2013 Ford Fiesta: My review

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Lord Blackadder, Nov 20, 2013.

  1. Lord Blackadder, Nov 20, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013

    Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #1
    A lengthy post, I know - but when shopping for a car recently I searched everywhere to find informed opinions from real-world owners, so I tried to create one myself. Hopefully someone out there finds it useful.

    This past spring I woke up one morning to discover that my 2000 Subaru Forester had decided to convert itself into a 3-cylinder. $4500 for an engine replacement sounded unappetizing, especially since the "newest" replacement engine we could locate had 160k on the clock, over 5k more than the engine that had just disassembled itself…long story short, after much ado bought a 2013 Ford Fiesta as a replacement. RIP Forester. I've freely criticized American cars in the past but I've plunked down money for a Ford this time (albeit a UK-designed, Mexican-built Ford).

    My must-haves when shopping for a new car were as follows:

    1. 1. 30mpg+ (US) combined real-world mileage
    2. 2. Manual transmission
    3. 3. Hatchback form factor (not quite a deal-breaker but I strongly prefer them)
    4. 4. A cold weather package with heated mirrors and seats (I spend a lot of time in cold climates)
    5. 5. No more than about $20k out the door

    On to the Fiesta. It's a Ruby Red Metallic SE 5-door hatchback model with black cloth interior. Manual transmission, of course. Optional extras included are the cold weather package (heated seats and mirrors), Microsoft SYNC with Bluetooth interface, Sirius Satellite radio receiver (6 months of free service) mood lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Ford doesn't sell a huge volume of Fiestas compared with the Focus, Fusion and Taurus. Most large dealers only stock a handful, and smaller dealers might only have one or two at a time - usually low-specced sedan models. There is a continuing theme in the US that small cars are for poor people, and there is no need to make them nice. I had a hell of a time finding the one I wanted - initially I was looking for a top-spec "Titanium" model (for the larger 16" wheel/tire package mostly), but none could be found with a manual. In the end I settled on the SE. Less luxury extras but a couple thousand cheaper.

    Interior/Body

    I was pretty pleased with the interior layout of the car. It's noticeably narrower than larger cars, but head and legroom are no problem at all in the front. The seats are pretty comfortable; I've done several 1000+ mile drives in them and while you won't mistake them for a luxury car, I was perfectly happy. The seat warmers help with stiffness on long drives. Back seat legroom is not as good as the Honda Fit's (which has, frankly, an amazing amount of rear passenger legroom due to it's boxier body), but I have ridden in the back and it's more than adequate for short to medium-length trips. Headroom is a little restricted in the back for over 6-footers. Having four doors makes getting in and out easy. The rear seats don't fold flat (again the Fit is amazing here, the seats fold flat and give you a huge volume of space), but I've carried furniture and various other boxes and gear without any trouble. The sedan version has a pretty good-sized trunk but the hatchback will fit more oddly-shaped objects. The doors feel pretty solid, especially for a small car.

    In terms of materials, a mixed bag but mostly good (and light years ahead of my old Forester). There are a couple hard plastic surfaces here and there, but also plenty of soft-touch materials on the doors and dash. Some have complained in reviews about the audio controls, but I haven't had any problems. Fiddling with the Sirius satellite radio can be a little bit of a pain at times but once you get your presets in you're generally trouble-free from then on. USB and audio ports are standard on all cars these days (again, a HUGE leap form my 13 year-old Subaru), so while I can't cite that as a special feature they are damned useful.

    The Microsoft SYNC Bluetooth interface works pretty well; the 2013 Fiesta got a slightly dumbed-down version compared with pricier Fords, with a red monochrome display. Frankly, I don't miss the color touchscreen; I've played with them on other Fords and cars like the Chevy Sonic and frankly they are still in a gimmicky phase of development - they are the future, but at the moment a lot of the features are unnecessary or poorly implemented. In the Fiesta, I use the Bluetooth voice-controls mostly to make phone calls and pipe audio from my phone if I have a podcast to listen to. It works great and I've rarely ever had a problem with it. You don't get a full-sized spare, which is a bummer. I hate space-saver spares. But, to be fair, the Fiesta is far from alone in the car world on this, so I'll let it pass.

