2011 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan

Review and photos by
Greg Wilson, CanadianDriver.com

At CanadianDriver, we’ve given a fair amount of attention to the new Fiesta hatchback recently, but what about that other Fiesta: the sedan?

Not everyone wants the extra utility and cargo space of a hatchback. Some buyers just prefer the more traditional styling and security of a small car with a trunk.

2011 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan

2011 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan

The Fiesta sedan is arguably more stylish than the hatch. Though it’s almost identical from the nose to the rear doors, the sedan’s profile flows more gracefully from the steeply raked rear window into a short, tall trunk and a rear fascia with more conservatively shaped tail lights. The sedan also has additional third side windows behind the rear doors for improved visibility. Despite its tall, narrow proportions, the sedan has a more balanced appearance than the hatchback.

If you thought the Fiesta sedan looks bigger than the hatchback, you’d be right: it’s over a foot (342 mm/13.5 in.) longer. You might also think it would have more trunk space behind the rear seats, but in fact the Fiesta sedan’s trunk is smaller than the hatchback’s (362 litres vs 490 litres). With the hatchback’s split folding seatbacks folded down, there is even more cargo space, even though the seats aren’t level with the floor. The sedan’s rear seats fold down the same way, but the opening to the trunk is rather small and the sedan’s irregularly shaped cargo area is cannabilized by large trunk hinges when the lid is closed. Still, the Fiesta sedan does have more trunk space than the Chevy Aveo, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio sedans – but less than the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa sedans, all key competitors.

Key mechanical and comfort features in the sedan are the same as in the hatchback, but one important feature is different: the base price. The Fiesta sedan is available in a base S version starting at $12,999 whereas the hatchback starts in SE trim for $16,799. Granted, the base Fiesta sedan S model is missing some popular standard features, like air conditioning, but its low price is attractive for budget buyers. I suspect Ford priced it this low to compete with the Nissan Versa 1.6 sedan which is being offered for $12,698 in 2010.

Available trim levels on the Fiesta sedan are S ($12,999), SE ($16,099), and SEL ($18,199) with an additional $1,350 destination charge on all models. A five-speed manual transmission is standard while Ford’s nifty new six-speed dual dry-clutch automatic transmission is a $1,250 option on all models.

Though it’s relatively inexpensive, the base Fiesta S sedan has some unexpected standard features such as power mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, knee airbag, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes. It also includes standard AM/FM stereo with auxiliary input jack, variable intermittent wipers, front, side and curtain airbags, split-folding rear seatbacks, floor mats, and 15-inch all-season tires and steel wheels.

The next level up, the Fiesta SE sedan, adds a chrome three-bar grille, air conditioning, power windows with automatic up/down, power door locks with keyless entry, illuminated entry, vanity mirrors, seatback storage pockets, chrome interior accents, CD/MP3 stereo, and system monitor.

The SEL sedan, this week’s test model, adds 16-inch tires and alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth seats with front seat heaters, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and SYNC hands-free telephone and communications system, premium sound system with six speakers, Sirius satellite radio with six-month free subscription, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and chrome side window mouldings. Options include leather upholstery ($1,200), a power sunroof ($1,200), and passive entry ($500).

Like the Fiesta hatchback, the sedan has a tall roof and big doors making entry and exit relatively easy. Interior legroom and headroom is good for front passengers, as is rear headroom, but rear legroom is just adequate for adults even though there is generous footroom under the front seats. Rear passengers must do without a folding centre armrest and storage pockets, but there is a cupholder at the rear of the centre console and a 12-volt outlet.

The top-of-the-line SEL model has standard sport cloth upholstery which, in my car, was a very attractive black with blue stitching and a blue seat pattern. The front seats are comfortable with good cushion and backrest support and the driver’s seat includes a manual height adjuster but no lumbar adjustment; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel is standard. The front seats also include seat heaters, just in time for winter. The doors have padded armrests but the Fiesta doesn’t include a centre armrest or storage bin.

The two large round gauges behind the well-padded leather-wrapped steering wheel are easy to read as is the small red-on-black digital display between the gauges which shows outside temperature, average fuel economy, average speed, and distance to empty.

The centre instrument panel design looks very sporty but the toggle knob for controlling the audio and SYNC functions that are displayed in the screen above it is too fiddly to be operated while driving. Plus, the volume dial is rather small and there is no volume control on the steering wheel. Of course, you can operate many functions with the voice-operated audio and telephone functions that are part of the SYNC system.

A few European touches may seem odd to Canadians, such as the dash mounted door lock button and one-touch turn signals for changing lanes, but as it is a European design, you’ll have to do like the Europeans do.

Lower on the centre console is a small storage container and behind the shift lever is an open bin with USB, auxiliary and 12-volt powerpoint, a great place to leave your iPod or phone. The two cupholders behind the shift lever, one deeper than the other, include changeable colour tones for all your moods.

