Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 Ford Fiesta Hatch for Fuel Economy Fans?

I happened to be at a Ford dealership yesterday and noticed a 2011 Ford Fiesta hatchback. What caught my eye was the Transport Canada rating of 58 mpg highway, significantly higher than my Toyota Matrix's rating of 48 by the same agency. (Canadian gallons, or 4.9 l/100km)) Because I like the hatchbacks, and cars with good fuel economy, I stopped in to talk to a salesman and find out a bit more.

There were some very interesting discoveries. First is that the high fuel economy comes at a price. Usually, you can get the best fuel economy on a stripped down standard transmission model with no options. Now economy is being marketed as an option. The Fiesta has a "Super Fuel Economy" package listed at $500, which is "side tire deflectors, underbody shields, lower grille blocker, cruise control, spare wheel with wheel cap (?), and a rear spoiler on the sedan. (the hatchback has a spoiler standard). Then the book says "requires 6-speed automatic." The six speed auto is listed at $1250 and it is a dual clutch transmission, automatically shifted for you.  My Ford booklet did not mention the low rolling resistance tires, that I think are also part of this package.

The SFE package is worth 3 mpg, the automatic transmission has a 2 mpg advantage over the manual, so it will cost to make those extra drops of gas work for you. And the six speed has no manual shift mode.

According to the MPG-Omatic test below this Fiesta is missing an real time mpg readout (I cannot confirm this yet , apparently it is standard on the Euro model) , which I will want for my next car. That is a pretty cheap item to add, and I want one. I think they should be in all cars, even Hummers (as a punishment). But in a Fiesta with good fuel economy, it would be a shame to miss it.

The Fiesta hatchback is 3 in. lower and 11 in. shorter than my Matrix. The hatchback model is simply the Fiesta sedan with the trunk lopped off. So it has less overall room than the sedan. I would prefer a station wagon type, where the roof line is extended to the end of the sedan's trunk, to get more room. Or at least part way. The hatchback is not available in standard trim, and so it is also more expensive than the sedan. That was a problem I had with the Mazda 3 hatchback five years ago, where it was not available with the standard engine.

Speaking of engine, I like variable valve timing, which is becoming more common. This Fiesta has a 1600cc "Twin independent variable camshaft timing". Unless this is just marketing hype, I'm assuming that is better than my Matrix's system of adjusting both camshafts together.

Anti-nibble electric power steering which compensates for wheel imbalance, side winds and road camber. If I was to take a test drive, that's something I would be paying close attention to. Being as lazy as I am, I hate constantly having to move the wheel back and forth, and correct for side winds. One more step to the car virtually driving itself. And of course I hate the feel of a vibrating steering wheel.

Another fuel economy booster is the tire pressure monitoring system, which is standard. But it's kind of expensive to then add winter rims and tires, because I believe the new rims will need new sensor units in each one. Maybe I would just forget about the tire pressure monitoring on the winter rims.

So to sum up, I thought the hatchback with good fuel economy would be available as a base model, but I was wrong. The hatch is an upscale model only, and I would also need the automatic transmission to get the best fuel economy. I'm going to need a new car in about ten years, so that gives some car maker the chance to look at the Fiesta, and make a hatchback model a bit longer, in standard trim, with an MPG readout on the dash (that I do not have on my Toyota Matrix). I don't mind shelling out $1500 for a 6 speed dual clutch automatic, if it gets better gas mileage, but make sure there is a manual override. That would make it more fun.

I forgot to mention the Fiesta fuel filler with no screw on cap. Last night I almost could not get the Matrix cap back on, I was shivering from standing there in -10c waiting for the gas to fill up. (yes I was wearing a parka and gloves) I want one of those no-cap fillers.



  1. The 'official' Natural Resources Canada rating for the Fiesta SFE is 4.9 l/100Km highway and 6.8 city. As you mention, that is with the SFE ('Super Fuel Economy') package.

    However, the U.S. Department of Energy ratings are much less impressive: 5.9 highway and 8.1 city.

    As of 2008, the Americans revised their testing methodology to make it more realistic, adding more acceleration loads, air-conditioner use and colder outside temperatures. So, until the Canadian test methodologies are updated, I rely more on the U.S. numbers (we also have 'colder outside temperatures' here in Canada).

    For example, in shopping for my 2010 Golf TDI last year (with a fuel consumption readout on the dash!) I assumed that the U.S. ratings of 5.7-7.8 (better than the 2011 Fiesta SFE, by the way) would be closer to my actual results than the Canadian rating of 4.6-6.7. (In fact my results are somewhere in between those two sets.)