    I have had just one complaint about the interior; The little cargo concealer that hangs between the rear seats and the hatch sits and rotates on two plastic protuberances that are integral to the interior trim panels on each side of the cargo compartment. After owning the car just a couple months, one of these protuberances simply sheared off when I opened the hatch. The concealer still hangs by its strings and rests on the remaining protuberance. I took it to the dealer to get the trim panel replaced a month ago and I'm still waiting for the part to arrive. Apparently Fiesta repairs are low on the priority list…

    One final feature that is very nifty yet absurdly simple - the capless fuel filler system. When filling up you simply open the filler door on the side of the car and stick the nozzle in. Brilliant, and something someone should have come up with 100 years ago to be honest. But it's here now and I love it.

    Driving

    I'm very pleased. The Fiesta is a nimble car with a great chassis. Despite the short wheelbase, which can get a little jouncy on bad pavement, the ride is very nice and nowhere near as crashy as I feared it might be. Sure, you'll notice a difference when you step out of your huge Buick or SUV and into this, but really on average pavement the Fiesta is very comfortable and far, far more of a precision driving instrument than your average American or Japanese sedan (to say nothing of the trucks & SUVs most 'Mericans prefer). The turning radius is small, and zipping around in tight or crowded spaces is liberating. The car is at its best in urban environments. I'd like a tad less body roll in hard corners but otherwise it's simply a great handling car.

    A lot of hoopla in the press has been centered over the Fiesta's electric steering. I've owned cars without power steering at all and yes, the Fiesta's unit provides little to no feedback by comparison, which is a bit of a downer. The weighting is a bit on the light side. From a sporty motoring perspective it's a bit of a disappointment. Still, it doesn't have any slop or a dead spot, and you still get feedback from the transmission and through your backside when driving. It's not going to fool you into thinking its a BMW or Lotus, but I am used to it now and it's OK.

    The little 1.6L four is a nice engine - pretty smooth and free-revving. Power (120hp) is good, though I really wish they could have found a way to wring another 10 lb-ft of torque out of it without sacrificing economy (it produces 112 lb-ft). The car will cruise comfortably at 75mph+ all day, and there is enough power to pass without much ado. At higher speeds the engine can drone a bit, but wind noise is not an issue, the cabin is pretty quiet. The gearbox is nice - smoother and more precise than similar cars I've driven over the past few years. The clutch is nicely weighted - much better than the Honda Civic and Honda Fit in my opinion. The car comes with a hill-hold assist, holding the brakes on slopes when you pull away from a light. It was not a prominently-advertised feature and it surprised me the first time it kicked in. It probably makes driving the manual easier, though I've never had it in a car before. You get disc brakes in the front only. Though the brakes are more than adequate for such a lightweight car, it would be nice to have had discs on all four wheels.

    Economy

    This is one of the primary reasons I bought the car. The official EPA mileage is 29/39/33 for both the manual and automatic - you'll d better. On summer gas I saw 34mpg city and 40-43mpg highway. Now that we are on winter gas, the car does slightly worse - about 1mpg less perhaps. Over the six months I've driven it, real-world combined mileage with an even mix of city and highway driving is about 35-37mpg. I've never gotten it to drop below 30mpg. I found myself stuck in a 2-hour stop-n-go traffic jam once, and even after that the car managed just over 30mpg on the tank. If you're doing a highway trip you can exceed 400 miles on one fill-up of the little 12.5 gallon tank.

    Conclusion

    In sum - great car, I'm very satisfied with it. I cross-shopped it against the Honda Fit, Honda Civic, Chevy Sonic, Mazda 2 (same platform as the Fiesta), VW Golf and Ford Focus. The Fit was a tour de force in clever interior design. But I found it a bit boring to drive (contrary, I must admit, to what a number of auto journalists have said) and the styling just didn't work for me. The Civic is an excellent car in just about every respect but I don't want a sedan and they were very close to exceeding my budget. The Chevy's turbo 1.4 was exciting but the build quality and materials were inferior and nobody could find me a manual transmission car. The auto box has a manual-shift function but it is laughable. The Mazda 2 has been reviewed as a superior driver's car to the Fiesta, but skimps on equipment and again the dealers had trouble finding me a manual. It's worth a serious look if you can find one though. The Golf is a great car, but the base engine wasn't economical enough, and the diesel was out of my price range. I'd be willing to sacrifice economy for the sake of a GTI but, again, it was too expensive for me. The Focus was less sharp in the handling department, had a much more generous cargo area but was less economical and a few thousand more for a comparably-equipped car. Good car though overall, with more torque.

    And then there's the Fiesta ST. I wanted one - badly - but they weren't in dealers yet and about $3k out of my price range. As soon as our local dealer gets one in I'm going to test drive it - and probably come out weeping at what I've missed. A turbo, 77 more hp and various go-fast bits sounds simply delicious.

    My only long-term concern is how the car will hold up. My previous cars have all made it past 130-150k in reasonably solid shape. I'm not planning on keeping this car as long, but the long-term reliability is an unknown. In particular, the wheel wells look like they have too much exposed metal, especially in the front side of the rear wells. Time will tell.

    Anyway, I'd encourage anyone who is shopping for something economical but fun to drive and nicely equipped to give the Fiesta a shot. It's a long, LONG way from the Geo Metro school of economic motoring, nor does it carry the snobbery (and crap driving dynamics) of a Prius.
     
  2. WoodNUFC macrumors 6502a

    WoodNUFC

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    #2
    Great review, Lord Blackadder.

    My wife and I bought a 2012 SES Fiesta Hatch, and absolutely love it! We recently hit 20,000 miles and I've never once wished I had a different car. For me, the manual transmission in the Fiesta really makes it a joy to drive.

    We get an average of 35 MPG commuting to work, and over 40MPG highway.
     
  3. Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #3
    I'm fear if I made a mistake purchasing a Fiat 500 in 2011. Not that it's not a fun little car with great gas mileage, but because I'm worried it is bombing in the U.S. and that warranty support for it will become very limited. I have a dealer about 20 miles away, but I recently spoke to their service department and the rep told me they were the only location in the Houston metro area providing warranty work and some people have to drive 2+hrs to get there. Not good!
     
  4. puma1552 macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    #4
    The Fiesta is a good little car, though too bad you couldn't wait for the refreshed '14s that came out a few months later. A '14 Titanium is really a nice little car with pretty much everything you could want in an econobox.

    Ford is building damn fine vehicles these days. I sat in a Focus Titanium with the french stitching on the leather and soft touch everything and all that jazz and you could've sworn you were sitting in a $50k car that stickered for $27k.
     
  5. quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

    Joined:
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    #5
    If Fiat ends up withdrawing the 500 from the US market, they will probably relax their stupid requirement of dealers operating a separate Fiat dealership and allow Chrysler dealers to service the vehicle.
     
  6. AustinIllini macrumors demi-god

    AustinIllini

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    #6
    I wouldn't worry about warranty support too much. If worse came to worse, I would imagine Fiat would start servicing the 500 out of Chrysler dealerships. I'm hoping Fiat/Chrysler brings Alfa Romeo back to the states.


    Glad to see a new car discussion on the boards. Thanks OP! Ford is a totally new company relative to what it was just ten years ago. You totally made the right choice. If I had to pick one today, I would definitely be between the Fiesta and the Fit. Honda has rested its laurels across its brand for a number of years.


    Beat me to it.


    Depending on who you ask, OP made the right choice, seeing as the first model year of a generation is usually the one that experiences the most problems.
     
