Mr. Green Car: Protect the environment with the Ford Fiesta

A four-door Ford Fiesta sedan on display at a local dealership. Photo by Allen Penticoff

By Allen Penticoff
Free-lance Writer

I first bumped into the new 2011 Ford Fiesta at the Chicago Auto Show back in February. This spunky little car started appearing in local dealers’ lots in June or July. They are hard to have a look at yet because the dealers are only getting a few, and those they get are snapped up by eager buyers.

At the auto show, I was smitten by the “Lime Squeeze” metallic green four-door hatchback on display. I thought it was cute and stylish. While Ford does offer a four-door sedan, and that is what I inspected in a dealer’s lot, I’d personally have to go with the hatchback as being more in the sporty spirit.

The new Fiesta, as was its old predecessor, has “European” in its blood, and a healthy dose of Japanese DNA as well, for it shares the same chassis platform as the sporty sub-compact Mazda2. The Fiesta is smaller overall than Ford’s successful Focus, and is its new entry-level car at a suggested retail price of $13,200 (base sedan). In reviews I’ve read, it is compared favorably to the Honda Fit. The reviews praise the Fit’s more versatile interior, but give higher marks to handling and “fun” to the Fiesta.

At the auto show, they had a cut-away of the Fiesta’s new automatic transmission that interested me as much as the car. The transmission is a six-speed dual dry clutch with automatic shifting. This gives the transmission the no-slip benefit and efficiency of a manual transmission, but without the need to operate the clutch pedal. Unfortunately, there is no provision for manually shifting the gears on the automatic. If you want to do the shifting, stick with the standard five-speed manual transmission.

The Ford Fiesta hatchback on display at the Chicago Auto Show last February. Photo by Allen Penticoff

Interestingly, the EPA mileage rating is higher with the automatic (29 city/38 highway) versus the manual transmission’s (28 city/37 highway). Ford lays claim to the Fiesta being the only non-hybrid car with mileage of 40 or greater. They claim 42 highway mpg if you add an optional “ground-effects” package. Many other cars also get 40 mpg on the highway in real life, Ford’s own Focus included.

The engine is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder producing 119 horsepower. Sadly, we Americans don’t get the 1.6-liter diesel option the Europeans do that gets 64 mpg. But the little 4-valve-per-cylinder gas engine reportedly is quite peppy and will get you going quite well—just don’t get in a big rush or a race.

When I took a look at the local Fiesta, it seemed to be well made, reasonably roomy and thought out. It hit me that as production of this “global car” soars, they are going to be commonly seen in rental fleets and pretty much everywhere. Renting a car is the best way to “test drive” one. Nothing like a day or two—or a week to get to know a car and find out if you really like it.

In checking out the “Environmental Performance” window sticker, I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see they are built in Mexico, with only 10 percent of the parts being domestic U.S./Canadian content. The window sticker also shows the Fiesta has a “Global Warming Score” of 8 out of 10 and a Smog Score of 6 of 10 (higher is better). Which brings us to why Mr. Green Car is writing about a new car. I cannot emphasize enough the need for us to buy and drive smaller vehicles. The physics are simple: small vehicles consume less fuel and oxygen—and produce less pollution. There is a fine crop of smaller cars in the $13,000 to $15,000 range that provide gas mileage in the 35 mpg range without the cost or complexity of being hybrids. Much of the world drives cars like this. Ford knows that.

I find it distressing that our current low gasoline prices are driving record sales of pick-up trucks again. This shows our poor memory and short-sightedness. $4-a-gallon gas could come again any day, yet we act as though the sub $3-per-gallon price will last forever. All these mostly unneeded pick-ups consume and pollute at twice the rate of the practical and fun Fiesta and its kind. As the Environmental Performance window sticker says, “Protect the environment, choose vehicles with higher scores.”

From the Sept. 8-14, 2010 issue

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