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Discussion Starter #1
Short bio:

me:

330lbs, 5'11

previous three cars:

2005 Honda Element EX AWD 4-speed Automatic
2002 Honda Civic LX 4dr 4-Speed Automatic
2002 Honda Civic SI 3dr 5-Speed Manual

Model tested:

2011 Ford Fiesta SE 5dr 5-Speed Manual

Driving conditions:

91 degrees, sunny, air conditioning on, co-piloted by sales dude


So while my wife and I were watching a Tv program this week a Fiesta commercial pops up which put into my mind the cars must finally be hitting the dealerships. Today we stopped at a dealer (name withheld to prevent this looking like an advertisement) and they had one in black. SE, 5Dr, w/ stick. I asked the guy if I could test drive it and he said sure.

First things first, getting into the vehicle is not a problem. You would think so since I'm 330lbs and almost 6 feet but I actually had less of a problem than the Honda Fit. Getting out of the vehicle was a completely different story. I definitely need to develop my own technique and know I would after a week of ownership.

Although I had to put the seat all the way back I did have to move it one click up for driving stick shift. And even then I felt perfectly fine. You have to understand I am coming from a Honda Element and with the exception of the Scion XB every vehicle feels clausterphobic in comparison. The Fiesta is no exception but for some weird reason I thought it felt roomier than the Honda Fit. I could live with this.

So anyway, drivers license given back the porters brought it out of the dealer showroom to the outside. The sales guy was with me and with it being 91 degrees we had the air conditioning on.

After 10-15 minutes of driving several things popped into my mind:

The interior feels very expensive. Not Maybach expensive - but sort of like VW Mk4 expensive (I haven't been in another VW since the Mk4 thanks to VW's crap quality - they should really stick to making interiors for other marquees.) I could hardly believe it was a Ford!

The stock audio system was good enough for me. I'm not an audiophile but it is light years ahead of the stereo I remember having in my 1995 Ford Escort.

Now here is the kicker: Based on the review I've read from Jalopnik I was likely going to go with the powershift automatic. Jalopnik thought the 5 speed manual was "ropey" and they didn't seem to like it very much. Being reviewed by enthusiasts I interpreted that as saying "Sucks balls." I'm here to tell you that while my automotive ownership history may be lacking this hands down the best manual transmission I have ever driven! I thought it was extremely smooth and the clutch would be very easy to live with.

The power from the car I thought was AWESOME. My Element must do 0 to 60 in 12 seconds because I was immediately impressed by the speed. Keep in mind, I was accompanied by another 170-200 lbs of dude and the air conditioning was on - this was more than enough thrust to keep a smile on my face.

The suspension is absolutely perfect. Our Illinois roads are getting absolutely raped this year by construction crews and the Fiesta composure over bumps was nothing sort of great.

The only issue I could find was this (and it's a rather non issue): The brochure says that the steering wheel can move up and down but for the life of me and my salesperson we could not find it! It was fine to begin with and lets be honest - once its set it is rarely moved. It still would have been nice to fine tune it just a little.

So I'll wrap this up:

If I could sum up my test drive:

1) The Fiesta is a FUN car to drive. One of my ex-coworkers once told me a story of a guy he met at a gas station who said this of his Honda CRX SI: "I make $200k a year and I don't have to drive this - but I can't buy anything more fun on the market!" Ok, I don't make $200k a year, or even $100k - but I feel exactly the same way. I get it.

2) TEST DRIVE the car if you are unsure about the powershift/manual. A few reviews weren't too happy with the manual but I thought it was FUN. Even if you lose a few MPGs I'd take the loss for a little more fun.

3) The competitors are in for a world of hurt. Honda not so much, but how could a straight faced person look at a Yaris, Aveo, or RIO when you could have this? GTFO! Save your money and buy THIS.
 

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Oh, I ♥ you for this review! You hit on several of the lingering questions i had, mainly how much room there'd be for the driver and how the A/C would mess up the accelleration. Thank you! Thank you!

I could tell from the jalopnik review and some of the others that complained about the stick that they like those firm clutches like the Honda Fit Sport has that just spring back up and have a sweet spot about 1/2 an inch long. I like soft shifters like most domestic cars have. The Ford Focus has a smooth clutch pedal that I just loved...I was hoping Fiesta would be the same way.

Did you go out on the highway, by any chance? I commute alongside some of the meanest drivers in the country, so I'm hoping Fiesta can hold its own when I try to merge in.
 

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All Ford vehicles now have a Wide Open Throttle a/c cut-off. My mustang does the same thing, if the a/c is on and you punch it the a/c will be turned off until you resume part-throttle. I appreciate your review it really helped a lot.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Unfortunately no. We were quite a bit away from the highway. However the impression I got was this was one quick little bastard. Okay, a V6 Mustang has nothing to be worried about but for just 120hp I was very impressed.

