I’m a car guy. I like to go for fun drives. Every once in a while things converge and I get to go out and have some fun. Wednesday was such a day; I had the use of a 2011 Ford Fiesta prototype for a few hours and took it for a run up and down Monrovia Canyon.
The car: This is a prototype Ford Fiesta, a European spec production model that will vary a little from what we get in our final production form when it goes on sale next year as a 2011 model. What we will see different is changes to the bumpers to meet our more stringent standards, and a slightly more powerful, refined 4cyl compared to what the European versions get. The car’s driving characteristics won’t be changed in the process, that’s a good thing.
Driving impression: Well, I am not at a loss for words. Much cleaner handling than the Toyota Yaris and not as tipsy feeling as the tall Honda Fit. (I have been in both recently). Overall it had very crisp reactions to steering input in the tight corners in Monrovia Canyon. The suspension was controlled soaking up ruts and potholes without bottoming out or “floating” about as what was the norm not that long ago with US produced small cars. Believe the best pop culture phrase to be used to describe the overall driving impression is: “Win”.
Another win for the Fiesta I drove was the drive train itself. The engine this was equipped with was the highly acclaimed 1.6L 16 valve “Titanium” gas engine that is the largest gas engine available in the Fiesta in either the UK or EU. I was hard pressed to find fault with the engine in terms of noise, vibration or harshness. Truthfully, the engine as equipped was really a sweet package, even attached to an automatic (with a manumatic option) that usually drain off some of the engines pep. Minor changes are expected to bring it into compliance with our tougher emission standards while increasing the power.
Interior fit and finish was on par with best in class. There was little in the way of hard plastic, or at least hard to the touch on the surfaces. The parts that looked like metal had enough heft that you didn’t think they were “cheap”. Switches and knobs were more along the lines of what people expect out of a Honda Civic than an entry level Ford product.
The seats were extremely comfortable yet firm and supportive, more of what one would expect in a sport sedan not an entry level sedan. Front seat occupants have the best seats in the house. The rear, especially with the seats pushed all the way back for my driving comfort left something a bit to be desired for rear seat leg room. Granted, not everyone will have the seats all the way back like I did, and it was more rear legroom that our trusty old Focus will give. Let’s leave it as perfect for kids and be done with it.
A lot of nifty features for the class appear on this car and will make the jump to our car. “Power start” push button no-key-in-the-ignition starting and stopping is part of the program for the car. You can check off the inclusion of an “input jack” and USB port for your Ipod/MP3 player…which will be controlled by sync that will make it into the car as well. (As an owner of a car with sync I can tell you it is nothing short of amazing in what it can so easily do, much better than simple Bluetooth connectivity found in a lot of other new cars).
Over lunch Ford rep Octavio Navarro and I talked about the car’s “kinetic design” and how strong lines to raised haunches give the car the impression of energy as if ready to pounce. It is the design theme common to all of the Ford of Europe’s cars and we will see it in more and more of our cars in the coming years. First with the Fiesta, then the C-max which was just introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show and announced it will come here. We’ll be seeing this in the all new Focus due in 2012 as well.
Blog world is full of rumors about the coming Fiesta and Focus. According to Left Lane there will be a sedan version as well as a hatchback like I drove. Ford has its own release on the topic of the car I drove. Remember the “Verve” show car from the last LA Auto Show? That concept was our first view of the “Kinetic design” and is rumored in the blogosphere to be the next Focus. (With the LA Auto Show now one of the officially sanctioned international auto shows who wants to take bets that Ford’s increased space for this year they will be show casing the Fiesta, C-max and possibly the new Focus)?
The Drive: My usual haunts were either too far for the short time I had the car or closed due to fire so I opted to stay close to home and used Monrovia Canyon. It is a short 2 mile drive with a lot of hairpin curves and steep climbs (or drops depending on your direction). Once at the top you are rewarded with a broad flat spot where you can park, picnic or take the easy 1 mile hike up to Monrovia Canyon’s waterfall (kind of a trickle this time of year). Monrovia Canyon Park: 1201 N Canyon Blvd, Monrovia, CA 91016. Map HERE.
Now you don’t have to take my word on the good to great driving dynamics of the Fiesta, listen to what Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame had to say about the car in this YouTube clip.
I liked this little car, especially the drivers accommodations. I think its size will be a hit in LA, especially in our more congested areas where parking is a hassle. The fact that it is expected to have fuel economy ratings in the 30’s, and anticipated pzev emissions is a nice added bonus for the LA Metro area.
PS. This isn’t a paid ad by Ford. Its purely my impressions and opinion of the car. I got nothing out of it other than a great drive in one of my favorite spots, as well as take images for my own use.
All pics by me. All will get bigger with a click. I have additional images in a flickr set. A review of the real deal Final Production model will follow. Anyone know where I can get an Amphibious Lander and some smoke grenades to re-enact the top gear test?