    Although the Canadian ratings are useful for 'comparative' purposes, your mileage may vary considerably - especially in 'colder outside temperatures.'   ;-)

  2. Corrections, or at least questions. Ford says the SFE package adds 3 mpg, the 6 speed auto adds two mpg.

    Also, one owner reports that this car's instruments do track average mpg, which is resettable.


  3. It's interesting to look at the U.S. Dept of Energy 'Top Ten' lists.

    For 2011, the top ten are all (with the exception of the smart) hybrids. That figures, I suppose, but I still believe hybrids (especially parallel hybrids) are a transitional technology and a dead end.

    Also interesting, but again not surprising, is that none of the top ten all time, according to EPA ratings, is North American, and Honda pretty much owns that list.

    But what I find especially interesting is, that on the user-reported tab, excluding the hybrids, half of the remaining positions are held by the VW TDI.

    But, then, I suppose TDI owners are more likely to brag about their mileage   ;-)

  4. Our previous car, the Honda Civic VX, that Mary Ann is still unfairly comparing the Matrix to, was number 6 on the all-time EPA list (combined city/hwy). And its highway rating was better than the #2 Prius.

    In ten years when we plan to get our next car, I'm hoping all the dead end technology has either proved itself viable or dropped out.

  5. I expect that there are two primary lessons to be taken from those EPA lists:

    · Hybrids are more appropriate for urban drivers, as fuel economy actually decreases in highway driving (regenerative braking),

    · The smaller the displacement, the better, and preferably with diesel ignition (as the Europeans and Asians already know, and as you recall from your little Honda).

    The auto manufacturers have to break the deadly embrace that currently exists between auto sellers and purchasers. The auto manufacturers believe it axiomatic that nothing under 100 BHP will sell in the North American market, and their marketing thrust continues to push larger, less efficient cars, and thereby convincing most North American buyer they need more than they actually do.

    For example, I'm extremely disappointed that Volkswagen Canada continues to drag its feet on introducing the highly rated Polo diesel, with its ratings of 3.6 l/100Km highway and 5.1 city ... fuel economy that significantly surpasses that of the highly touted Toyota Prius (at 4.6 city and 4.9 highway) and much, much better than the Fiesta SFE (achieving in city driving the Fiesta's highway rating).

  6. It really is starting to look like the car industry is deliberately trying to keep the best gas saving cars away from North America. I learned to drive in a car with only 50 hp, and if it had a Fiesta-like 6 speed dual clutch automatic, (instead of a three on the tree) it might have been adequate, even on mountain roads. More than enough on the flatlands like we have in southern Ontario.

    I'm surprised that 60% of cars in Japan are under 660 cc. No wonder they recently dropped the Honda Civic from the home market.

    On another topic, I came across an economy test by Road and Track magazine January 2010, where the Prius got the best gas mileage in every situation they tested, including straight 70 mph cruise control for 29.5 miles. They were testing the Prius, the Golf TDI, and a Fiesta. I don't know why the diesel didn't do better on the freeway.

    Reality - Comparison Test

    I noticed they also tested AC on and AC off and got about a 3 mpg difference. I consider that to be significant enough to shut the AC off, if I had one. Especially easy to do at this time of year.

  7. 'Your mileage may vary' ... LOL!!

    Actually, the overall results in that Road and Track article are not surprising - at least to me.

    For the entire 336 mile (541 Km) tour the TDI turned in an average of 42.7 MPG, which equates to 5.5 l/100Km (significantly better than the EPA's 'combined' rating of 6.9 l/100Km). This is consistent with mileage feedback from TDI owners who generally report higher than EPA rated mileage.

    On the other hand, the average 54.5 MPG (4.3 l/100Km) for the Prius is only marginally better than the EPA's 4.7 l/100Km combined rating. And the Fiesta's average of 34 MPG (6.9 l/100Km) was almost exactly the EPA's (SFE) rating of 7.1 l/100Km.

    But I enjoyed following the exploits of the Australian husband and wife team of Helen and John Taylor. They were able to average a certified 67.9 MPG (3.46 l/100Km) in a coast to coast drive across the U.S. in a 2009 Jetta TDI - without resorting to any exceptional driving techniques (except for using better than factory tires).

    That 3.46 l/100Km certainly exceeds the EPA's 6.9 official combined rating ... LOL!

    'Your mileage may vary'  ;-)