EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 2, 2014

Ford grows bigger with little Fiesta

Motor Mouth
Jeffrey Zygmont

---- — Ford Motor Co. is the pickup truck king. Its F-Series pickup truck has reigned as the most popular vehicle in the United States for 32 consecutive years. That’s right, 32 straight years as the top selling motor vehicle in the country.

But you have to leave pickups and travel to the Fiesta, all the way across the vehicle spectrum, to see how successful Ford has become today. The Ford Fiesta is a scampering, little, sub-compact car. It looks so tidy that you might think one Fiesta would fit in the bed of an F-Series pickup. (It won’t.)

The Ford Fiesta is on a tear, selling robustly and soaring in popularity past similar models from Asian brands – the brands people traditionally associate with small, economical cars. In 2013, sales of Fiestas to consumers beat all the other small cars the Fiesta competes with. Demand for the model increased by 25 percent last year over 2012.

Joseph Cullinan, sales manager at Regan Ford in Haverhill, views the Fiesta’s booming success as a sign – one of several signs – that Ford Motor Co. today is not just the pickup truck king. It’s a champ in passenger cars, too.

“The image of Ford in general is very good,” he observed. “People who are driving other makes are now looking at Ford. Younger people are looking at Ford. People who are driving other models are now looking at the Ford Fiesta.”

Youth make up a big chunk of those new Fiesta’s buyers, Cullinan noted. That’s predictable, because young drivers, still low on the earnings ladder, typically go for small, affordable numbers like this littlest Ford. The Fiesta starts at $14,895 for a sedan body style, with a trunk beneath a notch-back, or $15,395 for a hatchback version with a haul-it-all, open rear.

Prices can range above $20,000 for loaded versions, with a raft of advanced communication and entertainment equipment and style features like color-changing accent lights in the cabin. Cullinan noted that many buyers still consider fully equipped versions a good value. Top end, Fiesta Titanium versions account for about a quarter of the Fiestas sold by Regan Ford, he estimated.

“A lot of small-car people want a car with a lot of equipment,” he stated.

The economy doesn’t stop with the purchase price. When equipped with an optional, six-speed automatic transmission (base models come with a five-speed manual), the Fiesta earns a government fuel-economy rating of 29 miles per gallon in the city, and 39 mpg on the highway, or 32 mpg combined.

That high mileage rating brings in another large block of Fiesta buyers, said Cullinan. Commuters appreciate the little pacer for its daily, to-and-fro fuel savings, as well as for its easy handling, maneuverability and cooperative parking manners. Cullinan told of one family of Regan Ford customers that owns a Ford Explorer SUV and a Ford Taurus full-size sedan, both large vehicles suitable for group excursions. The couple’s third car is a Fiesta, which the husband uses for his work-day commute.

Safety is another characteristic that leads some people to choose the Fiesta over other scaled-down cars, Cullinan said.

“With a lot of small cars, crash-test results are not very good,” he explained. “Fiesta is one of the better scorers.” The greater protection it affords can tip small-car advocates to the Fiesta over similar models, he explained.

Still, it’s the majority buyers, those boisterous, bright-eyed youngsters, who reveal the most about the character of the Ford Fiesta.

Cullinan said that economy and affordability alone do not bring them to the automobile. Thrill-seeking and image conscious, emerging adults also want a model to match their spunk and sense of style, he explained. They won’t buy a dull car.

“The Fiesta is made to be a car that young people can afford, in a style that young people will like, because if they don’t like it, they’re not going to buy it,” the sales manager stated.

Cullinan expects to see increasing numbers of them buy the model at Regan Ford.

“The popularity of the car is going to continue to grow as more and more people become familiar with it,” he said.

Part of that increase will come from the momentum already established. Part will come from the fact that the new, 2014 Fiesta gives them a little more to like. Ford refreshed the model this year, making updates and changes meant to keep the car current and contemporary. The big changes outside encompass a new, bolder grille and revised headlights and taillights. Inside, Ford designers redid the instrument panel, giving gauges and controls a look inspired by mobile phones.

But overall, the little model retains its pert, mobile, space-pod body shape and its conspicuously contemporary interior. The dashboard of the Fiesta has an eyebrowed design, with overhangs that make it look multi-tiered. Big interior panels on the dash and doors have eye-appealing, contrasting finishes, with matte crepe materials mixed with glossier surfaces with a pebble grain. Details like that give Fiesta more style and attitude than you expect from a small economy car.

Ford Motor Co. is experiencing impressive growth. The Ford brand has become the most popular vehicle brand in America today, with more people buying cars and trucks with the Ford oval attached than with any other logo. The experience of the little Fiesta helps explain why.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2014 Ford Fiesta Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive sub-compact sedan and hatchback Price range: $14,895 to $22,195 (plus options) Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance Base engine: 1.6-liter I4 Power: 120 horsepower at 6,350 rpm; 112 lb.-ft. torque at 5,000 rpm Base transmission: 5-speed manual Fuel economy: 30 mpg city; 41 mpg highway (with automatic transmission) Wheelbase: 98 inches Length: 173 inches Width: 68 inches Height: 58 inches Weight: 2,578 pounds Fuel capacity: 12.4 gallons Turning circle: 34.4 feet