NOTE: Links to official media drive impressions included at the end of the article. Links to additional media impressions will be added as they are published.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The long-awaited drives of the 2011 Ford Fiesta kicked off Monday, April 19, in San Francisco, the beginning of a week-long media program that put 200 journalists behind the wheel of both manual and 6-speed PowerShift automatic versions of our new sedan and five-door models.
Media attending the program heard presentations about the Fiesta's innovative engineering and marketing and then were given the chance to put the Fiesta to the test on a 150 mile drive route south of San Francisco that featured a blend of twisty, technical roads and some highway. Overall, media had high praise for our new car, some even calling it a new benchmark for the segment. Fiesta’s craftsmanship, quality of materials, quietness and fun-to-drive characteristic seemed to meet and even exceeded the high expectations that media had for our new car. Our EPAS system was called out by some in attendance as the best in the industry. Media also spoke highly about our car’s attractive interior and exterior design. The average fuel economy for our Fiesta – after 150 miles of spirited driving – ranged from 33.5 mpg to 41.4 mpg, impressing even our toughest media critics who weren’t being gentle with the accelerator pedal.
On the morning of the second day of the program, media had the opportunity to drive our Fiesta back-to-back against the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris in an autocross course and precision driving exercise. Media took notice of how Fiesta's handling is significantly better than the competition and how Fiesta's sophisticated suspension and steering calibration retains much of its European roots.
Of course, there were many other exciting things that happened outside of the formal program. We saw significant buzz resulting from Monday night's announcement of the new Sync AppLink feature, which will be launched first on Fiesta. SYNC partners -- including RIM (Blackberry), Google Android, TeleNav, Tellme, Pandora and Stitcher -- participated in the program to help tell Ford's larger connectivity story and provided an unexpected "technology buzz" amongst media attendees. Our lifestyle media were particularly engaged in learning about Ford's connectivity features with SYNC, as this was the first time that many got to experience it!
On Tuesday, the group went to the reveal of Ken Block's Gymkhana THREE 2011 Ford Fiesta. Built by Olsbergs Motorsport Evolution (MSE), the 2,425-pound Gymkhana THREE Fiesta sports a purpose-built Olsbergs engine capable of up to 850 brake horsepower, but is restricted to 650 horsepower in order to give Block the torque band he needs to control the car. Equipped with an Olsbergs MSE Maktrak (magnesium) six-speed paddle-shift sequential transmission, it is capable of 660 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm and needs a mere two seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. There was naturally a lot of excitement around the product, but many were also impressed with how Ford is continuing to integrate new and interesting partnerships with the Fiesta
Here's a behind the scenes look at what a couple of unofficial media comments were:
I just don’t know how you can offer so much car for such a little price. Steering and handling are very good on these roads and the small size is a real asset. You have done a fantastic job with EPAS. Great fun to drive, as expected.
We said to Ford, please don't mess up the European Fiesta. And guess what, you didn't!
It's about time there is a small car that doesn't deprive consumers. Usually the first thing is to use a cheap transmission. So Powershift was a surprise. Really impressive performance.
Below are official drive impressions from our program: