The 2011 Ford Fiesta breaks new ground on a number of levels, with the optional PowerShift dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmission being the perfect case-in-point.
It’s not often that we get to test a vehicle with both manual and automatic transmissions comprehensively. We had that opportunity with the 2011 Fiesta, spending a week with a manual (back in early autumn) and an automatic (just recently).
The Fiesta’s PowerShift transmission isn’t just the only six-speed automatic in its class. It’s also the only dual-clutch design. While the Honda Fit is equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission, the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Chevy Aveo and Hyundai Accent are fitted with four-speed automatics.
The PowerShift’s six speeds ensure optimum efficiency, while the dual internal dry clutches deliver fast shifts – keeping the Fiesta’s 1.6-liter four banger in its peak power band – providing both fuel economy and performance. The Neutral Coast Down mode disengages the clutches when you get on the brakes. This feature allows for better downshifts and higher fuel efficiency while coasting. (Inertia is your friend.)
We traveled roughly 500 miles in our PowerShift-equipped Lime Squeeze Metallic SES Hatchback review unit and breezed past the official mileage estimates, with an average of 43.7 MPG on the Interstate highway and 34.8 MPG combined, with temperatures ranging from the forties through the sixties. Interstate highway testing temperatures were in the low-sixties. The test vehicle was delivered with under 1000 miles on the odometer.
Interstate Mileage Testing:
- Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 42.1 MPG
- Cruise control off, target speed 60-72 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 45.3 MPG
While you don’t always see the external evidence of a great transmission, you can definitely feel it. The six-speed PowerShift is faster than the five-speed manual from 0-60 MPH and is more snappy to drive. (The manual would benefit from a short-throw shifter.)
Although the Fit Sport is equipped with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the 2011 Fiesta does not offer manual control of the twin-clutch automatic.
It’s important to note that Traction Control cannot be defeated on the 2011 Fiesta. This makes the 0-60 MPH times even more intriguing. While the manual can be launched hard off the line, the automatic cannot.
PowerShift’s Hill Launch Assist feature prevents the Fiesta from rolling backwards while stopped on a hill, with brake pressure maintained for up to three seconds, or until the torque kicks in. Hill Launch Assist works in both forward and reverse gears (when backing up a hill).
We’re big fans of dual-clutch automatics like Volkswagen/Audi’s DSG and Mitsubishi’s SST (as found in the Evolution and RalliArt). A good dual-clutch transmission can bring an engine to life. With better driveability and improved fuel economy, it’s a win-win. Now that the technology’s moved down into the Fiesta’s entry-level class, the ante’s been upped.
– by Daniel Gray