As small crossovers keep growing in popularity, the sub-compact cars most of them are built on have a harder time winning over buyers. This goes to show you how automakers can sell a vehicle at a higher price ― and earn more profit ― if they just tweak the exterior package.
While many have jumped on the bandwagon, Ford prefers to focus on the Fiesta and, well, the Focus.
Launched in 2010 as a 2011 model, the little-known Ford Fiesta joined a stable full of marquee names led by the full-size F-Series truck. This diminutive hatchback proves that the Blue Oval can build attractive city cars, although customers in Europe have shown much more interest in the Fiesta ― over a much longer period of time ― than those in North America. Out here, Ford’s smallest automobile has enjoyed limited success, and its sales melted faster than snow under a hot sun last year. Is the Fiesta already irrelevant?
Three different engines
The folks in Dearborn did their homework and they seem to have thought everything through. The 2016 Ford Fiesta is available in two different body styles including a 4-door sedan and a 5-door hatchback, and it remains the only sub-compact car on this side of the Atlantic to offer three different engines.
In addition to my SE tester’s naturally aspirated 1.6L 4-cylinder, Fiesta buyers have two EcoBoost options to choose from. The first is a small, turbocharged 1.0L triple-cylinder that theoretically promises the most savings at the pump. The other is a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder unit that powers the so-called high-performance Fiesta ST exclusively.
Let’s go back to the standard mill. It may not be a powerhouse, but it sure can boogie, especially when mated to the available 6-speed dual-clutch transmission ($1,250) as was the case of my Ford Fiesta SE.
The Fiesta’s European design can really be felt while driving as the chassis proves rigid enough to allow some fun behind the wheel. After all, small cars are supposed to be quick and nimble to traverse the urban jungle, aren’t they?
Of course, the Fiesta SE is not as sharp as the sporty ST model, but the family ties manage to shine through. Even though the suspension is softer for better ride quality, the car is still agile enough to take on a series of corners with pretty decent confidence. There is some body roll, yes, but you could do a lot worse in this segment in terms of handling. Steering is very light, which makes parking manoeuvres easier. Same thing for the short turning radius.
The 2016 Ford Fiesta’s dual-clutch transmission certainly delivers quicker shifts than a conventional automatic, but this particular unit has a long way to go before ranking among the world’s best. For example, changing gears manually requires pressing a button on the left side of the shift knob. Paddles on the steering wheel would have been more appropriate and more pleasant to use on a daily basis.
What about fuel economy? All you need to know is that the old-school 4-cylinder engine compares favourably to the new-school triple-cylinder EcoBoost.
Classier cabin than expected
Ford has always bragged about its Fiesta offering above-average quality. While the exterior could use more work, the interior lives up to that statement. The various plastics look and feel good, while build quality is superior to certain Ford vehicles that cost 2-3 times more ― seriously.
Up front, you’ll find ample space for two adults; in the rear, however, expect to feel a bit more squeezed. As for cargo capacity, the Ford Fiesta should take a page from the Honda Fit’s book on how to deliver class-leading room. Meanwhile, soundproofing is perfectible, but that’s par for the course in the economy segment.
Option, options, and more options
Can the 2016 Ford Fiesta really be considered an “economy” car? It sure can with a low starting price of $16,049. The problem is when you start adding options: My richly appointed SE tester carried $6,195 worth of options and amounted to $22,944 before freight and taxes, landing well into compact-car territory.
Therefore, buyers need to be extremely careful when they spec their new Ford Fiesta. Like, do you really want to spend $995 for a body kit or $200 for some decals? The psychological mark of $20k is really easy to exceed, here.
Ford Fiesta finalities
The Fiesta’s dwindling sales are the product of many things. As mentioned earlier, small crossovers are stealing some of its market share, but don’t forget about the competition within the sub-compact car segment. A number of models have been redesigned in recent years, whereas the Fiesta has pretty much stayed put.
Additionally, there are buyers who won’t hesitate to spend a bit more to get a roomier, similarly equipped Focus. That scenario plays out more often than you think inside Ford showrooms.