Post-Test Drive Thoughts


 

The other day, a user by the name of RT posted this excellent review of a Fiesta he test drove during a Ride/Drive event. Besides the thoughts about the arm rest, I agree with his comments about the Fiesta. I am not sure if all Fiesta’s have the telescoping wheel, but my Fiesta Movement car does have it. There is also tons of adjustment with the telescoping wheel, more so than other cars I have driven. His tester may have not had this option. Below is his review, with my comments added.

 

Bryan,
Thanks for the detailed thoughts on your loaner Fiesta. They are very worthwhile.

I went to the Fiesta Movement Ride & Drive at Venice Beach this morning, and test drove the automatic Fiesta with ~98 hp (the manual ones had the 1.6Ti-VCT. Here are my thoughts.

Power: I was very surprised at how quickly a car with so little power and a 4 speed autobox could get up to speed. It’s slow, sure, but not as slow as I was prepared for it to be. The autobox is decidedly mediocre, but Ford has already announced that 6 speed Powershift is coming, so that isn’t a worry. I think the ~118 hp 1.6 engine ought to be adequate, but who wouldn’t want more power (see below)?

Ride/Handling: What I was impressed with was the steering and handling. The directness and transparency of the steering was a surprise. It is step or two better than the Fit, and I thought the Fit was really good. If the steering has a demerit, it’s that it feels a bit artificial, but I guess that is unavoidable with electric steering. Nonetheless, most hydraulic steering cars that I’ve driven do not have this amount of precision, so this is a minor complaint. The car cornered quite flatly (the only lean clearly came from the 15″ tires’ sidewalls, which is an easy fix: get 16’s), and the car changed direction rapidly with zero drama. The ride was surprisingly comfortable without being floaty, which was really nice. I didn’t have a chance to take it on the freeway, but it was plenty stable at 50 mph and from my conversation with the FM representative, it’s pretty stable at freeway speeds, which is good, since I found the Fit a little skittish at freeway speeds.
One of my friends has a Mini Cooper S that I had the opportunity to drive a good bit, and while the Fiesta obviously doesn’t handle as good as the Cooper S, I prefer the way it drives and handles. While the Mini is stellar, is a very nervous car, and its nervousness, combined with the flintiness of the ride, was off-putting to me. I doubt that I could live with the Mini every day, while even in just a 20 minute spin around the streets of Venice, I became confident that I could live with the Fiesta every day from a ride/handling perspective.

RT, I have to agree with your assessment about the precision of the steering. Only my Mustang with its race spec suspension and needle bearing steering shaft has steering that is as good as the Fiesta has from the factory. The tires also give outstanding road feel, which translates into a car that is very confident when pushed. While autocrossing or on the track, the Fiesta feels like it is an extension of my arms and responds instantly to my commands. This car is truly meant for people who like to drive! I have driven a Mini Cooper S, and found the ride to be harsh compared to my SVT Focus and the Fiesta. I thought I would like the Cooper S more after driving one, but felt it wasn’t as good as my SVT Focus. I did not get a chance to really push the Cooper, so I am not sure how it compares.

Interior: I like the Fiesta’s interior. It seems plenty intuitive to me. The controls had a good feel to them, the instruments were intuitive and legible, and both and are logically located. Exterior visibility is also excellent. The front seat was very easy to get into position and quite comfortable. It could do with a longer thigh cushion, though, and a bit more bolstering. Otherwise, I really liked the front seats, and am pretty sure that I could settle in for a long haul in them. The only two demerits I have for the front seats are that the material along the window sill, which is where I like put my elbow when cruising, is plasticky and rough and that the car does not have an armrest between the seats. The former is unlikely to get fixed, but the aftermarket can fix the latter is Ford won’t.
From the driver’s seat perspective, the Fiesta outclasses the Fit and Cooper in my opinion. The Fit has good seats and instruments, and stellar visibility. The stereo is fiddly, however, and the steering wheel doesn’t telescope, making it a bit harder to get a seating position that is completely comfortable. The Mini has awesome seats (especially the sports seats), but visibility isn’t as good, and the controls are awkwardly placed and the instrument placement is terrible.
Moving to the back, the rear bench is comfortable enough, but it isn’t as good as the Fit in comfort: the Fit’s higher roof and slight increase in leg room makes a big difference in such small cars (I’m not going to even bother discussing the Mini here). The cargo space is also excellent (it can fit as much with the seats up as my e46 323i), but again the Fit outclasses it in this respect. The Fit has ungodly amounts of cargo space for such a small car, and the trick fold flat seats and foldable rear bench are really nice.

