This little Ford represents something big. The Fiesta is the anti-Pinto—the kind of well-engineered, sporty yet frugal small car that Detroit has historically refused to build. Available as a sedan or a five-door hatchback, the 2011 Fiesta gets 120 horsepower from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, good for a reasonably brisk 9.3-second run to 60 mph. The steering is quick, the suspension frisky.
Inside, the Fiesta’s amenities, including Ford’s voice-activated Sync system, easily surpass what you’ll find in other cars in its class. An available six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission is technology usually limited to pricey luxury cars. And that engine and transmission combine for Toyota-smoking mileage: 29 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Aside from the two-seat, snail-paced Smart, the Fiesta is the only non-hybrid on the market to achieve 40 mpg. From $14,000.