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Source: Motor Trend
"Measure For Measure: Honda Fit vs. Ford Fiesta"

The Fiesta to be a bit sportier, a bit less boxy than the Fit, but if Honda can do it, why can't Ford? A hatchback in the United States.

Measure For Measure: Honda Fit vs. Ford Fiesta
If Honda can prove the conventional wisdom about hatchbacks wrong, why can't Ford?

By Angus MacKenzie

The conventional wisdom is hatchbacks don't sell in America. Ford marketing boss Jim Farley doesn't believe in conventional wisdom. He plans to bring the hatchback version of the new Fiesta small car to the states to sell alongside the four door model that was earlier approved for Stateside consumption. And why not? Honda's Fit has been proving the conventional wisdom wrong for a couple of years now.

In 2007 Honda retailed just over 56,000 of the little Honda hatches. To the end of May this year, it had shifted just shy of 30,000. To put that in perspective, the Fit -- a car that will be replaced by a completely redesigned model in October -- has so far this year handily outsold both Ford's doddery Crown Victoria and invisible Taurus. Dearborn could use a little unconventional wisdom like that.

What makes Farley's move fascinating is the new Fiesta hatch -- which launches in Europe this summer -- is a very similar package to the next generation Fit. The Fiesta rolls on a 98.0in wheelbase, while the new Fit will measure 98.4in between the axles. The Fiesta is 156.0in long overall; the new Fit will be almost the same with U.S.-spec bumpers.

Two key dimensions are quite different, however -- the baby Ford is an inch wider and 1.5in lower than the little Honda. That helps give the Fiesta sportier proportions and more shoulder room inside. But the new Fit will retain the current car's innovative folding rear seat, which gives it almost baby minivan load carrying flexibility.

The sort of functionality is important in the Fit's home market, Japan, where small cars have traditionally been designed to maximize their interior package. Here in the U.S., however, the Fit is positioned as a youth-oriented sporty vehicle. And that's where the five door Fiesta could prove a real rival. A three door version of the Fiesta is also on the way to world markets and probably will be sold here as well.

It starts with the styling. Visually the new Fit is a big improvement on the geeky, goggle-eyed current model; cleaner, sharper, with less of a whiff of sweaty basements and flickering computer screens. But it's not a match for Martin Smith's dramatic "Kinetic Design" sheet metal on the Fiesta. This is a small car in Cinemascope, with a sweeping, widescreen stance. The Ford's interior is classier and more entertaining, too, with better use of color, and center stack hardware that's a cool, clever riff on a cell phone keypad aimed straight at the fingers of the SMS generation.
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