Even if cutoff occured as blueflame brought up, there was still probably almost 200lbs of someone in the car with me - and I would likely drive this solo 95% of the time - I don't even think I'll have passengers in the back. I'm buying the 5 door because there is no 3 door (which I would have ordered instead.)

As far as highway driving is concerned, someone else will have to answer that but based on what I "felt" which is all I can tell you - I would have no worries about driving on the highway.
 

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Great review blue....

Glad to hear that the manual tranny is great....it could be that the one jalponik received was an early production model ..I know that my EU Fiesta with the 1.6 gas engine was smooth as butter and was about as good as the best shifting Hondas from a couple of decades ago...those sticks were the best that Honda ever made.
 

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I really hope the manual is as smooth as my mustang, for me a good manual transmission is where a lot of the fun to drive comes from. Well, that and light weight :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I really hope the manual is as smooth as my mustang, for me a good manual transmission is where a lot of the fun to drive comes from. Well, that and light weight :)
Cars I've driven in my past with decent to great manual transmissions were my 2002 Civic Si, an extended two week borrow of a friends (2005?) Mazdaspeed Miata, and 2000 VW Golf TDI.

The Golf felt the most "plain" and "average" of them. Very long in throws and could get a little notchy. A shortshift kit took care of the throws but multiplied the effort to shift.

The Civic SI was a pain in the ass in bumper to bumper traffic. Nothing technically wrong with the clutch or the quality of shifting but the shifter was mounted high on the steering column which made driving in traffic tiresome. Also 2nd gear came way to soon. NOT a car for traffic.

The Mazdaspeed Miata was pure silky sex baby! Other than always having issues of getting it into 6th gear it felt like the shifter was stuck in some sort of hot adult massage oil :D The clutch was also nice. Best I've ever driven.

So in my world (or the vehicles I've been exposed to) the Fiestas manual/clutch comes 2nd - only bested by a Mazdaspeed Miata - high praise indeed :cool:
 

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Haha, that's very impressive! I'm relieved to hear that, now if Ford will stop messing around and announce the 3-door so i can pre-order it.
 

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Courtesi, posts like that are why I am alternately thrilled to hear these firsthand accounts and then seethe that I haven't gotten my hands on a Fiesta yet. :)

You've given me LOTS to look forward to. My left leg is going to be in a cast all summer, but I'm pretty sure I can still shift with it. A smooth shifter would help, though.
 

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I'm assuming the A\C worked fine, since you never said much about it. My Matrix has a hard time. It's in factory specs too. One of the top three reasons I'm getting a new car. But the way things are going it will be 2013 before I get it.

Once again, the most loyal Fiesta people who reserved and ordered, in March in my case, ship to dealer stock first. I guess "priority handling" means something else.

Dan
 

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I would bet that the AC system in the EU Fiesta is not the same as in the US Fiesta...because the European regulations require the use of a carbon dioxide based system....while the US favors r 134........

The R 134 systems are more reliable for the time being not to mention much less expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm assuming the A\C worked fine, since you never said much about it. My Matrix has a hard time. It's in factory specs too. One of the top three reasons I'm getting a new car. But the way things are going it will be 2013 before I get it.Dan
Air conditioning is probably a very personal thing but for what its worth I think it did a good job considering I was in a black car.

I once had a black car and while keeping it clean was a complaint (it always ended up looking filthy sometimes the same I washed it) it was always an Italian brick oven in the summer.
 

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Thanks courtesi, for the comparison on the manual tranny. I ordered a Manual SE Hatch in Lime Squeeze without test driving or even getting the opportunity to sit in a Fiesta. My previous cars have been a 93 BMW 318i, a 97 Civic Sedan, and a 91 Miata. The Miata was the only one with a manual and I must say i was worried about how the fiesta would stack up to that car.

No hatchback in its right mind should be able to best the feel and driving dynamics of the Miata, but hearing that the Fiesta stacks up close to my old car makes me a lot more certain that I made the right decision to take the leap and get my Fiesta with a 5 speed!
 

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tilt / telescope

BTW, the steering wheel tilt (it also telescopes as well) is underneath the steering column slightly to the left. You can just reach under with your left hand and you can feel it. You should have no trouble finding a comfortable steering wheel position. Tilt/telescope is standard on all models.
 

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My Turn to Drive

I got a surprise chance to test drive a US spec Fiesta S today. Saw on FaceBook that a nearby dealer had one so I went for it.

There it was an Tuxedo Black S with PowerShift:


I chatted it up for a moment with another Factioneer who happened to be there (Fiesta Faction - View Profile: tikipriest). A saleswoman who could barely speak English approached me. I asked for a drive, she said yes. After what seemed like an eternity in the showroom copying my license (and probably running my credit report) we were ready to go.

