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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Ford Fiesta Hatchback SES packs in the fun

Ford did it right. Months before the arrival of the Fiesta, which had been on sale in Europe, its marketing barrage began targeting young people: social media, contests and videos. We're sure rally driver Ken Block's Gymkhana 3 YouTube video left many awestruck. That's why we were excited to finally drive this one.

Appearance: Our hatchback tester was a more subdued color, Tuxedo Black, than the rest of the Fiesta's day-glo palette. Overall, the Fiesta hatchback slightly resembles one of the leading cars in this class, Honda's Fit, with a subtle bubbly profile and some pronounced body creases. The gently sweeping roofline tapers down into a hatch-top spoiler. Up front, some may quibble with the juxtaposition of a tiny grille and a much larger opening beneath it. We liked the elongated "dragon's eye" headlights with their upswept parking lights.

Performance: Lyra says a man must have designed the Fiesta, because, with the angle of the pedal, clutching is uncomfortable if you're wearing heels. Peter had no such problem, but adds the footwell is tight for three pedals. Neither of us liked the dash light that comes on to tell you when to shift gears. Isn't that what a tach and the engine feel are for? On the positive side, the Fiesta shifts smoothly and easily. It's great for learning how to drive a stick. (Ah, so that's why that light is there.) The clutching is light and effortless, the acceleration of the 1.6-liter Duratec I-4 is adequate, although we wouldn't mind a little more power for interstate merging. Cornering isn't its best attribute. Lyra skated a bit when taking a quick turn on slightly damp road. Not fun. But regular handling was brisk.

Interior: The cabin is quiet for a small car. Peter didn't have a problem with headroom, even if the backseats were a bit squeezed. We had plenty of room in the cargo area for groceries. The rear seat backs fold forward but not flat. The rear hatch opens high, but the handle may be tough to reach for a short person. As is always the case, Lyra didn't like the red-backlit buttons and gauges. But the blue ambient lighting was soothing. The power mirror adjustment is counterintuitive. It sits sideways, so you have to figure out how the toggle moves the mirrors. As with many other new cars we've driven, the door-lock button is in the center console. Why? The fabric seats have colorful contrasting designs to break up the monotony. The seat adjustments are manual, and some levers can be difficult to reach. The center console, with its faux aluminum accents, looks kind of like the Transformers logo. And there's power, USB and auxiliary ports for all the gadgets.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Heated seats: A nice touch for an economy car.

Price point: The entry sticker comes in at a very nice $13,320.

Easyfuel: I hate gas caps, so I love Ford's capless filler.

Lyra Solochek

Design: Contemporary and attractive. Looks fun to drive.

Keyless: Entry and start for a quick get-up-and-go.

MPG: 28 city, 37 highway makes it a great daily driver.

The bottom line: We think the Fiesta is a great car for young drivers and packs a lot of features for the money. But this is one small car where you might want to opt for the six-speed automatic for a more comfortable driving experience.

2011 Ford Fiesta Hatchback SES

Price: $17,120 SES base, $17,915 as tested

Powertrain: 1.6-liter TIVCT Dura-

tec I-4, 5-speed manual transmission, FWD

Horsepower: 120 at 6,350 rpm

Torque: 112 pound-

feet at 5,000 rpm

Curb weight: 2,537 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 98

Length, 160.1

Width, 66.8

Fuel economy:

28 miles per gallon city, 37 mpg highway

Safety features: 7 air bags, boron-steel safety cage, child safety locks

Other trim levels: Sedans from $13,320, hatchback from $15,120

Options worth considering: Heated seats, keyless entry and start, sunroof.

Website: www.ford.com/cars/fiesta/

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Ford Fiesta Hatchback SES packs in the fun 02/04/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 7, 2011 12:08pm]

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