Small cars are big business again in the U.S., or at least several major manufacturers are betting they will be soon, and Ford is near the leading edge of the resurgence with a blend of compact, green and premium--the 2011 Fiesta--that it hopes will push all the right buttons. But will it sell like they're hoping it will?
Today's announcement of a 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway fuel economy rating for the 2011 Fiesta with the dual-clutch PowerShift transmission secures Ford's bid to put a green sheen on its latest small car for the U.S., and the first drives, photos and auto shows have already shown us that it's a notch above the econo-box interiors of other mainstream small cars. But with all the technology, upscale materials, and modern design in the Fiesta, the question remains whether it will find a high-volume home in the market.
The less costly five-speed manual option rates a still-respectable 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway, but to reach the bragging rights of 40 mpg, buyers will have to tick the PowerShift box, adding about $1,750 to the price. While the base sedan starts at just $13,120, the base hatchback starts at $15,120, and up to $17,120 for the SES hatchback without any upgrades or the PowerShift gearbox. Add the moonroof, exterior upgrade package, leather-trimmed seats, and a few accessories and you're quickly up above $21,185--well into the territory of the larger Mazda3, edging up against an entry-level Mazda6 and its ilk, and even bumping up against Ford's own Focus and Fusion. And with an EcoBoost model already in the works (spy shots here) things could go even farther up the ladder, perhaps as high as $25,000+.
Admittedly, you'll get a lot more equipment in the Fiesta than you will in the larger cars it's priced against, but that means Ford is betting that Americans are ready for the experience traditionally reserved for a larger sedan in a more compact package. To be fair, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are also making the same predictions, with Audi's A1 already on the market in Europe (and still uncertain for the U.S.), and BMW and Mercedes both planning new entry-level premium cars. If the bet pays off, it could mean big profit margins on the little Fiesta, though the volume sales will still certainly lie at the lower end of the range.
Being that our readers are right in the core of this storm of features, packaging and pricing--that is, technology-friendly premium and performance car lovers--we put the question to you: would you buy a loaded Fiesta over a similarly-priced alternative? Is a well-outfitted small car ready to play in the big leagues of cachet and style, or is the compact hatch/sedan still a sign of meager success? Has the Great Recession turned attitudes far enough that people are looking to consume inconspicuously? And if so, is the Fiesta the right choice? Let us know how you feel below.