Why is it that after you've taken off in an airplane, the captain wishes you to "enjoy the flight"? I mean, what's there to enjoy? Not being financially obese, I'm usually relegated to corral-level coach, my knees slammed into the seat in front of me and a little snot-nosed Nintendo-head kicking my seat back yelling at his inattentive mother to entertain him. Nothing to enjoy there. This thought occurred to me on my way to San Francisco to drive the new 2011 Ford Fiesta, and I realized that for the most part, sub-compact cars are about as "enjoyable" as flying coach.
Europeans have had great small cars for years, and they should when gas costs over $7 per gallon. But over here, in the land of milk, honey, and $2.70/gallon gas, large SUV's, trucks and land yachts rule. A few years ago, we had a scare in gas prices that shocked the government and the auto industry into forcing small cars onto us, but the "build it and they will buy" mentality doesn't fit small cars here. Small cars need to have European levels of refinement and American levels of comfort (large) to be worth the plastic they're formed out of. Ford identified this need and developed a version of its best selling car in Europe (actually, the best selling car in Europe, period) for the states.
At first glance, the Fiesta is an intriguing little car. In 5-door hatchback form, it emits a youthful exuberance rarely found on cars today. The long up-sweeping character line extends from the front wheel opening to the taillights, and short overhangs with standard 16" alloy wheels bode well to its sporting pretenses. In only-for-U.S. 4-door sedan form, the front end changes slightly and the bulbous rear end almost looks like a toddler carrying a load in his diaper. It's fine if you prefer a trunk over a hatch, but I'd take the sleek and borderline sexy hatchback any day.
Photos by Chris Allen