On the dark and stormy morning of April 25, 2018, the news broke like a punch to the gut: “Given declining consumer demand and product profitability, [Ford] will not invest in next generations of traditional Ford sedans for North America.” That press release spelled doom for the Ford Fiesta, and their other small cars, in North America.
The internet raged: “What about our RS’s?!” screamed some, “I thought the Taurus was good!” yelled others. If you only listened to social media, you would have thought that Ford made a huge mistake in discontinuing the Fiesta, Focus, Taurus, Fusion and C-Max.
For remaining American consumers however, the cars’ deaths were barely blips on their radar, presumably they were too busy buying a mini-crossover to care.
Was this reaction by Ford Fiesta fans just another case of cult overreaction? Or was Ford right to listen to what the market was telling them? This question bugged me for weeks until I realized the only thing to do was to see what Ford’s small cars were all about.
Fast forward to last week, when I had the pleasure of renting a 2017 Ford Fiesta Titanium hatchback and use it for a week in the nation’s capital. The goal was on to see not just what a showroom model Ford looked like, but what a broken-in one felt like being used in the nations’ worst traffic for a week.
Fresh off a red-eye, keys and rental agreement in hand, my wife and I popped our two carry-ons in the trunk. The fit was tight as it took some Jenga-ing to get the carry-ons fully secured. I couldn’t help but notice that a comparable KIA Rio has enough trunk space to fit similar bags without much fuss.
Having adjusted the seat position, linked Bluetooth, and activated the aircon (so as to not die in Baltimore’s punishing humidity) the impression of the plastics and fit was neither underwhelming nor spectacular. It then struck me that the Honda Fit has a higher-quality feel without compromising cabin space.
I thought, “Ah, a parked car never impressed anyone, let’s see it on the road”; so, we took the Fiesta into a sea of Marylanders (Marylandonians? Marylandese?) crawling 30 miles to D.C.
In traffic the Fiesta was satisfactory; the seats, the ride quality, and road noise were all acceptable. In the brief moments that I reached 45 MPH, it handled well and was able to shoot gaps in traffic, not unlike a comparable, and laudably, zippy Toyota Yaris.
Once in D.C. and over the course of the week, the Ford Fiesta was nimble and responsive enough to avoid accidents from locals who had apparently thrown their indicator stalks into the Potomac. It took street-side parking spots well and made Georgetown alleyways feel as wide as interstates, a feat that a similar but smaller Chevrolet Spark can handle just as well.
Ford’s Fiesta looked quite good in black on those Georgetown streets, a cross between chic and handsome depending on whether you park in front of a gym or a bakery. Though I like Ford’s exterior design philosophy, when I pulled up next to a Fiat 500, I forgot to pay attention to the stoplight and looked at the cute 500 instead.
Have you spotted a pattern yet?
In the week that I drove, parked, jammed out in, and made voodoo dolls of drivers with DC plates in the Ford Fiesta, I could not for the life of me understand why anyone would choose it over its competitors. It does a lot of things “well enough”, but none “very well”, whereas other small cars do at least one thing better than the others.
Ford says they are axing small cars because of lower demand, but Fiestas outsold all other competitors in five of the last seven years, so demand must still exist in North America. I have a suspicion that Ford looked at its recent financial struggles and calculated that both their small and big car offerings required an overhaul, the latter for competition and the former for quality, but only had resources for one. But mayhaps I’m wrong.
Given that everyone and their mom now wants something that’s taller, bigger, and supposedly safer in the U.S, the choice to not develop small cars must have been an easy one for Dearborn to make. While the Mustang will stay long term, most other sedans and hatches will be phased out over the few years. As for those diehards on Ford forums mashing their keyboards, they will just be the latest in a long line of Americans seeing their favorite cars be European-only models. The only way to drive those cars? Rent one on their next Eurotrip.