding the Fiesta up, powering down straights and through the corners. The little car can really move, the handling dynamics feel like a more expensive car, and although there is not a great deal of horsepower (119) to be had from the 1.6 liter inline four, its not as if you really feel shorted. It is certainly a quiet car for its segment as well. The engineers at Ford swear up and down that they have not taken given the European suspension a shot of Novocain in order to provide a softer ride for American drivers, so let’s hope that is indeed the case.

I drove a manual transmission car overseas, but Ford is offering a six-speed, dry dual-clutch automatic transmission in the Fiesta in North America. And only in North America – the rest of the world doesn’t get it until 2012, says Ford. I haven’t driven the car with that transmission yet, so I cannot opine on it.

How does it look?

Well, it looks almost identical to the European version outside, and, as you can see from the photos, is an attractive car. The interior looks a bit different, owing to US knee-bolster safety standards and a different dash layout, but it doesn’t look different in a less attractive way, it just looks a little different in an equally attractive way.

One thing that bears saying is that although the visible modifications from the European model Fiesta are small, the North American model shares only 60% of the European model’s parts. Much of the difference is due to safety components you can’t see; some of it is due to a universe of small parts that are different in the interiors of the cars.

It is also worth noting that the North American models have a considerable amount of technology available in the car; hopefully the Fiesta can continue the job the Mini started in the US, which is uncoupling the words “small” and “cheap” when used to describe automobiles.

One small thing that is different from the Fiestas sold elsewhere in the world is the absence of fog lights on the car sold in North America. You cannot get front or rear fog lamps on the 2011 Ford Fiesta in any trim level.

It’s puzzling, but Ford seems to moving away from fog lamps on their cars in general, claiming that their standard lighting systems are so good and so efficient, their cars don’t need fog lamps. The same premise was advanced at the introduction of the new Taurus (no fog lamps available, period) a few months ago. I didn’t go for it then, and I’m still not convinced now, but this is probably a minor issue to most consumers in North America.

Those of you that are older may remember that the Fiesta was sold in North America previously, quite a long time ago. The first-generation Fiesta was sold in fairly small numbers here in 1978, 1979 and 1980. It was replaced by the American-version Escort in 1981, and hasn’t been seen on these shores since. Just as an interesting aside, GM owned the Fiesta model name, but simply gave it to Ford at the time.

The original Fiesta had a short, unexciting life here in America. It didn’t sell very well, and it didn’t exactly capture the hearts of American buyers at the time. This, of course, is a different time, and the new Fiesta is a very different type of supermini (B-Class) car compared to ones on the road three decades ago.

I think Ford will do well with the Fiesta this time around, even if success comes slowly as more Americans gradually get used to the idea of driving a small, well-equipped car to work every day, and furthermore, get used to the idea of buying such a car from Ford. If the price of gasoline happens to rise back to previous levels seen a couple of years ago, Americans will be camping out on Ford dealers’ lots, but even if that doesn’t happen for many years, I think Ford has a solid hit on their hands with the Fiesta.

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• The all-new Ford Fiesta features an expressive, vibrant design, with sharp reflexes and a global track record that will redefine U.S. small car customers’ expectations

• Fiesta offers 15 class-exclusive technologies, adding luxury and convenience usually found in vehicles at significantly higher price points

• Fiesta is projected to deliver best-in-class highway fuel economy of 40 mpg, with a responsive 1.6-liter DOHC I-4 engine, advanced PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission and Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS)

• Designed to be versatile, personal and adaptable, Fiesta is expected to deliver best-in-class safety, convenience and connectivity with segment-exclusive SYNC® voice- activated communications system, an expressive color palette and available graphics

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2, 2009 – Ford’s hot-selling new Ford Fiesta will deliver more than just great looks and top fuel economy of any vehicle in its segment when it goes on sale in North America next year. The 2011 Fiesta – available in four- and five-door body styles – also will set a new small car benchmark for safety, connectivity and powertrain technology.

In fact, Fiesta will offer North American buyers a stylish new choice of 15 class-exclusive technologies and projected highway fuel economy of 40 mpg, besting the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris and Corolla.

“Customers are savvy. They want expressive cars that deliver not just great fuel economy but also high quality, new technologies and a fun driving experience,” said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. “We plan to answer the call with Fiesta; an all-new vehicle in North America we hope will set a new standard for small cars.”

Fiesta is the next milestone under the ONE Ford plan to design and develop vehicles that meet the differing needs, wants and expectations of customers around the world. More than 500,000 Fiestas have already sold to customers in Europe and Asia.

When developing the new Fiesta, Ford conducted extensive global customer research. Findings clearly indicated the need for style topped the list of customer desires everywhere in the world. In Europe, across North America and in the Asia Pacific region, customers are looking for a distinctively designed small car that offers world-class quality, convenience, comfort and connectivity.

“Fiesta was developed with customers, not just for them,” said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president for global product development. “Fuel economy, spirited performance and efficient use of space are universal desires, across global markets – and Fiesta delivers.”

The anticipated new Ford Fiesta arrives in North America with strong consumer awareness, thanks to the Fiesta Movement program. With 100 social media mavens chronicling their experiences of driving European market Fiestas on American roads, Fiesta has generated more than 675,000 Flickr views and more than 5.5 million YouTube video views.

Kinetics and aesthetics
Kinetic design imparts a sense of movement – even while standing still – harmonizing character elements to reflect global Ford identity, enabling Fiesta to project its own air of confidence, style and individuality. Fiesta targets a youthful “design progressive” mind-set, a consumer group that values style and diversity as worthy assets.

“These influential, prospective Fiesta customers relate to the design philosophy of ‘energy in motion’ because it reflects their personal outlook and lifestyle,” said Kevin George, Fiesta design manager.

Up front, Fiesta sports the global Ford face, centering the Blue Oval badge on the grille over the signature inverted trapezoid lower grille opening. These subtle cues engender familiarity across the portfolio, providing aesthetic linkage between the distinctive new Taurus, the fuel-efficient midsize Fusion and the bold Fiesta.

Adding eyes to the Fiesta face are sweeping, elongated headlamps that frame and connect the hood to muscular, sculpted front fenders. Available in sporty five-door hatchback or four-door sedan body styles, Fiesta provides ample space for occupants and their gear.

At the rear of the car, many design elements merge, including the chamfered rear liftgate glass, the low roofline sweeping into a spoiler and dramatic taillamps with honeycomb detailing mounted high in the five-door’s corners. Muscular rear quarter panels, wrapped tightly, draw the eye to the wheels and Fiesta’s confident stance.

The Fiesta design is further enhanced with a choice of nine vivid new colors. From Bright Magenta through Lime Squeeze to Blue Flame, Fiesta’s broad color palette – more available colors than any other segment competitors – instills vibrant individuality.

Inside Fiesta
Fiesta is as dramatic on the inside as it is on the outside. Boldly sculpted surfaces, contrasting colors and comfortable, supportive materials make the interior as individual as the driver.
The instrument panel centerstack – focal point of the new Fiesta interior – was designed to feel as useful and familiar as the keypad on a mobile phone.

The North American Fiesta features first-row bucket seats with a 60/40 split second-row seat. Cloth or leather seating surfaces vary by trim level offering comfort, style and individuality. High series Fiestas also offer leather with sporty contrast accent color piping.

Soft, sculptured surfaces and the centerstack layout provide the Fiesta with a sense of harmony. Intuitive switchgear placement, comfort zone seating and available ambient lighting allow a driver to maximize the mood with seven complementary colors – switchable among three levels of intensity – for interior accent lighting.

And Fiesta keeps it green; 25 percent of volume series SE seat fabric inserts are comprised of recycled content.

Fun, with fuel efficiency
Fiesta’s flowing sculpted hood covers a 1.6-liter DOHC I-4 engine with an estimated 119 horsepower and 109 ft.-lbs. of torque. Spirited performance and fuel-efficient economy are signature attributes with the Fiesta expected to deliver best-in-class fuel economy at 40 mpg.

Fiesta’s advanced 1.6-liter engine features Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) allowing the engine to be downsized for fuel economy while continuously optimizing camshaft phasing for throttle response, performance and flexibility.

Big results from a small package are possible with several new technologies in this new
global engine, including an advanced new front end accessory drive (FEAD) belt with stretchy dynamics to improve the engine’s thermal dynamics. The elasticity in this new drive belt eliminates the need for a belt tensioner and contributes to overall fuel economy.

Fiesta features a standard five-speed manual transaxle with gear ratios selected to offer spirited off-the-line performance and exceptional fuel economy for drivers who desire three pedals and a stick shift to maximize driving experience.

Specially tuned front struts, bushings, dampers, stabilizer bars and a rear twist-beam axle keep Fiesta sure-footed and firmly planted. Sporty, European driving dynamics prevail.

Automatically game-changing
An available all-new North American industry-exclusive PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission combines the responsive performance and fuel economy of a manual transmission with the convenience of a traditional automatic in one advanced, dual dry-clutch package.

“Fuel economy leaders have traditionally been manual shift models,” said Pierro Aversa, team leader for transmissions. “Fiesta changes the game by offering an advanced PowerShift six-speed automatic that delivers maximum fuel economy.”

Twin internal clutches keep the PowerShift in constant mesh, always optimizing for maximum responsiveness or fuel efficiency, depending on input received from the driver’s foot on the accelerator pedal.

This “dry” transmission operates with sealed internal lubrication, reducing internal friction and adding to Fiesta fuel economy. The lack of pumps and hoses reduces under-hood complexity, saves weight and also contributes to fuel efficiency.

PowerShift has been proven in Ford’s European market and will redefine North American small car segment expectations for responsive shifting and fuel efficiency.

