Key to the Highway

Observations about cars and the auto industry

2011 Ford Fiesta: Return of the World Car

Bold colors are part of Ford’s effort to market the Focus to the youth market.

Finally. Two years has passed since what is now the Fiesta debuted as the Verve concept in Frankfurt and now Ford has unveiled the North American version—the sixth generation—at the 2009 L.A. Auto Show. The first-gen Fiesta was sold here three decades ago, while the successive versions have been offered worldwide.

Ford says the U.S. Fiesta will differ slightly from the European version.

Not content to simply show a concept one year and unveil a production model the next, Ford recruited 100 social-media savvy, millennial-generation test drivers, known as Fiesta Movement Agents. Armed with a Euro-spec, five-door hatchback, they were turned loose to create as much viral marketing before the debut as possible.

The strategy whipped up the kind of Facebook/Twitter/YouTube frenzy the company needs to re-enter the subcompact market. Ford says 80,000 people have expressed interest in buying the car and the automaker has setup an online Fiesta Reservation system that offers potential buyers priority deliver, free SYNC system and build status updates—all with no deposit required.

So beyond all the viral buzz, what is Ford dishing up for the party-girl model in its lineup?

For starters, the Fiesta comes in sedan and hatchback models with trim levels from base to a Zetec S and bold colors in keeping with the automaker’s effort to market the Fiesta to young buyers.

Fiesta is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Fiesta is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Propelling the Fiesta down the road is a 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder engine with an estimated 119 horsepower and 109 lb.-ft. of torque. Highway fuel economy is estimated at 40 mpg. Gear changing duties are handled by either a five-speed manual or Ford’s Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission. Dual-clutch automatics are typically found on pricey German performance cars, with the best of them providing faster 0-60 mph times than a manual gearbox.

Features also include automatic climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, adjustable cup holders, keyless entry, push button start, Ford’s EasyFuel capless fuel-filler system, and SYNC, Ford’s voice- activated communications and entertainment system.

The 2011 Fiesta goes on sale next summer. Prices are yet to be announced.

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