  7. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #7
    Not going for the 2014s was a very tough choice, but they have been slow to trickle into dealer inventory. I would have had to wait several months and I simply didn't have the time. My poor Subie was dead, sold for scrap value :)() and I needed to get back on the road. I considered buying a very cheap used car as a stopgap, but I had a few long road trips looming and I needed reliable transportation.

    Plus, I think my 2013, with the "Euro" grill insert option, looks better than the Aston Martin-look chrome grill on the '14s (aside from the ST, which looks great blacked out). You get a few more options on the '14s, like a color touch screen, but mechanically the cars are just about the same as the 2013s. If you can afford it, I recommend the Titanium for its 16" rubber (the Titanium's wheels look nicer too, though the 15" alloys on my Fiesta SE are nice enough).

    The Fiesta really feels like a substantial car. It proves that you don't have to downgrade when you downsize. I have sat in much more expensive cars that looked and felt cheaper.

    RE: The Fiat 500. I looked at the 500 as well as the MINI Cooper. Both are a blast to drive and very nice to be in - but the Fiesta gets better economy on good 'ol 87 octane and while not quite as nice to drive it's still fun and considerably cheaper. I am disappointed that Chrysler are going to sell Alfas through the Maserati dealer network - I think a joint Fiat/Alfa dealer network would have been smarter. We still don't know if the Fiat/Alfa toehold in the US will really make it. I hope so though.
     
  8. puma1552 macrumors 601

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    Nov 20, 2008
    #8
    The '14 is just the midcycle refresh on the platform which came out in '11, not a new bodystyle.

    That said, my wife has a '12 Beetle which is an entirely new bodystyle, and it's been flawless through 1.5 years. But I agree, staying away from first years is usually a good idea.
     
  9. three macrumors 6502a

    three

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    #9
    Great review! It's amazing how much Ford has improved in overall quality in the past couple years. I had the chance to drive a 2014 Fusion for a couple months and boy it was such a great car. I'm impressed with all of Fords lineup these days. You made a great purchase!
     
  10. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #10
    I have a Ford Focus Titanium 1.6 and one of my favourite features is Fords quick clear heated windscreen. When we all leave work together it's always me that drives of first in winter. Hope that was included in your winter pack.
    Great review and I will seriously look at downsizing to a Fiesta next time round. However I've only done 57k so in no rush to change right now.

    Enjoy your new car.
     
  11. Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #11
    Well, our Fiat boutique dealer used to be tied to a Chrylser dealer who did all maintenance. In some kind of a recent shakeup, the Fiat dealer now stands in a separate facility with their own maintenance and no longer seems to tied to the Chrysler dealer. I've not yet determined if this is good or bad or if it is related to Fiat sales or not. I'll report back later probably in a Fiat dedicated thread.
     
  12. Lord Blackadder, Nov 20, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013

    Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #12
    I forgot to mention - apart from the standard 120hp 1.6L and the 197hp ST version of the same engine, the 2014 Fiestas come with a third engine option in the US. It's a turbocharged 1L 3cyl (yes, that's ONE liter and THREE cylinders). That little motor is rated at 125hp and 148lb-ft, and according to the EPA you'll get 32/45mpg with it.

    A fascinating option, and one I definitely would have considered had one been available when shopping for my car. The extra torque sounds very nice, though I suspect it needs to be driven with more care than the standard 1.6L to get maximum mileage out of it - if you are wringing 145lb-ft out of it you're definitely not getting 32mpg….but the reviews seem positive. I do know that the same 1.0L engine is offered in the both the Fiesta and Focus in Europe. That sounds like a little bit of a stretch for the Focus' weight, but I've never driven one so I can only speculate. Could be a great motor in the Fiesta though.

    The heated windscreen sounds like one of those cool Euro-only options that the dumbed-down North American cars never get…weirdly it isn't available here. :eek: Fortunately, the Fiesta doesn't seem to have been dumbed down much for the American market. And the ST is, by all accounts, superb to drive.

