2009 Ford Fiesta First Impressions

2009 Ford Fiesta First Impressions

It's come to Ford's attention that countless shoppers are complaining about the lack of European models available on this side of the globe.

If you're one of thousands offended by this, there’s now some cause for excitement. After enjoying popularity in Europe, the sassy Ford Fiesta is officially coming to Canada. It's not joining the party until next summer, but Ford recently procured a few units from Holland to give Canadian auto journalists a sneak preview of the new model.

The course led the cars around a slalom segment, then into a series of very tight bends.

Why all the fuss about cars from Europe?

Though most of their exports are sold to us Canadians with pricey, premium nameplates, Europeans love small cars. In fact, they build entry-level machines that are upscale and fun-to-drive beyond the often generic and utilitarian machinery that passes for basic transport here.

Parked in a crowd, the Fiesta testers looked like a handful of Jolly-Ranchers. With various candy-like shades including raspberry, blueberry and lime, the car’s fun-focused intentions were apparent from first glance.

Less exciting looking machines could scarcely pull off colors like these, but Ford’s new compact and energy-dense 'kinetic' design language lays the appropriate foundation. Parked in close proximity, the Fiesta makes some of its competitors look like they’re sleeping.

In a back-to-back handling test, Fiesta made competitors feel sleepy, too. A course was set up in a large parking lot to put the Fiesta and three of its key competitors to the test in a head-to-head evaluation.

The course led the cars around a slalom segment, then into a series of very tight bends. A further stretch simulated a portion of winding road, and the whole thing terminated in a sweeping left-hand corner that led into a stopping zone.

Your correspondent started with the Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris. The Versa required relatively big steering inputs to make it turn, so my hands were kept busy rapidly steering for the tight corners. The Yaris seems to have a quicker steering system, but the mushy suspension brings plenty of body roll and fuss when thrown around.

Parked in a crowd, the Fiesta testers looked like a handful of Jolly-Ranchers.


Neither of these machines is lousy or below average in the handling department-- they’re just what North Americans are used to being sold in a cheap car.

The highway ride at speed is relatively stable and planted too, and invading noise is kept well within acceptable limits for the segment.

Fiesta takes things up a notch with tighter suspension, sharper steering and a taut chassis that are apparent instantly. Right from the first curve, Fiesta’s rear end follows the front tightly. Response to inputs is more satisfying, and the car exhibits far less drama when throwing its weight around. It’s more like a go-kart and less like a wagon.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel with racing-style thumb grips was a nice touch, too. Hopefully this makes it onto the Canadian model.

Dynamically, the Fiesta’s biggest threat was the Honda Fit Sport. Both are sharp as a tack and eager to please. The Fit even boasts a slightly sportier steering rack, but the Fiesta feels like the smaller and more nimble car by a hair.

Of course, Fiesta drivers probably won’t be squealing tires or slaloming through a parking-lot-- but the handling does reinforce efforts to give this machine an above-par level of entertainment value. After all, Ford of Europe has a reputation for building a competent entry-level car.

Moving from the handling course onto public roads, the Fiesta’s sportiness didn’t invade terribly on ride comfort. The car feels composed and solid over most surfaces, albeit for some occasional choppiness on rougher streets. Engineers have struck a nice balance between ride and handling.

That’s backed up by a light and lively feel to the brakes, steering and shifter. Add in the small turning circle and good visibility, and Fiesta feels comfortable darting around obstacles on busy downtown streets. The highway ride at speed is relatively stable and planted too, and invading noise is kept well within acceptable limits for the segment.

Complaints at first glance? The rear-seat quarters are just adequate for adults, and the exposed metal on the backs of the rear seats looks pretty el-cheapo.

The 1.6 litre, 119 horsepower four-cylinder engine provided smooth and flexible power thanks to dual variable camshafts.


Power isn’t neck-snapping, but the 1.6 litre, 119 horsepower four-cylinder engine provided smooth and flexible power thanks to dual variable camshafts. The powerplant is mostly quiet, only becoming loud as redline approaches. Still no official word on what engine will power the Canadian model, but Ford says mileage should reside in the 40 MPG (5.9L / 100km) ballpark.

After enjoying popularity in Europe, the sassy Ford Fiesta is officially coming to Canada.

Feature availability should prove surprisingly upscale. Ford says the Fiesta will hit the Canadian market with heated leather, an intelligent key, Bluetooth, Sync and their cap-free EasyFuel system. It’s all taken in from a depthy, dynamic and nicely trimmed cabin.

Officials also say that the model offered here will be about 90 percent identical to the Euro-spec unit tested—though full details, specifications and pricing won’t be announced until December. Until then, this looks like a car that’s safe to start getting excited about.
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