The drive was AMAZING. The ride quality and noise levels were indistinguishable from my 2004 Stratus. The noise quality was a bit different, more of a throb than a purr. Power was at least adequate, didn't feel any slower than my Stratus, but not pin-you-back-in-your seat fast by any stretch. The transmission did not make itself noticed.

The interior felt very substantial. This would have passed in a mid-size car a decade ago. The clashing color trim I was concerned about a couple of days ago was not evident here. The light stone is definitely more tan than grey. It blends well with the black.

I got to play with the simplified control panel for the S as well. I figured out how to set the clock at a stoplight. Also, I found there are settings for all the various warning chimes!

This car more than lived up to my expectations. It was (and will be) worth all the time I've waited.

Other photos: http://www.michaeldwhite.info/photogal_fiesta.php
 

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I got a surprise chance to test drive a US spec Fiesta S today. Saw on FaceBook that my dealer had one so I went for it.

There it was an Tuxedo Black S with PowerShift:


I chatted it up for a moment with another Factioneer who happened to be there (Fiesta Faction - View Profile: tikipriest). A saleswoman who could barely speak English approached me. I asked for a drive, she said yes. After what seemed like an eternity in the showroom copying my license (and probably running my credit report) we were ready to go.

The drive was AMAZING. The ride quality and noise levels were indistinguishable from my 2004 Stratus. The noise quality was a bit different, more of a throb than a purr. Power was at least adequate, didn't feel any slower than my Stratus, but not pin-you-back-in-your seat fast by any stretch. The transmission did not make itself noticed.

The interior felt very substantial. This would have passed in a mid-size car a decade ago. The clashing color trim I was concerned about a couple of days ago was not evident here. The light stone is definitely more tan than grey. It blends well with the black.

I got to play with the simplified control panel for the S as well. I figured out how to set the clock at a stoplight. Also, I found there are settings for all the various warning chimes!

This car more than lived up to my expectations. It was (and will be) worth all the time I've waited.

Other photos: http://www.michaeldwhite.info/photogal_fiesta.php
Is that Falls Church? (I'm probably totally off since I haven't been there much)
 

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Thanks for the report Powershift. I still think the S has the best interior.
 

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I finally got to test drive a Fiesta today! I LOOOOOVE this car!

My dealer has a silver Hatchback available for test-driving, so I went up to check it out. It is disgustingly adorable in real life - tiny and fierce looking and gorgeous from every possible angle. When closed, the doors make that awesome deep thumping noise professional reviewers keep mentioning that's almost as swoon inducing as the new car smell inside.

The seats are very comfortable - They are firm but also well-padded and I could easily imagine being comfortable for long rides in them. The back seat is just tiny. My salesman is quite tall and though he had on a brave face, I can't imagine sitting back there would be tolerable for more than 20 minutes.

But there were the three of us, totally weighing down the car, and it still launched like a rocket. I was stopped behind a Toyota Yaris at a stoplight, and when the light turned green the Yaris puttered forward incrementally, and I nearly buried the Fiesta right into the back of it. So, note to Fiesta owners - when stopped behind a Yaris, give the poor little weenie car at least a 25-foot head start before brushing your Fiesta's accellerator with your foot. I was testing the automatic, too - it had tons of power, was super fast, and does 75 on the highway (oops) like it's 50. Really...no strain, the steering wheel and engine block don't shake (like Tauruses do), and I honestly didn't know we were going that fast until I checked the spedometer. And there were three adults in the car!

I haven't tried the stick yet, but if I could do it all over again, I'd probably get the automatic instead. With the extra fuel economy and all that power, I can't picture the manual giving me much of an advantage. I think Ford completely reversed the stick/automatic equation and made sticks seem weaker and more pointless by comparison.

I didn't play with the SYNC or the radio while I tested the car. The stereo and AC controls are actually really complicated and intimidating, but I think I'll have them all memorized in about 20 minutes once the car is home. But the windshield is so high and the controls spill so far down towards the knees that if I'd actually looked at them while driving, I would have totally lost my preipheral vision of what was happening outside the windshield. One thing that's kind of awesome is that when the car door is opened, the battery powers up for 3 minutes or so, so we could play with the ambient lighting even though we didn't have the key when we first got in the car. I think the windows and stereo might work after the door is opened, too, but we didn't try it.

In summary, the backseat sucks for a human but my 20-pound Westie will have plenty of room and that's the only living thing that will probably ever ride back there. Thank god for Sync because that is a crazy amount of buttons on the dash. But where it matters - comfort, fun factor and VROOM - Fiesta is everything.

For whoever mentioned how bad their Matrix's AC was, the AC was frigid and fan was really strong, but it was a cool morning and the car was parked in the shade, so it wasn't a very rigid test.
 
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