Can This Car Save Ford? It looks great in Europe's cities, but we'll see if it suits the wide-open spaces of America. By Alistair Weaver, European Editor Date posted: 08-24-2008 89-hp 1.6-liter turbodiesel - Ford of Europe Kinetic Design - Three-door hatchback or five-door hatchback - More compact than a Ford Focus No pressure. As the first examples of the 2009 Ford Fiesta roll down the assembly line in Cologne, Germany, a recorded video from Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, notes for all of us, "The all-new Fiesta is an outstanding symbol for our One Ford vision of a single global company designing and building cars for customers around the world." Later, Marin Eurela, Ford's executive director of small cars, tells us that the new Fiesta is the "most significant global vehicle project since the Ford Model T." After years of resistance from Ford's various divisions around the world — especially the U.S. — Mother Ford has finally decided that the most profitable way to build cars is to create one really good one and sell it to everybody. After all, look what it did for the Model T, which celebrates its centenary this year. And Ford is betting it all on the 2009 Ford Fiesta, a small car meant to make the best of these troubled times. It's supposed to be the Model T, Volkswagen Beetle and Honda Civic all rolled into one. Like we say, no pressure. Landing on the Beaches of Britain The 2010 model sold in the US will be identical. Some 1,900 Ford Fiestas and Fusions will roll off the retooled Cologne assembly plant in Germany every day, and soon they will come ashore in Britain. The Fiesta's home has always been in Europe, where it's been a phenomenal success story, with more than 2 million examples sold since the badge was introduced with Ford's first front-wheel-drive world car in 1976. For Brits looking for a small car, the Fiesta remains the default choice, so it's no surprise that they will hit the U.K first. The previous-generation Fiesta was a good car that drove beautifully, but its insipid appearance both inside and out always counted against it. The trendy young thrusters that Uncle Henry craves as his audience have instead spent the last six years saving for a Mini instead. For a young audience easily seduced by pure style, the Fiesta needed an injection of flair. Step forward Kinetic Design, a new design vocabulary for Ford. The Fiesta's style can be traced to the Verve Concept car that was shown at the Frankfurt auto show last September. The extravagant cheese-grater grille is gone and a license plate now dissects the gaping mouth, but the visual drama remains. This is the first small car to be designed under the direction of Ford of Europe's design director Martin Smith. And it's a fine effort, as there can be no denying that the new 2009 Ford Fiesta looks far more exciting than its dowdy predecessor. With the angular, oversized headlights, a pert rump and prominent shoulder line, the Fiesta genuinely looks more youthful than its most obvious European rivals, the Opel Corsa and Volkswagen Polo. Whether this is enough to tempt the trendies away from the Mini or the new Fiat 500 remains to be seen though, of course, and the sedan version of the Fiesta that's heading for the U.S. is unlikely to have as much visual appeal. Europeans call the Fiesta a "supermini," but over the past couple of decades Ford's baby has grown so big that the company had to introduce the smaller Ka to satiate demands for a city car. The length of the new Fiesta has grown by 1.3 inches to 155.5 inches overall. To put this into context, a U.S.-spec Focus sedan measures 175.0 inches overall, while the VW Rabbit is 165.8 inches long. As the western world continues to downsize, this global Fiesta starts to make sense. Funkmaster Fiesta Dramatic style and lots of convenience features give this small car the presence of a big one. The interior of the old Fiesta looked as if it had been styled by a bored octogenarian, but this is much better. Ford tells us that the center console has been inspired by cell phone design, although perhaps this explains why it's fiddly to use. Nevertheless, the level of apparent quality is high. We'll see if all these trinkets — not to mention the high standard of apparent quality — survive the voyage to North America when production of this car begins at the Cuautitlan plant in Mexico. (The Fiesta will also be built in China, Spain and Thailand.) In the U.K., our test car costs about $24,000 at today's exchange rates. Given that a U.S.