REVIEW
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Tunes for the road: How we managed to haul huge music gear in a tiny Ford Fiesta

Two large speaker cabinets, an amp, a bass guitar – how does this small hatchback handle the load?

  • 2016-ford-fiesta-se

THE PROS & CONS

    • WHAT’S HOT: sharp looks, premium feel, handling
    • WHAT’S NOT: less roomy than most competitors
    • WHAT’S INTERESTING: seeing a six-speed twin-clutch in this category

2016, Ford, Fiesta, hatchback, size, space, engine, transmission, review,

Sometimes it’s good to catch up with old acquaintances. Ford’s tidy Euro-developed subcompact Fiesta has been with us since 2011, which in these fast-moving times could be considered an eternity. Plenty of fresher metal has come along in this category since then — the Honda Fit, Fiat 500, Toyota Yaris sedan — yet it only takes a few moments behind the wheel to appreciate the merits of this little Ford.

The Fiesta sets itself apart from the crowd with its sense of solidity, refinement and fun-to-drive factor. The doors close with a bank vault-like thunk. The fabric seats are contoured like the best from Europe, and ride quality and road isolation give the impression you’re driving a considerably more expensive car.

The steering is direct and tight, making this poised pipsqueak a true delight on a twisty back road. It’s a solid highway cruiser as well. Ford of Europe are masters of well-sorted chassis tuning — you find this in the larger Focus too.

The cabin feels suitably upscale with lots of soft touch surfaces and few flimsy plastic bits. All the controls work with an expensive feel. New for 2016 is the available Sync 3 infotainment system that replaces the MyFord Touch, which was frustrating with its fussy menus and hard-to-hit touch points.

Sync 3 is better, featuring a simplified and faster touchscreen. And hallelujah, it actually understands voice commands. Call in a destination for the nav, and bingo, you’re on your way. Say “99.1 FM” and it dutifully switches stations. You’d be surprised how many cars can’t seem to manage something this simple. I tried the latter command in a $124,000 Range Rover recently, and the polite British lady’s nonsensical replies had me uttering some rather unflattering epitaphs.

Compared to most of its competitors, the Fiesta’s rear quarters and hatch are tight. With the back seats folded forward, the load floor is not flat. That said, I was able to fit a full complement of musical equipment into this five-door SE trim hatchback, including a couple of boutique bass speaker cabinets. Consider the $550 Comfort Package (heated front seats, auto climate control) mandatory.

Power comes from a 1.6-litre four making 120 hp and 112 lb-ft. of torque. Acceleration is leisurely but the engine does not get thrashy in the upper reaches, which is class atypical. While a five-speed manual transmission is standard, this tester was fitted with the six-speed Powershift twin-clutch ($1,250).

It’s a surprise to find a twin-clutch auto in this category.In this car, it was the model of civility and smoothness. Just don’t expect any racy behaviour. Even in Sport mode, the transmission is in no hurry to swap gears. There is a little toggle on the side of the shifter for manual selection, but the response is so glacial you’ll try it once and then forget it.

The 2016 Fiesta comes in two body styles (sedan and five-door hatch), both starting at $16,049 for the base S trim. The hatch is a rakishly handsome little tyke, and this next-rung-up SE tester with a starting MSRP of $16,749 juiced up the visuals with Electric Spice paint, a $995 body kit and the $600 Black package that adds dual power heated mirrors with blind spot inserts and sharp 16-inch Black Track wheels. You’ll want to forgo the tacky $200 door stripe graphic.

The top-of-the-line Titanium, starting at $20,899, plays into the Fiesta’s sophisticated demeanour with standard rear-view camera, 16-inch alloys, heated leather seats, Sync 3 and an eight speaker Sony audio system. There are roomier and less expensive vehicles in the subcompact category, but the Fiesta counters with a grown up driving experience and a sense of substance.

2016 Ford Fiesta SE 5-Door

BASE PRICE/AS TESTED: $16,749/$22,944

DESTINATION CHARGE: $1600

TYPE: subcompact 5-door hatchback

PROPULSION: front engine, front-wheel-drive

CARGO: 423/720 L

TOW RATING: not advised

ENGINE: 1.6L 16-valve 4-cyl.

TRANSMISSION: six-speed Powershift twin-clutch auto

POWER/TORQUE: 120 hp 112 lb-ft.

FUEL CONSUMPTION (city / highway L/100km): 8.7, 6.4; regular grade fuel

BRAKES: front disc, rear drum

TIRES: all season 195/50R16

STANDARD FEATURES: 15-inch alloys, five-speed manual, SYNC, 6-speaker audio with CD, cruise, USB, leather wrapped steering wheel and more

ACCESSIBILITY: rear seat access is tight

COMPETITION:

Honda Fit — $16,402-$25,000 130-hp 1.5L, What’s Best: brilliant packaging, loads of cargo space, fuel efficiency 8/10

Hyundai Accent — $13,899-$23,000 138-hp 1.6L, What’s Best: value, strong engine 7/10

MANUFACTURER’S WEBSITE

LOOKS: This pint-sized Ford carries itself with a modern, Euro-flair. The corporate Ford grill (thanks Aston Martin) bestows more sophistication. Looks best on these optional 16-inch wheels.

INTERIOR: A fine driver’s environment with some very nice front seats. Build quality is high and ergonomics good. Not so welcoming in the back, and hatch space is tight when looking at competitors.

PERFORMANCE: Not particularly quick, but handling, refinement and sense of solidity place the Fiesta in a class above

TECHNOLOGY: The big news for 2016 is the availability of Ford’s new Sync 3 touchscreen interface. Superior to outgoing MyFord Touch, the menus are logical, has bigger touch points and excellent voice control.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

Peter Bleakney is a regular contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. The vehicle tested was provided by the manufacturer. For more Toronto Star automotive coverage, go to thestar.com/autos . To reach Wheels Editor Norris McDonald: [email protected]

 

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