I also wish for more bolstering, as the seats allow me to slide around too much during “spirited” driving. I have heard the seats will have less bolstering and will be more flat than the EU cars. That is sad because I will slide all over in them. I am not a fan of center arm rests as they always get in the way. Perhaps I have not driven a car with a good one, so I am very much against having an obstruction behind the gear lever. I do have to agree about the Cooper’s interior. I really liked the Mini, until I drove one and realized how cheap the interior felt. I did not care for the layout of the dash, but loved the toggle switches. The first gen Focus has a much better interior, and the EU spec Fiesta is outstanding compared to the Cooper. For me, the Fiesta is fine for rear cargo room since it passed the test of hauling 4 race slicks and all of the equipment needed for a day at the track.

Here was the interesting bit: I went on my drive with the site manager, and he said that the Fiesta WILL be available with an Ecoboost engine, possibly at launch. I’m hoping he has good information, because ~150 hp in the Fiesta would be incredible. If not, then aftermarket companies are going to have a field day with this car: it has plenty of under hood space, so Saleen, Roush, Mountune, etc. have plenty of space to play with.

The subject about the EcoBoost engines is still an unknown as I hear the Focus will launch with the EcoBoost, but the Fiesta will not. I have also heard the exact opposite, so nobody is really saying what is going on. There is no doubt than an EcoBoost Fiesta will be a blast. I just hope the US version isn’t so stripped down that nobody will want it, regardless of the engine. I would rather lose the turbo and keep the leather, keyless starting, and the options from Europe. The worst will be to lose the nice options, get a stripped down car, and not have a performance option. At that point, Ford just made an Aveo with an oval on the bumper.

My preliminary assessment comparing the Fiesta and Fit is that the Fiesta has (for the price and class) an excellent driving experience combined with adequate passenger accommodations and cargo space, while the Fit has a solid driving experience combined with very good passenger accommodations and cargo space.

Thanks RT for your detailed description! Before I give the Fiesta back, I need to go out and drive a Fit to compare. For me, the Fit is too pedestrian looking and I am not attracted to it. The style of the Fiesta draws me in, and then driving it solidifies how much I like the car. I just hope the US car isn’t stripped down; otherwise it will just be another failed attempt at a world car.

,

  1. #1 by Rick - August 10th, 2009 at 16:06

    Bryan,
    I’m looking forward to reading your comments when you compare the Fiesta to the Honda Fit. I test drove a Fit in April 09 and in addition to tight handling and gigantic amount of space for a small car, I was very impressed by the view out the windshield. It was open, and airy. The high seating position allowed me to look down on the dash somewhat and that, combined with the gigantic front windscreen, low belt line and small front side windows made it feel like I was driving into a big screen TV. It was a very “involving” feeling. Do you get a good view out of the Fiesta?
    Thanks again for all of your detailed comments regarding the Fiesta. The Fit does not have vehicle stability (without paying $1800 and getting a navi system too) so the Fiesta is looking like a very worthwhile alternative.

  2. #2 by Bryan Redeker - August 11th, 2009 at 06:28

    The view outside the front of the Fiesta is outstanding. I am used to having good forward visibility from driving my Focus with its huge windshield. I need to find a Fit to test drive before school starts in a few weeks.

  3. #3 by RT - August 12th, 2009 at 16:20

    Thanks for the kind words! By the way, sorry that I wasn’t clear; the Fiesta I drove did have a tilt/telescope wheel, and I very much appreciated the adjustability that it offered. I was intending to criticize the Honda Fit for only having a tilt steering wheel, which was very disappointing.

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