Fiesta notebook: A look inside the Ford Fiesta

When I introduced you to the Ford Fiesta I'm driving as part of the automaker's Fiesta Movement, I teased you with tidbits on the car that Ford hopes will put Americans in a premium small car. This time, let's climb into the driver's and passenger's seats for an in-depth look at the place where I spend the most time.

The month of May was the travel-themed month for the Fiesta Movement missions, so naturally I opted for a road trip with three friends that took us from my home base in San Diego to Lake Havasu, Arizona. For our three day trip we each brought one or two decent-sized duffel bags, a tripod and some detailing supplies to keep my Fiesta looking good for photos, all of which fit snugly into the rear hatch.

Step inside
My passengers agreed that seating was quite comfortable for everyone front and rear. To be thorough, I also asked to have them to rotate seats for the return trip. My tallest passenger, at over six feet, commented on how comfortable he was in the back seat on the four and a half hour drive home. Up front, I adjusted the lumbar - a rare sight in a low-cost car. Many might complain of driver fatigue when riding in cars with substantial road noise, or a jarring suspension for extended periods of time, but the Fiesta's impressive quietness a refined ride gave it two thumbs up from everyone on the trip.

The first time anyone gets an up close and personal look at the Fiesta, they're always drawn to the rather unique interior. Unlike Fords of the past, with their bulky rectangular universal-fit radios, this model has a truly unique and one-of-a-kind interior, filled with technology and design creativity. Regular drivers of European market Fords might find some design similarities, but overall the days of universal parts bin knobs, radios, green lighting and plastic controls are gone- unless Ford repurposes these bits in other models. The Fiesta features prominently-centered controls that include a full telephone keypad to go along with the Microsoft Sync hands-free Bluetooth system.

Maybe I'm a little old fashioned, but I found myself using the controls on the dash more than the voice commands. This could be attributed to a still slightly cumbersome voice command interface that prohibits you from simply speaking in conversational tones, or possibly because the layout is so simple and intuitive that it is faster and easier to make the slight reach to push the buttons.

Quality counts - and for the Fiesta it adds up
For years, savvy consumers have been begging for Ford and General Motors to "bring us what the Europeans have," and Ford has listened. Although the car I am driving is literally a German made, German-spec vehicle, everything I have read and been advised by Ford claims that the U.S. spec vehicle will be virtually identical to the European-spec Fiesta. The changes that will be made are expected to be limited to the safety and emissions changes that the federal government may mandate. Remember, this is being touted as a true global car, so Ford doesn't want to reinvent the wheel for the American market (or the exterior and interior for that matter).

Thanks to the high standards of our European friends, you will be happy to find a new list of materials, surfaces, and designs in the Fiesta previously unheard of - or least hard to find in many American cars, where critics have long derided perceived quality. The dash is covered in a soft to-the-touch rubber-like material and the doors have padding where one might rest their arm. The resting handles on the interiors of the door, the steering wheel, the gauge surround, and the entire center stack of the dash (including the climate control surround) are all painted in a high quality metallic. When giving the doors and various bits and pieces a tug, one finds a solid feel with little flex.

That said, I doubt anyone will climb into the Fiesta and think they're in a high-buck luxury car. But for sub-Focus pricing, it makes me wonder how Ford has integrated the quality and feature content we'd normally see in a premium brand.

The American consumer will be more than pleased with this interior, and with an expected price range in the low to mid teens, who wouldn't be? It's no wonder the Fiesta is the number two selling car in Europe.

Words and interior photos by Mark Kleis. Exterior photos by Larry Brown.