Quality Small Cars Aren't Just for Europeans and Asians
Like car model years, Popular Mechanics is one year ahead with its Auto Excellence Awards. The 2011 prize winners have been announced, and in the "fuel efficiency" category the winner is the Ford Fiesta. They explain their choice by saying that "just about anybody can make a car fuel efficient with the aid of an electric motor, a generator or two and a few hundred lithium batteries" (not that it's as easy to do that as they make it sound, ask Chrysler) but that to make an inexpensive high-quality fuel-efficient car is something rarer, especially in the US market.
There were already a few decent choices of quality small cars in the US, like the Honda Fit or the Toyota Yaris, but the Fiesta is pushing that segment forward significantly, and bringing some of what Europeans and Asians have had access to for a while to North-America. The build quality, the engine, the handling all can be commended, but what Ford probably deserves the most credit for is the 6-speed dual-clutch transmission:
"the really remarkable mileage figure is achieved when customers elect to ditch the five-speed manual transmission and spend another $1070 to pair the engine to the optional PowerShift, a six-speed dual-clutch automatic that boosts the car's EPA mileage ratings to 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway. The dual clutch gearbox is a technology that emerged on the $1 million Bugatti Veyron in 2005, then gradually made its way into sporty cars from Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Nissan, Porsche and the like for its responsiveness and seamless gear changes. This is its first appearance in the subcompact sedan and hatchback market."
And as PM points out, the Fiesta costs thousands less than hybrid cars.
The Fiesta certainly isn't perfect, and it's still a gasoline-powered car. It doesn't beat taking your bike, walking, or taking public transportation. But it's a sign that the North-American car market is moving in the right direction, and that's certainly worth some recognition. If someone's going to buy a car, they should have options like the Fiesta (unlike a few years ago, when that price-point was barren).
Via Popular Mechanics
More on Green(er) Cars
Nissan Launches the Fuga Hybrid in Japan (Coming to US as an Infiniti in 2011)
Green Highlights from the 2010 Paris Motor Show
Chevy Volt Gets 127 MPG Over 299 Miles of Real-World Driving
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid to be Eligible for $1,300 Tax Credit
Google Experiments With Robot Cars that Drive Themselves