The Fiesta is Ford's major stab into the booming local subcompact car market, where the Toyota Vios, Toyota Yaris, Honda City and Jazz had it all to themselves for more than two model generations already. The Fiesta shares the same B-car platform with its cousin the Mazda2, which was locally introduced at the end of last year, but Ford engineers were quick to explain that there is much more to the Fiesta than just simple badge engineering, something we found out when we drove the car.

The Route

Guided by a rally-style roadbook and a GPS navigation device, each two-man team drove from the scenic Renaissance Resort and Spa, Phuket through the mountains of Phang-Nga province and made the first stop at View Points in Mueng Phang-Nga for some refreshments. The teams then wove through the twisty mountain roads down to the Bangsak Beach, or commonly known as Khao Lak. to make a stop for pictures, snacksm more refreshments and a car change at Haadson Resort.

Moving out from the beach of Khao Lak, we made a short stop at the Tsunami Memorial, a small park where a police boat was washed about two kilometers ashore by the 2004 tsunami. The park has been made a place of mourning and remembrance with a small museum placed next door.

We then drove up the mountains again to visit the Lampi Waterfall in Thai Muang County for more souvenir photos before heading back to Phuket for a festive buffet dinner by the infinity pool after a long day's drive through more than 200-kilometers of Thai countryside scenery.

The Festivities

On paper, the Fiesta has the some of the most handsome credentials with class leading features and functions like the 6-Speed Powershift Dual Clutch Automatic Transmission, Bluetooth, Voice Command functionality, Hill Launch Assist (for both uphill and downhill), Electronic Stability Program with Traction Control, DSP equipped entertainment system with USB and iPod connectivity.

As with the Focus, the Fiesta is also styled with Ford's Kinetic design language well accentuated by its dynamic headlamps and muscular fascia. The large trapezoidal airdam on the front bumper is both aesthetic and functional as it helps draw in more air for better flow to provide additional cooling for the engine bay. The sweeping roofline gives the car a sportier stance and its aggressive wheel arches give an equally aggressive stance reflecting the car's dynamic performance.

Inside, the edgy design continues with the trapezoidal instrument panels, mobile phone inspired center controls, and wedge shape side panels. The well-contoured front seats add to the sporty feel. It was a snug fit and provided a good hold during spirited driving moments through the twisty turns in the mountains roads of Phang-Nga and the spring cushion provided comfort on normal driving conditions. However, they were a bit of a pain to adjust with the rotating knob instead of a normal spring loaded lever.

Diving deeper into the skeletal details, the small but tough body structure of the Fiesta is reinforced with high-strength Boron steel, which is said to be more durable yet lighter than normal high-strength steel used in cars. Steering feel was light and gave a high amount of feedback thanks to its electric power assist. Coupled with the Boron steel reinforced structure and European-tuned suspension provided optimum car control on spirited runs on the sweeping mountain roads.

The 120-horsepower 1.6-liter with TI-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Cam Timing) provided a good amount of power coupled with the six-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Gear transition was flawless through all six pre-configured gears and the downhill assist button on the shifter was a welcome addition as we negotiated through uphill and downhill roads much easier. More impressive was the low NVH levels for a car of its class, thanks to strategically placed insulators and wind suppressors for the windows.

The 1.4-liter automatic transmission variant we changed to had significantly less spice than the Sport variant, but wasn't slow on highway. I do think though that it would be more for drivers looking for economy. Gear changes from the automatic transmission were quite smooth and the manual mode was quite responsive moving between gears efficiently.

Small car, big on features

Talking to your car isn't something you do in your wildest dreams now, as the Voice Command functionality allows the driver to make a call via Bluetooth handsfree. The driver can also perform basic entertainment system controls like navigating to a certain track on a CD or your iPod; a cool feature sure to make a panty dropping impression on your hot date.

The Hill Launch Assist meanwhile, is both a safety and driving aid as it automatically provides a three-second delay of movement when coming from a stop on inclines and declines to prevent unwanted rolling when in traffic or whenever you find yourself parked on an inclined surface.

To keep things safe, the Fiesta is equipped with features normally found in more premium cars like Electronic Stability Program with traction control, anti-lock brakes, dual SRS airbags, a tough shell with strategic crumple zones and automatic hazard light activation in the event of an emergency braking situation to warn drivers behind.

The Lowdown

After having driven it and with its very strategic pricing, I think the new Ford Fiesta is a party that is sure to make waves in the Philippine car market, particularly the subcompact segment. The pricetag starts at Php670,000 for the base 1.4-liter manual transmission Style variant sedan while the Trend sedan and hatchback is a notch higher at Php685,000 with the same engine and transmission setup. For more power and performance, the 1.6-liter Powershift Trend sedan and hatchback retails at Php766,000 while the top-level Sport variant with all options retails at Php816,000.