Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2011 Ford Fiesta: The People want a Turbo and Paddle Shifters

Isn't it about time we did 1984 all over again?

Back then gas prices were high, nobody wanted to buy cars from Detroit, and everybody was listening to Michael Jackson music.

Summer 2009: Same story, different plot. Ford, as it was back in the day, is in the midst of introducing a "World Car" – a car that substantially meets the needs of most motoring countries without the need for much model differentiation.

Your Unhumble Car Czar owned Ford's first World Car, the Escort, for a satisfying but ungratifying 18 months back when. It was fine around-town transportation, but above 50 it pogoed over bumps and bounded for the next lane. It wanted a downshift at the first whiff of a headwind.

The Escort's sort-of U.S. heirs, the Festiva and Focus, ran the gambit from competent to almost-brilliant in 50-state forms.

Now that the global economic plunge has made global automotive platforms more than just vaguely sensible ideas, Ford is finally ready to get the whole World Car Thing right.

The 2011 Fiesta, arriving in the U.S. in mid-2010, is, um ... GO. (Think "All your base." Think "FIT." Don't think too much).

Ford already has test models in the hands of young hipsters who are off making viral Jason-drives-through-Krispy-Kreme-and-Just-Loves-the-Handling YouTube videos about them.

Except for some here-today-designing-the-next-bungled-BMW-butt-tomorrow stylist's vapid idea to model the new Fiesta's center instrument panel after cell phone keys (let's be thankful no brilliant young rectangle-glassed wonder thought to make the dashboard of a 1984 GTI mimic a boom box) this is a good-looking ride. Comes in purple-y pink, Pre-political-Anita-Bryant orange, Kermit-the-Frog green, and other cheerful "Recession? What Recession?" colors.

By all accounts, 117 hp moving 2,380 pounds on meaty low-profile rubber for just 13 grand makes the 2011 Ford Fiesta the second coming of the first generation Acura Integra, which was about the best all-around fun car you could get in the 80s.

A tip of the sombrero for replicating the excellence/price quotient of a quarter-century ago with a full complement of modern safety equipment ... but for 2011, Ford, even if we're still all up Ess Ache Eye Tee Crick by then, you could amp things up just a little more without going all Lincoln Blackwood Silly on us.

By all means, pump-out those low-cost, high-grin standard Fiestas for the masses (and even for Muffy and Buffy, whose parents can't currently afford to buy them little German cars owing to ongoing SEC investigations), but let's please make that "Psst ... hey buddy ... wanna buy a turbo kit?" future buyer survey item you've been teasing us with on your web site a just-slightly-higher-cost, much-higher-grin reality.

A 170 hp turbo option on the U.S. Fiesta would be really swell, Ford. And a six-speed sequential shift gear box with real left-down, right-up paddle shifters would do lots to break the Land of the Free out of its post-hot-rod-SUV hangover.

Keep those funky colors.

If Ultra Violet comes close enough to Plumb Crazy Purple and far enough away from Promise Pink you can count on at least one un-hip self-appointed imaginary government bureaucrat showing up on your showroom door step next year.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Car and Driver: Rocketing out of a Ditch

If anyone doubts the speed of change nowadays, I direct you to your local surviving magazine stand, where you will find issues of the newly-out-of-its-rut Car and Driver. Just weeks after every employee at that publication dropped everything to read this blog over and over after binding it in gold-gilded leather, new editor Eddie Alterman and Co. have remade the book into what it once was and should forevermore be: a car magazine that isn't afraid to sing the praises and flaws of a 200-grand Ferrari just pages over from similar treatment of the next new small Ford that you can actually afford.

A car magazine that's always about more than what the magazine is about and not afraid to imply so 10 times fast.

A car magazine that at least every few years lets an editor drive drunk on a closed circuit in the interest of science.

The latest issue of the new and better-in-every-way C/D dumps the Fruit Stripe gum road test data panels, ran-out-of-things-to-write-about-ages-ago columnists, and (so far ... we're holding our breath) sports car track tests that forget they're sports car track tests half-way through and award first place to the car with the most trunk space.

Post-CC C/D treats new-age automotive powerplants not with obscure tech-rambling, but with pictures, prose, and pragmatic pros & cons. Perfect.

Editor Alterman introduced himself a few issues back using the Standing on the Shoulders of Giants platform – then invited the giants up on stage.

David E. Davis is back at Car and Driver in top form, leaving the snooty wine and cheese affectations from his Automobile days behind and recently gruffly asking the world why he didn't get the call for the Car Czar job. (Sorry, sir. Jobs like Car Czar don't go to guys waiting around for a telephone call. They go to anonymous bloggers who simply proclaim themselves to be the Car Czar and then start popping off about cars, drivers, and any subject not related to cars and drivers that amuses them).

Malcolm Bricklin gets the back page of the latest C/D to explain the failure of his SV-1 and Yugo projects, among others. Against today's backdrop of multi-billion-buck companies who can't figure the car business out either, Mr. Bricklin comes across as one of those one-man car entities that history should look kindly upon, if only for not losing billions, not trying to sell cocaine, and not barricading himself in his factory while dressed in a Big Bird costume.

John Phillips III gets a column in the front of the book. Hooray.

It's only a matter of time before this newly reconstituted motorhead magazine unwittingly tests a shockingly quick Chevy Volt that some PR guy has secretly stuffed with a motor from a Citroen GT. Then Car and Driver will be a motorhead magazine ... finally ... for real. (Those peaky, noisy, reciprocating powerplants from those quaint old Detroit car companies were engines, not motors. Ask any old coot from back before readers began loosing their train of thought on the internets and misusing words with abandon).