    Funnily enough, my old 2000 Forester had a heated windscreen, though it was different from Ford's current solution. The heating element was down near the bottom, and it was designed to quickly thaw out the wipers if they froze to the windscreen. Useful. That old Subie was an outstanding winter car.
     
  13. AustinIllini macrumors demi-god

    AustinIllini

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    #13
    File that under "things I needed in chicago". That Cobalt I drove back then was CRAP.
     
  14. jeremy h macrumors 6502

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    Jul 9, 2008
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    UK
    #14
    I too have a Ford Focus. Been very impressed with Fords lately (agree about the windscreen) but having now done 80,000 miles suddenly I don't have a car anymore - I have a wheeled example of Theseus's paradox or as it's known more colloquially around these parts Triggers Broom!

    In the last 15,000 or so miles I've had to replace two bearings, some pipe assembly into the turbo, an injector, an alternator, that wheely bit at the front of alternator, it's suddenly developed an intermittent fault with the all electronic boot catch and now the garage have informed me that another injector is starting to go! :eek:

    It feels as if it has been designed with a 7 year life or 70,000 miles which ever comes soonest! I won't get another one - shame as it's a nice car. (My previous one was less electronic and more durable).
     
  15. Lord Blackadder, Nov 21, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013

    Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #15
    My brother's 2005 Focus has been pretty trouble-free save for damage from one accident. I think he had to have the struts replaced too.

    The long-term reliability of the Fords is still an unknown. The latest crop (the current-gen Taurus, Fusion, Focus, Fiesta and Explorer) all seem to be substantially better built than the earlier vehicles. Hopefully that translates into greater long-term reliability. In my experience cars from the late 90s-early 2000s run pretty well through 100k miles. Then they start becoming maintenance-intensive. I think a lot has to do with the way a car is treated it's first 100k miles. If you garage it and do all the scheduled maintenance on time, and if you live in a mild climate, you can probably go 150,000 miles without spending too much in maintenance - though costs will go up as the mileage climbs.

    If you want reliability above all else, get an old 300-Series Mercedes. Those cars are probably the best-made and most reliable autos ever to hit the pavement.
     
  16. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

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    #16
    Good review, though I would never be able to buy a smallish car like this unless it was purely for summer driving and play.

    Really hard for me to fit a load of firewood in the back of a compact car.

    My sister drives around an older ford compact of some sort (escort I want to say). Save for it being on the small side for me to drive around it is a nice little car.
     
  17. Lord Blackadder, Nov 21, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013

    Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #17
    If you need to haul things regularly, then you have to either have two vehicles or suffer in the truck every day. If I had more money, space and time I could see myself getting a used pickup to use as a tow/hauling vehicle but it would sit 90% of the time because trucks (and most SUVs) make terrible commuter vehicles - even though they spend 90% of their lives doing just that. Many of my fellow 'Mericans will disagree, but that's just my opinion. ;) I drive pickups often on the job, and they just can't compare with a car for handling, comfort and safety.

    That's especially true for long road trips. The Fiesta easily hits 40mpg cruising at 70+ on the highway and is much safer in high-speed maneuvers like an emergency lane-change.

    My first vehicle was a truck, but since replacing it I've never run into trouble hauling things. I've either got it to fit in my hatchback, borrowed a friend's truck, had items delivered or rented a truck/van. My old Subie Forester could swallow a surprising amount of stuff, and the roof rack could handle oversized things like 4x8 sheets of plywood.
     
  18. quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    #18
    Americans would disagree with you on safety. Take a Silverado/F-150/Ram against your Fiesta in a collision and the truck would win. It has a higher chance of rollover due to them being higher off the ground, but in a collision trucks and SUV's will win vs a car. I hate that attitude because its a selfish one( screw killing another person in an accident just as long as I am alive) as a reason why they buy a 5000 lb. SUV or truck and have very little use of its designed capabilities.

