The Environmental Protection Agency has officially announced the fuel-economy figures for the 2011 Ford Fiesta, and the numbers are well above what the driving world has come to expect from small, nonhybrid cars.
According to the government agency, the new compact should return 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway when equipped with the new 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. Drivers who go for the 6-speed manual version of the car will likely see slightly lower mileage averages. For comparison’s sake, the Fiesta’s highway numbers are a full 5 mpg better than the Honda Fit and best the Toyota Yaris by 4 mpg.
Not too long ago, 40 mpg on the highway was a far reach for most manufacturers. With ever-increasing safety standards adding weight to the small-car formula and technology such as direct injection and turbocharging too expensive for the segment, most manufacturers seemed content to leave the 40-mpg-and-better realm to hybrids and clean diesels. But Ford decided to put its money where it counts when developing the Fiesta.
At the heart of the car’s fuel-saving tactics is its 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Aside from being a direct-injection design, the engine incorporates such things as a fuel shut-off under deceleration and a variable-valve system that produces more horsepower while using less gasoline. In addition, the Fiesta comes equipped with electric power steering that reduces drag on the engine. Combine those traits with the extremely efficient 6-speed dual-clutch transmission -- another typically high-dollar feature -- and you have one of the most fuel-efficient small cars on the market.
It will be awhile before we can tell whether buyers will respond to the Fiesta’s combination of excellent fuel economy and high standard feature load, but if the car proves to be a success, odds are we will see Ford follow a similar formula with the rest of its lineup. It wouldn’t surprise us to see direct-injection engines become more popular as the manufacturer begins to eye the upcoming changes in government fuel-economy standards.