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Ford's Power of Choice shows off 2012 Fiesta, a high MPG non-hybrid compact

The compact and fuel efficient 2012 Fiesta is light on your pocketbook, and light on the environment. It is part of Ford's Power of Choice tour which came to San Francisco yesterday.

The Ford Fiesta is a compact, affordable, fun, high fuel efficiency car that seems targeted at the urban dwelling youth. The car is an example of Ford's global reach, in that it was originally designed by Ford Europe for European needs that are best satisfied by compact highly efficient cars. It was brought to the U.S. years ago and is part of Ford's strategy, showcased in the Power of Choice tour, to have best-in-class fuel efficiency in every vehicle class. Because of its small size it's able to delivery high fuel efficiency numbers without having a hybrid drive train.

It is available in several models, some of which are 4-door sedans, and some are 5-door hatchback sedans. It's styling is familiar to the compact European sedans. The passenger cabin is comfortable, with a tall roofline giving ample headroom. The back seat is a little cozy but can hold three people in a pinch, giving the car the capability to carry five people. The rear seat can fold down forming a large cargo area, and can be split allowing one rear seat plus cargo area. Drivers have clear visibility of the road around them, and all models come with "integrated blind spot mirrors" in the side view mirror.

The tested car had a five speed manual transmission that gave us great acceleration in low gears and was easy to shift. Our test route was city streets in downtown San Francisco which didn't give us a chance to let it loose at full speed, but it handled tight city traffic very well.

Instead of a key to engage the transmission, the 2012 Ford Fiesta uses a key fob to activate a pushbutton switch on the dashboard. To start the car you hold the button down until it starts, then you engage the transmission and you're good to go. The steering and handling is very responsive, and in all it's a fun car to drive.

One of the advantages of this small car is high fuel efficiency. With the standard 5 speed manual transmission, it gets 38 miles/gallon on the highway and 29 miles/gallon in the city, and with the optional automatic transmission this jumps to 39 miles per gallon on the highway. The SE Sedan/Hatchback model with the SFE package and automatic transmission bumps it up to 40 miles/gallon on the highway. All models use a 1.6 liter 16 valve Duratec I4 engine, that produces 120 horsepower, and 112 foot-pounds of torque. On the hatchback the rear cargo area behind the second row of seats is 15 cubic feet, and by folding down the 2nd row of seats that becomes 26 cubic feet.

Pricing varies from the Ford Fiesta S Sedan whose base price is $13,495 to the Ford Fiesta SES Hatchback whose base price is $17,795. Clearly Ford is targeting car buyers with modest needs, whose transportation budget needs a more modest priced car, whose transportation needs fits into a compact car. That it is also a highly efficient car may be an important factor in your choice but as a non-hybrid car Ford has not made the cars efficiency a primary factor in the driving experience. You just jump in and drive, stop at gas stations and fill up the tank, and the only way you have to appreciate the cars efficiency is by maintaining awareness of how far you can go on a tank of gas, and therefore how little you're spending per mile on fuel.