Power steering conserves fuel
For confidence-inspiring on-road dynamics, Fiesta features Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) which reduces complexity while saving weight and fuel. This advanced system is speed-sensitive – providing optimized assist based on speed, cornering forces and acceleration or deceleration.

Ford is aggressively moving to EPAS across its product lineup. The system already is available in several Ford, Lincoln and Mercury nameplates, and by 2013 nearly 90 percent of Ford’s lineup will offer this fuel saving technology.

EPAS also includes Pull-Drift Compensation to help Fiesta track true regardless of road crown or side wind conditions. In addition, active nibble control helps detect and compensate for tire balance irregularity. Both features – enabled by EPAS – are class-exclusives.

Strength, safety, quality and quiet
More than 50 percent of Fiesta’s welded body structure is made from high-strength steel, with ultra-strong boron steel used in several critical areas. This rigid body shell contributes to Fiesta’s confident road-holding, best-in-class occupant safety and quiet composure.

Fiesta safety is enhanced by an array of features including dual-stage first-row air bags, a class-exclusive driver’s knee air bag, side air bags and side curtain air bags. AdvanceTrac® with ESC (Electronic Stability Control) is standard on Fiesta, along with seat belt pretensioners, rear door child safety locks and a Safety Canopy® system with rollover sensors.

Tested and proven on virtually every continent where you can drive a car, Fiesta arrives with proven quality and customer readiness.

“For North America, the global Fiesta was tweaked, not re-designed or re-developed.” said Steve Pintar, chief engineer. “We built on the success of the European Fiesta and are really proud of how little has changed.”

Fiesta NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) control is taken to a new level of quiet for this segment, helped in part by a specially laminated, class-exclusive windshield that was chosen to help absorb and contain noise. Engine noise is subdued by a hood blanket, with enhanced door seals keeping wind noise minimized.

Special padding behind the instrument panel and foam baffles mounted inside the pillars keeps Fiesta quiet. Even the headliner material was specified for its sound-deadening qualities.

Much of Fiesta’s sound-absorbent materials are comprised of recycled content, helping to conserve resources as it preserves peace and quiet. In addition, Fiesta aerodynamics contributes to both NVH control and fuel efficiency.

Features and functionality
From class-exclusive automatic climate control to a standard aux input, Fiesta offers customers a number of standard and available features that increase convenience and add connectivity. Among them is Ford SYNC®, integrating a driver’s mobile phone with Fiesta’s onboard, voice- activated communications and entertainment system.

Fiesta also offers keyless entry and push button start, a feature unique within the segment. Drivers of all sizes can adjust the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel to suit their individual preferences. Reflecting Fiesta’s versatility and adaptability, adjustable cup holders can accommodate Red Bull cans and Big Gulps along with every container size in between.

Fiesta also features Ford’s EasyFuel® Capless Fuel-Filler System, a North American industry- exclusive, as standard equipment.

Fiesta sales success
Fiesta is continuing its sales momentum as Europe’s No. 2-selling car and Ford of Europe’s top-selling vehicle, helping increase Ford’s share in Europe’s main 19 markets. More than 500,000 Fiestas have been sold since the car was launched last autumn. In Europe, the Fiesta name has long been synonymous with outstanding drive quality, design and value. It’s winning enthusiastic media reviews in Asia. Now, the all-new Fiesta offers North American consumers a stylish, fuel-efficient alternative.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at

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  1. Thanks for the big photos and the Ford press release. You can’t find those anywhere.

    I love this car but I don’t know how many Americans share my opinion. This is the land of the jacked-up SUV, you know. But maybe some Americans will buy something small that isn’t Japanese.

  2. The interior shots show a cool IP set-up. I love the way that looks. Would have liked a true hatchback exterior.

  3. I agree on the photos, thanks for posting those.

    The dry dual-clutch, six-speed automatic is the hot setup in this car! For once, the American market gets something good first.

  4. Also, the EPS looks to be very high-tech.

  5. I like the hatchback better than the notchback. Guess it was done for American tastes.

  6. I agree with Beat Nick. In person, the hatch is a much better looker than the sedan.

  7. Well I like the notchback design myself. And I also like the dash layout. This seems like a lot of car for the money.

  8. So happy to see the Fiesta finally in the U.S.

    More proof that Ford is back in the car business again, after just being in the truck business and the Mustang business for so long.

  9. All new cars sold in the EU must have fog lamps. It’s the law. It is weird that a car like this would not even offer fog lamps as optional equipment, considering all the other technology offered on the car.

    Bet they are offered later after they realize their mistake.

  10. And many cars in Europe also have the single rear fog lamp in additon to the REQUIRED fog lamps up front. Many more cars have the rear lamp there than here in the U.S. Here it’s mostly just the luxury cars and the sports cars that offer the rear fog lamp. Very helpful in low visibility weather.

  11. Ford should be able to find enough Yanks that will love this car so that it can make the case for it’s continued existence in the U.S. product family. It’s a great car.


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