2012 Ford Fiesta SES Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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It's often said that if you want to know the credo of a car company, drive its cheapest entry-level product. If this is indeed true, the Fiesta says a great deal about Ford.

And it's entirely positive. When the Fiesta first came on the market in 2010 as a 2011 model, it led the subcompact segment in refinement and technology. No longer was it necessary to be forced into a featureless econobox. Even the base 2011 Fiesta offered a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, powered mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, and a driver's knee airbag, along with the usual array of standard items. A move up in trim could even include leather upholstery and pushbutton entry and ignition, while if you opted for an automatic transmission it wasn't an old school four- or five-speed torque converted slushbox like most of its competitors, or a CVT, much vilified for robbing a car of performance, but rather a state-of-the-art fully automated sequential manual gearbox. Yes, the same type of transmission found in a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche, and yes, also available in performance cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR and Nissan GT-R. Other than Ford, only Volkswagen offers a similar type automatic gearbox in more mainstream common stock, and they don't play in the subcompact class.

Moving into 2012, not much has changed with the blue oval's smallest North American entry, and that's a very good thing. All of the above is still true, with the bonus of a few extra features added to higher-level SE, SEL and SES trim levels. Each of these now gets a standard driver's seat armrest, while remote start and Ford's exclusive keyless entry keypad are available. What's more, Sirius satellite radio can now be had with the just-above-base SE.

If the Fiesta's full feature set was all it offered, I likely wouldn't be so bullish on the car. That's just the half of it though, or more accurately a quarter of the Fiesta's attributes. The quality of materials, the way everything is put together, overall functionality, impressive efficiency, and driving experience make up the other three quarters. The Fiesta delivers a smooth, comfortable ride, good handling and class comparatively strong performance off the line. The Fiesta comes standard with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder capable of 120-horsepower and 112 lb-ft of torque, which makes it miles more fun than its base Japanese rivals, only beaten by the Koreans and Chevy's surprisingly energetic Sonic.

The Sonic and just every other subcompact competitor pale on two other more important fronts, mind you, fuel-economy and entry price. Other than the stripped down Nissan Versa sedan, the Fiesta's $14,499 base price, including destination fees, is the best amongst subcompacts, with the Sonic's $15,990 about 10-percent more. The Toyota Yaris starts at $15,550 and Honda Fit at $15,875. The Hyundai Accent is a strong competitor at $14,694, and Kia Rio slightly pricier at $15,250. Of course, the prices differ because each base car offers unique standard features, but I don't think you'll be disappointed with what Ford puts on the table with its Fiesta S.

Along with the items already mentioned, you'll get integrated blind spot coverage on the powered mirrors, a four-inch multifunction LCD display, an auxiliary input jack for your portable player, nice cloth seats, the rear one splitting and folding flat even in base sedan form. Moving up to the hatchback requires SE or SES trim, the latter similar to the sedan's SEL trim level. The SE adds powered windows with auto down/up, powered door locks with remote keyless entry, air conditioning, a CD for the audio system, message centre with a trip computer, chrome interior accents, and more. Specific to the SE hatchback is a spoiler, cargo cover and rear wiper. Likewise, those three items are the only differentiators between the top-line SEL sedan and the SES hatch, with these models also getting premium-like heated seats, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, SYNC phone and audio connectivity, cruise control, plus chrome side window mouldings and 16-inch alloy rims to dress up the exterior. If I have one complaint it's that wireless phone connectivity isn't standard, but this is true for nearly every competitor. If you want barebones S trim you'll have to go with an aftermarket Bluetooth system.

My SES Hatchback tester had Ford's impressive Sync connectivity system standard, but at a starting price of $20,499 it was expected. There was a lot more in my tester than just the standard SES items, though, such as a six-speed automatic gearbox at $1,250; proximity sensing remote access and pushbutton ignition at $500; a premium interior package that added leather upholstery, a leather and aluminum trimmed steering wheel, and premium floor mats for $1,400; a premium exterior package that gave the wheels a shinier polished finish, added a charcoal decklid moulding and front LED running lights for $800; plus some exterior graphics for $500, remote starter for $300, and a block heater for $100, equaling $4,950 worth of options. The total price came to $25,349, excluding taxes. Sure, that's a lot for a subcompact, but I felt like I was driving around in a little luxury car.

A luxury car that only weighs a mere 1,168 kilos as tested, maneuvers within strict city confines with ease, zips in and out of traffic with zeal, is so short it parallel parks without thought yet can haul up to 435 litres of cargo in its convenient hatch, and delivers near best-in-class fuel economy at a claimed 6.9 city and 5.1 highway in either five-speed manual or automatic guise.

Yes, Ford is onto something with its small car lineup, and the new Fiesta, in any trim level, is one of the best subcompact cars money can buy.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Ford, 2012, Fiesta, $10,000 - $19,999, $20,000 - $29,999, Subcompact,

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