Ford has made it abundantly clear that thinking small is definitely the wave of its automotive future here in America. We've just driven a vehicle that will be one of the cornerstones of that philosophy, the all-new Fiesta. Although our time was spent in Euro-spec versions on a variety of roads in Italy's Tuscany region, Ford says they'll closely approximate the overall look and feel of the four-door and five-door Fiesta variants due to arrive here in spring 2010 as 2011 models. If that proves true, these new "B-Class" offerings will give the Blue Oval Boys an attractive competitor to the likes of the Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.

Currently launching in Europe as a 2009 but due to roll out in Asia and the Americas during the next 12-18 months, the Fiesta is the first product of the "One Ford" Global Product Development System. Aimed at maximizing potential economies of production scale, the cars share key design, engineering and mechanical elements but allow for any requisite market-mandated adaptations in each sales region. While the Euro powertrain mix includes both gasoline and turbo-diesel engines, we'll likely to see only the new 1.6-liter Dutratec Ti-VCT gasoline four here, at least initially. Rated at 118 horsepower in European trim, it gives the Fiesta a claimed 9.8-second 0-60 mph capability and delivers impressive fuel economy numbers that Ford now estimates should be around 31/39 city/highway mpg in U.S spec.

A rigid unit-body structure and well-tuned strut/torsion-beam suspension augmented by standard stability control endow this new Fiesta with a confident feel that belies its subcompact scale -- as well as impressive ride compliance. Although the electrically-boosted power steering is light on effort, it's reassuringly precise and furthers a driving ambiance that merits high overall marks. Best of all, Ford promises this fundamental character will remain intact when the Fiesta undergoes its final U.S. packaging.

Like its bold "Kinetic Design" exterior styling that's a near clone of Ford's Verve concept sedan presented at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, the Fiesta's passenger cabin displays a similar degree of edgy, modern flair as it deftly mixes room, comfort and features. Highlights include exceptionally supportive front bucket seats, an adult-accepting split/folding rear bench and a center-stack layout that mimics the design of a contemporary cell phone keypad. Like their European counterparts, our Fiestas will boast a generous roster of standards, including air conditioning and charging ports for iPods and mobile phones, plus nifty upmarket options like leather upholstery, a keyless start-up system and Ford's popular SYNC interface. Also in the U.S. cards are multiple trim levels -- including a possible dedicated Sport package aimed more directly at the enthusiast market.
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