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Ford Fiesta
Scion xD

Ford Fiesta Meets Scion xD

By Jim Bray
November 18, 2010

One's a Canadian Car of the Year contender, the other's a boxy hauler. But which one's a better car?

Well, if you believe the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada members, it would have to be the Ford Fiesta, the company's new-to-North-America entry level car that scored top marks in its class at the recent Canadian Car of the Year TestFest. Fiesta bested the Scion xD compared here, as well as three other entrants for the title of Best Small Car under $21,000 (Canadian dollars).

I agree with the choice, but as is so often the case, it depends on what you need from your wheels. Both cars are five door hatchbacks, but the Fiesta's more fun to drive and equipped better, while the xD is better suited to carrying three people in the back seat and is more "hauling-friendly".

Festive Ford…
Positioned to compete head to head with cars such as, well, the xD – as well as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, etc., I got to preview the European version of the Fiesta a while back and liked it from the time my butt hit, as I wrote then, its "pocket-sized but practically posh passenger place". The final North American version is still cute as a bug's ear, appointed very nicely, and offers a good driving experience.

Ford says the Fiesta offers 15 class-exclusive technologies and brings more luxury and convenience than you can usually find in vehicles at this end of the marketplace. And while its 1.6 liter inline four cylinder engine is not a rocket – horsepower and torque are rated at 120 and 112, respectively – it's competitive in this niche and I had no trouble reaching and maintaining freeway speeds.

The power gets to the front wheels through either a rather rubbery five speed manual transmission that's still more fun than most automatics or a "PowerShift" six speed automatic transmission that's actually pretty good.

I was especially impressed with the automatic when I drove it back to back with the Mazda2, which shares a lot of the Fiesta's heritage. The Mazda only offers a four speed auto that's no comparison when it comes to "fun to drive". This surprised me.

The Fiesta's cabin is comfortable and turned out better than you might expect from an entry level car. The front buckets hold the bum well and are pretty supportive when you hit the curves; I took it on a couple of makeshift handling courses and never felt as if I were about to be thrown into the driver's door. The driving position is about as good as a non-telescoping steering wheel (it only tilts) can be.

Features abound, too, including Ford's SYNC voice-activated communications system with a handy set of piano key-like buttons placed around the cursor control knob. My test unit didn't come with the type of big LCD touch screen that can be used for a nav system, rear view camera and the like, but the smaller and less flexible monitor was still pretty good at imparting needed information.

The rear seat's a tad snug, especially for three adults (not surprisingly since the overall car is so small), and though it splits it doesn't fold completely flat for hauling bigger articles. And the sloping rear roofline works to limit the height of stuff you can carry – much like some of the competition.

But if you're looking for a reasonably priced small car that's fun to drive and equipped better than you'd expect, this might be a car worth checking out. It's my favorite of the cars I've driven in this segment, though the stylistically-challenged but efficient and fun Honda Fit still comes close.

Ford Fiesta
Scion xD

Scion of the Times…
The second generation Scion xD was introduced to the U.S. about 2008 but the line is only making its way into Canada now. The car is apparently based on the Toyota Yaris, which is a pretty good place to start, but it's a lot more box-like.

Think of it as a miniature hearse, ideal for ferrying the dear departed canine to the pet cemetery.

The xD has a lot going for it, but driving excitement isn't one of them. Perhaps this is a Toyota thing, since that Japanese auto giant is Scion's parent company and they aren't know for putting a lot of fun to drive in most of their vehicular offerings these days.

This obviously doesn't matter to many people, such as those who look upon their wheels as merely a way of getting around, and that's okay. To each his own – and there's still plenty to like about the xD, including its simplicity and the feeling of stability and solidity it gives.

The relatively boxy exterior translates into plenty of room inside, fortunately, and though the vehicle  handles more like a car than the van it resembles so much, you could actually consider it a kind of "microvan" – similar in concept if not execution to the Mazda5.

Motivating the microvan is a 1.8 liter inline four cylinder engine that puts out 128 horses @ 6000 rpm and 125 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm. That gives the xD a little more oomph than the Fiesta, but I didn't notice much difference when I drove them nearly back-to-back at TestFest.

The xD's available with either a five speed manual or a four speed automatic – the latter of which, like the Mazda's mentioned above, is a tad uncompetitive these days. It works okay, though, with smooth shifts.

The xD features front disc and rear drum brakes, with ABS, as does the Fiesta.

Despite a pretty good interior, the xD's driving position is a tad strange, perching you over the wheel in a manner that made me think of it as driving a motorized bar stool – which must give the MADD folk fits. That's about my only complaint about an interior that's well laid out and efficient, and appointed pretty well, too, though I'd give the nod to the Fiesta in the features and "cushiness" department.

Ford Fiesta
Scion xD

Helping the hauling quotient is a 60/40 split, sliding and reclining rear seat that also folds flat. This makes it the hands down winner in storage capacity between it and the Fiesta.

Deciding between these vehicles should be easy; for me, it's a no brainer. I don't need the storage, am unsure that I could get used to driving a bar stool, and put a premium on the "fun to drive" factor, so the Fiesta's a clear winner for me.

But that's only me. The Scion xD is no slouch, either. It does its assigned duties well if what you're looking for is legendary Toyota-compatible quality and want the xD's extra room and flexibility for the times you need to carry more than groceries and other small stuff.

The Ford Fiesta starts at about $13,000 U.S. and Canadian. The Scion xD starts at about $16,000 U.S./ and about a grand more in Canada. Naturally, the options you choose and the tax regime under which you labor can affect that figure.

Copyright 2010 Jim Bray






Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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