The Fiesta's sole offering, a 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder, moves the car capably around town. Getting up to highway speeds requires a steady prod on the accelerator, and uphill stretches call up the engine's full reserves to maintain speed, but this is the norm in the entry-level class.
The Fiesta's optional six-speed, dual-clutch auto is mechanically impressive. As is often the case for dual-clutch automatics, however, it isn't the smoothest. Encounter stopped traffic on a city boulevard, and pulling out to pass requires a long gap -- not because the Fiesta's engine can't muster the power, but because the automatic takes so bloody long to kick down. That said, in undemanding situations, the automatic behaves like any other.
With a five-speed manual transmission, Ford expects the Fiesta to earn EPA ratings of 29/38 mpg (city/highway); the dual-clutch automatic will get an even better 30/38 mpg, an engineer estimated. An optional Superior Fuel Economy Package on the automatic-equipped Fiesta SE, which adds aerodynamic enhancements and low-rolling-resistance tires, bumps that up to 30/40 mpg. Those figures top the current class-leader -- in the automatic SFE's case, by around 10 percent.
As is common in this class, the Fiesta employs disc brakes up front and drums in back; antilock braking is standard. The Fiesta's pedal feels reasonably linear.