-spec Focus can be yours for $14,395, Ford will need to apply some serious cost-cutting if its global dream can be fulfilled. The excellent Ford Mondeo, for example, is not sold in the U.S. because it would simply be too expensive. For all this, those who do take the plunge into ownership will enjoy decent cabin space. It's possible for 6-footers to ride shotgun in reasonable comfort, and the trunk is a good size at 9.9 cubic feet. European small cars have grown significantly in recent years to the point where they may well be able to accommodate beefy Americans. Euro-Theme Driving The Fiesta comes in many trim levels and with a full range of engines, but all seem to drive well. Over the past 15 years or so, Ford of Europe has developed an enviable reputation for developing cars that are great to drive. Even in its most basic trim, the old Fiesta was a hoot. The 2009 Ford Fiesta seeks to build on this, but it does have a significant disadvantage. In the interests of fuel economy, the Fiesta has electrically assisted power steering, and like so many of the early versions of this system, the Fiesta's iteration offers none of the crisp certainty of the hydraulic helm fitted to the old car. But let's not get too carried away. Compared to its rivals, the Fiesta is still a fine drive and its ride quality has been much improved. The suspension is familiar, combining MacPherson struts in front with a torsion-beam solid axle in the rear, but Ford has been fine-tuning such setups for years and it shows. As a result, the Fiesta has the taut, well-damped feel that has become characteristic of European Fords. You can feel the presence of the Ford DNA through the controls and the driver seat. In fact, this car feels more like a larger Focus than a traditional city car. No excuses need to be made for the Fiesta, as this car will be as happy on the Jersey Turnpike as it will be in Greenwich Village. Ford has expressed its intention to retune the cars for different markets. There's a stiffer, thicker-diameter torsion beam for Europe, for example. Let's hope that the blue oval doesn't detune the driving experience too much for the U.S., because we suspect that this European setup would work well on this side of the pond. More Power, Less Fuel The Fiesta is a supermini, smaller than the Focus and more like the VW Polo or Opel Corsa. For the past decade, Europe's small cars have been getting progressively heavier as they've grown in size and been weighed down with safety kit. But the new Fiesta bucks that trend with a reduction of 110 pounds compared with the former model. This helps fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and performance. We drove the 2009 Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi, the flagship model, which features a 1.6-liter inline-4 turbocharged diesel that offers 89 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. This familiar engine features a Bosch common-rail injection operating at 1,600 bar, and it's been refined for this new application in the Fiesta. It is impressively smooth and although the 0-60-mph sprint of 11.9 seconds is no better than adequate, the in-gear acceleration is impressive. Ford claims acceleration from 50 km/h to 100 km/h (31-62 mph) in 9.9 seconds, notably faster than the 10.8-second performance of the Fiesta's gasoline-fueled 1.6-liter inline-4. This turbodiesel engine's primary appeal lies in its economy. It manages 67.3 mpg as a European average, compared with 65.7 mpg for a Toyota Prius. Its carbon dioxide emissions are excellent, too (110 g/km versus 104 for the Toyota) and there's an Econetic version on its way that emits under 100 g/km. In Europe there is also a 67-hp 1.4-liter turbodiesel as well as a range of gasoline engines that includes a 59-hp 1.3-liter, an 80-hp 1.3-liter turbo and a 95-hp 1.4 liter. The premium gasoline engine is the all-new 118-hp 1.6 Ti-VCT that features variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust cams. More powerful versions are likely to follow, although there hasn't been a high-performance Fiesta since the RS Turbo of 1992. One World, One Fiesta It's one world and now there's one Fiesta for all of it. The 2009 Ford Fiesta should soon be a staple of motoring life in the U.K., just as before. And given Ford's intentions to focus on this efficient little car in every market across the globe, it will be making a big effort to introduce the car to the U.S. for the 2010 model year. As consumers look to downsize without compromise, well-engineered, well-built and desirable small cars such as the Fiesta stand to profit. The Fiesta might not be as good to drive as the Focus, but it's a better all-around car for the times we live in. First Impressions: Small European cars haven't made much of an impression in America before, but the Fiesta might be different.