    My family has a 2002 Suburban. It does sit most of the time since it is only used to tow my moms horse trailer, haul stuff/people to their boat, etc.

    For their daily commute, my dad has a 2007 BMW 335xi( looking to replace it soon with the Cadillac ATS) and my mom drives a 2013 Chevy Equinox.
     
  19. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #19
    Oh, I know they would - and they're wrong. I agree with you that the Fiesta will take more damage in said collision, I don't agree that the Fiesta is less safe. It has an excellent safety rating, proved by crash testing, and insurers are so eager to total vehicles out these days that I'm not sure your pickup would escape anyway, considering how expensive and festooned with gadgets pickups and SUVs are these days.

    I don't feel the slightest bit unsafe sharing the road with all the big pickups and SUVs out there. Most new cars built in the US and Europe are very safe vehicles.

    The era of full-size trucks and SUVs as commuter vehicles for the middle class is slowly fading. They'll always be around, of course, and that's fine. But they'll increasingly become niche vehicles for those who really need them, or the shrinking group of those willing and able to pay the increasing cost to run them. And that's as it should be.
     
  20. quagmire, Nov 21, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013

    quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    #20
    Not disputing the safety of small cars these days.

    The Smart Fortwo has a very well designed cage.



    How that test would translate to hitting a Silverado, idk. But it is very well designed. You would still be killed simply due the G forces felt from going from 70 to 0 in 1 second, but the Smart car stood up very well.
     
  21. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #21
    Well, a Silverado is softer than a concrete barrier. And, to be fair, the same test in any pickup or SUV rather than the Smart car would yield similar devastation. No consumer cars or trucks provide a large safety margin in collisions at highway speeds. A roll cage, 5-point harness, helmet and neck restraint are about the only things that will help you there.

    I don't think anyone buying an American/European-made small car should be excessively worried about safety vs trucks and SUVs.
     
  22. quagmire, Nov 21, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013

    quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    #22
    True the Silverado is softer, but the frame is higher up( where it's the strongest) so its a question of where the frame hits the car. It's why the IIHS is doing the new small overlap test where the wall misses the vehicles strong points designed to withstand an impact.



    I know it sounds like I'm defending the viewpoint of the idiots buying a 5000 lb. SUV or truck due to them being "safer", but I'm not trying to. I agree with you overall, I don't think people who buy a small car should worry about safety all that much. Especially now with the new small overlap test, manufactures will start to design their vehicles to do well on that test as well making them even safer.
     
  23. puma1552 macrumors 601

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    Nov 20, 2008
    #23
    The results of these tests are scary, pretty much everyone failed. This is going to be a huge wakeup call and you will now see everything built for this:

    CC:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU6a_s4SHZw

    A4:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55qLUxaJlP0

    C300:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXLjP2YViKQ

    These are realistic accidents, since nobody drives into brick walls squarely on the front of the car. Most head-ons are deadly offsets, at speeds both much higher than 40 mph and usually twice the speed since both cars are moving towards each other (i.e. two cars going 70 mph towards each other is the same as one car hitting a wall at 140 mph). Personally I'd rather take my chances with a bigger car.

    I know people like to have their small cars, but they don't need to kid themselves, they are the ones most likely to die in a serious accident and that's just simple physics. Car might be safe driving into a wall at 40 mph, but who's going to walk away when it's an SUV vs. a Fiesta at 70 mph offset?
     
  24. Lord Blackadder thread starter macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #24
    Volvo has been doing those for years, which is why their cars do well in such tests (as an aside, if you want the safest car money can buy, a Volvo is probably your best bet and has been for 30 years). I agree that car manufacturers should pay more attention to this kind of collision. With that being said, the Fiesta got top marks in the moderate overlap crash test. So its as good as anything out there.
     
  25. quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    #25
    Yeah Volvo did really well in the test. Here is a video that shows what Volvo does to make it so safe in these crashes.

     

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