My test car had the optional Start/Stop button on the dash, and doors that can be locked and unlocked by pressing a black button on the front door handles. The key can be left in your pocket all the time.

Out on the highway, the Fiesta is notable for its quiet, comfortable cruising ability. Apparently, Ford went to town on the sound insulation, including an underhood blanket, door seals, padding behind the instrument panel, foam baffles inside the windshield pillars, and headliner insulation. An extra bonus is that all sound absorbent materials are recyclable.

As well, the small 120-hp 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine revs at a modest 2,600 r.p.m. at 100 km/h in top gear on a level highway, keeping engine noise to a minimum. Acceleration is quick off the line, but mid-range punch is weak – partly because of tall gearing designed to improve fuel economy. A four-door Fiesta SE sedan with a manual transmission took 10.9 seconds to reach 100 km/h, according to Consumer Reports, while an SES hatchback with a six-speed automatic took 10.7 seconds.

The Fiesta’s standard five-speed manual tranny shifts easily from gear to gear but is a bit clunky. Clutch effort is light and take-up is smooth. A large “dead pedal” on the left allows the driver to rest their clutch foot when cruising. Standard Hill Start Assist prevents the car from rolling back on a hill after the brake is released before the clutch is engaged – boy, I could have used this when I first learned to drive!

The Fiesta’s optional six-speed dual clutch transmission is reportedly the transmission to have, but CanadianDriver’s Peter Bleakney found it “reluctant to kick down” because it’s “tuned for maximum fuel economy.” At 100 km/h, it helps the engine rev at just 2,300 r.p.m.

Fuel economy with the manual transmission, as rated by the EPA is 8.4 L/100 km City and 6.4 L/100 km Highway. With the six-speed auto, it’s 8.1/6.2 city/hwy. Regular fuel can be pumped through Ford’s unique Easy Fuel capless fuel filler – it makes filling up faster and less messy.

Perhaps the Fiesta’s most endearing quality is its nimble handling and comfortable ride – two things you don’t always find in a subcompact sedan. The Fiesta’s tight body and sporty handling, assisted by 195/50R16-inch all-season tires on the SEL – Hankook Optima tires in this case – add a bit of fun to your daily commute. The smaller, narrower 15-inch tires on S and SE models, however, take a bite out of handling and braking, according to some sources.

Brakes are discs in front with drums in the rear, all with anti-lock. Consumer Reports’ 60 to 0 mph braking test showed a braking distance of 43.2 metres in the dry for a Fiesta sedan with the 15-inch tires, and 40.8 metres for a Fiesta hatchback with 16-inch tires.

The car’s speed-sensitive electric power assist steering is nicely weighted and includes “Pull Drift Compensation” to compensate for road crowns and side winds, and my favourite, “Active Nibble Control” to compensate for tire balance irregularities. From the driver’s seat, these automatic steering assistants are imperceptible and can be overridden. Standard electronic traction and stability control are also there to help prevent wheelspins and spinouts in treacherous conditions, however you can’t turn them off if needed in deep snow and glare ice. This is something one of our Ottawa writers will have to try this winter.

Crash safety for occupants is given a boost by a driver’s knee airbag, in addition to the standard dual stage front airbags, side airbags in the front seats, and curtain airbags in the roof for both rows of outboard passengers.

Compared to its subcompact competitors, Yaris, Versa, Aveo, Accent and Rio, the Fiesta sedan offers more styling flair, a more exciting driving experience, a state of the art automatic transmission, a quieter cabin and more features like SYNC. It’s not as roomy as a Versa and its interior controls could be easier to use, but overall it scores higher in most respects. Considering that it offers more for about the same money, the Fiesta sedan appears to be a good value in the marketplace.

The new Fiesta is assembled in Cuautitlan Izcalli, Mexico and comes with a standard 3 year/60,000 km warranty and 5-year/100,000 km powertrain warranty.

Pricing: 2011 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan

Base price: $18,199

Options: $500 (keyless entry and start)

A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,350

Price as tested: $20,149

Crash test results

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

Greg WilsonGreg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and editor of CanadianDriver. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

Read more Test Drives on CanadianDriver.com

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4 Responses to 2011 Ford Fiesta SEL sedan

  1. Canuckian says:

    Too expensive for such a small, ugly ride. Better off with Canadian made civic or corolla for the same money. Better rides, too.
    The final price for this vehicle should be $13,666 fully equipped, with auto.
    IMHO

  2. Scooter says:

    It is a nice attempt but the plastic on the inside looks so cheap. Not an attractive look, kind of like KIA or Hyundai the early years. Step it up they have.

  3. Pingback: Not a fan of hatchbacks, but want a small car? Not to worry, we talked and Ford listened by giving us the 2011 Fiesta sedan! | Future Ford of Roseville Blog

  4. Pingback: Not a fan of hatchbacks, but want a small car? Not to worry, we talked and Ford listened by giving us the 2011 Fiesta sedan! « Fremont Ford's Blog

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