Ford on Wednesday launched US-specification versions of the European designed Fiesta at the Los Angeles motor show, claiming its first all-new model in the subcompact sedan and hatchback market in years would "redefine US small car customers' expectations".

While European buyers are offered a mix of petrol and diesel engines with manual, automated manual or automatic transmissions, US buyers will be offered just two drivetrains combining a 1.6-litre I4 DOHC petrol engine with a 'PowerShift' six-speed, dual dry-clutch automated transmission or a conventional five-speed manual 'box with electric power steering.

Like some European Volkswagen model lines, the automated transmission version actually gets better fuel mileage than the manual - it's projected to deliver best-in-class highway fuel economy of 40mpg according to Ford.

"Fuel economy leaders have traditionally been manual shift models," said the automaker's transmission team leader Pierro Aversa. "[The] six-speed automatic delivers maximum fuel economy."

Standard equipment will include a claimed segment-exclusive 'Sync' voice-activated communications system.

The Mexican-built model line will launch in 2010 as a 2011 model in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles matching Toyota's Yaris (which also comes as a three-door and competing with other imports such as the Honda Fit (Jazz) and Nissan Versa (Tiida) already on sale in North America.

Ford claims the Fiesta will also offer 15 "class-exclusive technologies".

"Customers are savvy. They want expressive cars that deliver not just great fuel economy but also high quality, new technologies and a fun driving experience," said Ford president of The Americas Mark Fields. "We plan to answer the call with Fiesta; an all-new vehicle in North America we hope will set a new standard for small cars."

The automaker said the US launch of the Fiesta is the next milestone under its so-called ONE Ford plan to design and develop vehicles that meet the differing needs, wants and expectations of customers world-wide. More than 500,000 current generation Fiestas have already sold to customers in Europe and Asia - European-built cars are exported as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Thai production will begin in 2010 for Asia-Pacific markets.

Ford has been heavily promoting its new small car (previous attempts to crack the small car market have included the ill-fated US-designed and made Pinto, launched in 1971, and first generation Fiestas imported from Germany in the mid-1970s) with its 'Fiesta Movement' promotion with 100 'social media mavens' chronicling their experiences of driving European market Fiestas (shipped in from Germany last March) on American roads.

According to the company, the promotion has has generated over 675,000 Flickr views and over 5.5m YouTube video views.

US versions will have dual-stage first-row air bags, a class-exclusive driver's knee air bag, side air bags and side curtain air bags. AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control is also standard.

Trim and equipment are competitive with US market rivals which are usually somewhat less well specified than their model-for-model equivalents here in Europe to keep the Stateside price down.

"For North America, the global Fiesta was tweaked, not re-designed or re-developed." said chief engineer Steve Pintar. "We built on the success of the European Fiesta and are really proud of how little has changed."
Standard and optional equipment includes the aforementioned Sync, integrating a mobile phone with the voice- activated communications and entertainment system, keyless entry and push button start, another claimed segment-unique feature. Adjustable cup holders can accommodate Red Bull cans and Big Gulps along with every container size in between, the automaker was at pains to point out.

The Fiesta also has Ford's 'EasyFuel' capless fuel filler system, a North American industry-exclusive (first introduced here in Europe to prevent diesel version drivers accidentally refuelling with petrol) as standard equipment.

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