Ford has been teasing the upcoming launch of its new B-segment car, the Fiesta, for what seems like years now. We’ve seen its fantastic styling, heard its revvy engine, and ached for more. But Ford is being smart. Previous attempts at a “World Car” — a vehicle that’s sold virtually the same around the globe — haven’t been well received in North America. Remember the Ford Contour? Or the Mercury Scorpio? Disastrous.

So to whet our appetites even more, Ford set up a day’s drive with the five-door European Fiesta — a vehicle that will share 90 per cent of its components with “our” Fiesta — against its deadliest rivals: the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.

Ford’s first challenge of the day was a slalom course set up at Ontario Place in Toronto to let us put the Fiesta through its paces in a straight fight with the Honda, Nissan and Toyota.

On paper, the Fiesta trails in some categories, including number of gears (five vs. six for Nissan) and horsepower (116-hp vs. 117 for Honda, 122 for Nissan). But the Fiesta’s fuel mileage trumps them all. The current Yaris is the economy king, with a combined 6.6 L/100 km rating, but the Ford’s 5.9 L/100 km takes it to another level.

At the handling course, only the Fit had anything on the Fiesta. Ford has a reputation in Europe for great driving machines, and it’s obvious why. Excellent steering feel, taut suspension, great brakes and few vibrations equal a fluid package. You can throw the Fiesta around by its scruff, and it’s happy to oblige. The Honda has similar handling, but rides rougher.

Both the Toyota and Nissan don’t like being pushed around, but might be better suited to the daily highway grind.

The Fiesta’s other trump card is its ability to adjust itself to best match the driver. Its seats have the widest range of adjustment, and the steering wheel felt like it could be positioned in the backseat if required.

In the Toyota, tall drivers will have a hard time finding a comfortable position, and the Fisher Price cabin materials are insulting. Same in the Versa, although it does offer acres of passenger room. The Honda doesn’t feel like a penalty box, and trumps the Fiesta with its flip-and-fold Magic Seats in the rear. The Fiesta’s split-fold seats don’t quite fold flat enough, and its 295L cargo capacity with the seats raised is lowest in the group, and almost twice as small as the leading Fit at 585L.

November debut
Ford says “our” Fiesta will debut this November at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, in both four-door sedan and five-door hatch.