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Ford Fiesta earns class-leading 40 mpg

The Ford Fiesta with the six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission has been EPA certified for 40 mpg highway and 29 mpg city delivering class-leading fuel economy

The Fiesta will sell in two body styles, one of which is this practical five-door hatchback that features seating for four or a largish cargo area with the rear seats folded flat. Josh P. Miller/CNET

It has proven itself to be a fun little ride. It even sort of defeated a super car. Now, the upcoming 2011 Ford Fiesta earns bragging rights at the pump with an EPA-certified fuel economy of 40 mpg highway when equipped with Ford's PowerShift automatic transmission.

To achieve this level of efficiency, Ford started with the Fiesta's new 1.6-liter Duratec engine. We found that this 120-horsepower mill was no neck-snapper during our First Drive, but it does feature an assortment of fuel-saving technologies including variable camshaft timing, aggressive fuel shutoff on hard deceleration, and a more efficient engine accessory drive system for the air conditioner and alternator. Ford mated this engine to its PowerShift automatic transmission--which is Ford marketspeak for a dual-clutch automatic transmission similar to Volkswagen's DSG and Mitsubishi's SST. This gearbox features six forward gears and combines the mechanical efficiency of a manual transmission with the computer-controlled efficiency of an automatic.

In this configuration, the EPA estimates the Fiesta's fuel economy at 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. This places the Ford in a class-leading position, beating the Honda Fit by 5 highway mpg and the Toyota Yaris by 4 mpg. However, spec your 2011 Fiesta with the standard five-speed manual transmission and your efficiency estimates drop to 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway--which is still pretty good by our count.

The 2011 Ford Fiesta goes on sale in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles starting at $13,995 this summer.