Wait! Don't put the magazine down. You're still reading eurotuner. Yes, you're seeing this correctly. We're reporting on Ford! But rest assured, there's nothing about obnoxious Mustangs, oversized trucks or oval-track Nascar.
We'd like to shed some light on the European-designed 2011 Fiesta coming to North America this summer. These cars are one of the most popular superminis in Europe, and have been for the last 30 years or so (even Greg had one as his first car!). And now the US is getting a taste of some European culture.
In '09, Ford started Fiesta Movement - a marketing operation that loaned 100 individuals European-spec Fiestas for free! All the lucky driver had to do was video and blog their adventures and thoughts on the car. Through networks such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Ford accomplished their mission and reached millions of Americans.
On the motorsport side, Ford also introduced the Fiesta into North American racing with an appearance at Pikes Peak and a starring role in the summer X Games.
For this motorsport effort, Ford Racing wasn't taking any chances. It brought over two 800hp Fiestas from the UK. They had been prepared by Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution in Sweden, Ohlins and Ford of Europe Team RS. They recorded a highly impressive second-place finish at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with Marcus Grönholm driving, but went one better at the X Games. Driven by former Indy 500 champ Kenny Brack, the Fiesta took gold from the established Subaru competitors.
Fast-forward to today and Ford has embarked on another marketing initiative together with Monster World Rally Team and infamous wheelman Ken Block. For the '10 season, Block will campaign a Fiesta in the Rally America series while also be running a Focus WRC in a limited excursion in the World Rally Championship. It's all in preparation for a full 2011 WRC season when the Focus is replaced by the Fiesta S2000.
So while there might be a Blue Oval on the grille, Europeans see the Fiesta as one of their own. And with the power of Ken Block's internet persona behind it, we reckon the little Fiesta will be a success in the US.
Still confused? Let's break it down for you... The Fiesta is one of Ford's most successful cars in its global lineup, selling over 12 million units worldwide. Intended for the European market, the Fiesta became Ford's primary subcompact hatch as it represented a small, reliable, versatile and affordable car for commuting in congested areas. While becoming a huge success with European consumers, the hatch also became a familiar car in motorsport, competing in rallying around the world since '79.
Three decades after its conception, the Fiesta is on its sixth-generation and offering more style and technology than ever. And for the first time since the first-gen Fiesta, the car is coming to the US this year.
Unlike its rather awful predecessor, the new car will feature European equipment such as automatic climate control, keyless entry and auxiliary audio outputs. And the exterior design won't be dummied down either, retaining a wonderful metallic color palette, dragon-eye headlights, razor-slash side panels and engaging interior.
As for the motor, the Fiesta isn't going to snap your neck, but a fuel-efficient 1.6 liter four-cylinder has enough power for maneuvering around city traffic. The 119hp, 109 lb-ft motor is projected to give 40mpg when mated to either a five-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic.
With a price tag of $13320, the Fiesta will be hard to ignore for its value and modern design, making it a legitimate alternative to say... the Golf.
And let's not forget, the Europeans get sporty ST models, which have yet to be announced for this brand-new version, so perhaps they'll come here as well if the car proves popular.
Block Is Back
If you don't know Ken Block, it's time to buy a computer and sign up for the internet!
The exuberant driver who created the world-famous Gymkhana 1 and 2 videos, which gained more than 25 million views, left Subaru to kick off a new 2010 campaign with Ford Racing.
Backed by Monster World Rally Team, Block will be tackling Rally America in the Open Class, which includes seven rally events across the States. And his weapon of choice is the new '11 Fiesta based on the Rallycross Fiesta prepared by Olsbergs Motorsports Evolution, which made its first appearance in X Games last year.
Block's Fiesta debut was in February at Sno*Drift in Northeastern Michigan, where the temperatures never got above 16°F. We had the opportunity to check out the first public outing of the Block Fiesta, watching him make a few high-speed passes through some of Michigan's most challenging backcountry roads.
Converted to AWD, the kevlar-widebody beast is powered by a 2.0 liter turbo capable of 490hp. However, this doesn't meet rally regs, so Sno*Drift required a turbo-inlet restrictor, detuning it to 330hp - more than enough considering the icy conditions.
There was still plenty of torque, although not the original 553 lb-ft. But at only 2900 lb, the car certainly didn't lack performance.
Again, the top speed of Block's Fiesta was limited from its 155mph potential to 110mph for this race. This probably helped the acceleration, with 0-60mph said to be a neck-breaking 3.5sec thanks to a six-speed sequential gearbox.
We spoke with Ken just before the race and his main goal was "Simply to survive both days!" Driving the new car conservatively was "Crucial considering the weather conditions," he told us.
Since he was unfamiliar with the Fiesta, having driven the newly prepared car only a few days before the competition, Block was delighted to finish third after the first day. Unfortunately, mechanical failure meant he wasn't able to drive the second day.
Although he failed to finish here, the car won on its next outing at the 100 Acre Wood Rally. We have a short video clip from Ken's first outing at Sno*Drift on our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/eurotuner) if you want to check it out. For real authenticity, sit in a freezer when you watch it!
In addition to Rally America, Ken will be running seven rounds in the World Rally Championship in a Focus WRC this year. He will use the season in preparation of a full schedule next year with the Fiesta S2000, so 2010 is his chance to learn both the car and some of the events.
And, of course, Gymkhana 3 is coming soon. The details haven't been finalized but we're hoping to see some of Ken's friends in the mix again, like Rob Dyrdek. Block even mentioned a possible partnership with rock group Linkin Park...
The new Ford Fiesta is a hot hatch that shouldn't be taken lightly if you're a Euro enthusiast. Although the US models will be manufactured in Mexico, the original design and production started in Germany, which is why the car has a European look and feel.
Ford is trying to show that the Fiesta is not just a good commuter but has potential for tuning as well. And although it's unlikely we'll see 800hp widebody versions on the street, the car will have customization options and upgrades like a Scion or Golf. In fact, companies like FSWerks (Euro Sport Accessories' Ford division), H&R Springs and 3D Carbon already have parts available for the new Fiesta. So before you knock the Blue Oval, give the Fiesta a test drive. You might find yourself liking a Ford!