Sales of subcompact cars, little “B” cars as they are called in the car business, began to explode in the first quarter of this year – up 32.2 per cent. Did Canadians discover a thirst for the kind of outstanding fuel economy that’s available in cars like the 2012 Ford Fiesta?
Perhaps. Or perhaps entry-level buyers are finding a shortage of decent nearly-new used cars. Or perhaps the increased competition from new grocery-getters such as the latest Kia Rio has spurred the more established players to play the small-car game more seriously.
Make no mistake, from most angles the Fiesta is certainly in the game now. Thus, Fiesta sales in March more than doubled over February (to 1,130) and they increased again in April (to 1,179).
True, you bigger drivers will find the Fiesta’s driving position a bit squeezed, the back seat is small and third-party research from Consumer Reports suggests below-average reliability.
On the other hand, the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Fiesta a Top Safety Pick. And almost everyone who drives a Fiesta – including me – gives the car kudos for its nimble handling, quick steering, handsome interior, excellent fuel economy and sporty exterior.
Best of all, Ford of Canada has made the Fiesta price competitive. Ramble over to ford.ca and you’ll find a $1,000 delivery allowance in play and it takes the SES model down to $17,999. You can combine that discount with 0 per cent financing for up to 72 months, or a 0 per cent lease rate for up to 48 months.
However, if you work with your Ford dealer to find financing away from Ford Credit, you can deal for a $3,250 factory-to-dealer rebate on terms 73 months or longer.
The money story matters. Let’s face it, anyone buying a sub-$20,000 new car is hawkish about expenses. It’s just dandy to have all the fun-to-drive stuff, but none of it matters if the price isn’t right. With the discounts out there now on the Fiesta, the price is right.
What’s more, the Fiesta is sold with certain add-ons not common with small cars. The hands-free Sync system for one, with its voice controls. The six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission ($1,250) for another.
Some say the dual-clutch autobox is not as smooth as it should be. I say get the five-speed manual. It’s sporty, allows you to get the most out of the 120-horsepower four-banger and, with that quick little engine, it does you little harm at the pump (6.9 litres/100 km city, 5.1 highway).
Truly, the SES version is well equipped. You can pay extra for the $1,200 leather upholstery with heated seats, but the cloth seat coverings are very nice and the seats are heated, too.
Those of you in colder climes won’t like the $100 charge for a block heater, but beyond that the standard features cover the gamut: front, side, overhead curtain air bags (along with a knee bag for the driver); power everything; air conditioning; rear lip spoiler; 60/40 folding rear seatback; and more.
The new Race Red package ($1,400) with its red and black leather-trimmed seating and door panels, the red steering wheel and instrument panel trim? Really? Or the Arctic White package (also $1,400) with its tuxedo black and while colour scheme and so on? But really? And my tester had a $500 so-called “Tattoo” graphics package that seemed unnecessary, as well. The standard 16-inch painted aluminum wheels look good and they’re not extra at all.
Then there’s the quiet factor. For a lightweight hatchback (1,151 kilograms), the Fiesta is not as buzzy and exhausting as some others of this ilk. And you certainly have options other than the Kia Rio: Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Mazda2 and Hyundai Accent to name a bunch.
The best seller of the lot is the Accent. It is more powerful (138 hp) and more fuel-efficient, as is the Rio. The Accent starts at $13,599 versus the base price of the Fiesta hatchback at $15,999. The most versatile of them all is the Fit ($14,580 base).
The least sophisticated in my experience is the Versa ($14,678 for the base hatchback). The Mazda2 ($14,095) is about as entertaining to drive as the Fiesta, but then it should be; these two share their mechanical bones – the so-called platform.
None of them has a more appealing cabin. The Fiesta’s novel instrument panel and centre stack look modern and are totally functional. Ford took great pains to dial down the noise with what the engineers call a “specially laminated windshield” designed to absorb and minimize noise. The cabin is well-sealed, too and Ford has packed in all sorts of sound-deadening materials.
And if you engage seriously in the driving, the strong body structure and well-done suspension keep your cornering mostly flat. The brakes could be a bit more responsive (front discs/rear drums), but they’re not terrible.
The Fiesta is a solid small car, and as long as Ford stays in the game from a pricing perspective, sales will keep sizzling.
2012 Ford Fiesta
Type: Subcompact four-door hatchback
Price: $18,999 (freight $1,500)
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 120 hp/112 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 6.9 city/5.1 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Mazda2