Bringing Fun to the Small Car Party: Fiesta

By Sue Mead, August 31st, 2013

Already a darling of the automotive small car world, the 2014 Fiesta has been re-thought and re-drawn for this model year, with a new, performance-oriented ST trim level, more standard features, and the availability of updated MyFordTouch electronics/telematics system.

Manufacturer photo: Fiesta is loaded with features and technologies that prove small is smart
Manufacturer photo: Fiesta is loaded with features and technologies that prove small is smart

From a friendly exterior that hasn't lost its street cred; to a fun interior chock-a-block with technology tidbits; to a peppy, responsive road feel -- and Ford's claim that one of its Fiesta versions gets the best fuel economy estimates of any non-hybrid vehicle in the world -- Fiesta brings a lot to the party. Ford says the available EcoBoost turbocharged 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder engine gets up to 41 mpg on the highway and the enthusiast version of the subcompact has more torque per liter than the Corvette ZR1.

Fiesta is available in two body styles: sedan (starting at $14,000) and hatchback (starting at $14,600), both of which share the same 98-inch wheelbase and overall width and height -- the sedan is longer by almost 14 inches, however. Trims include the S, SE, Titanium and ST (in hatch only) models.

Features of note include Bluetooth, an iPod interface and seven airbags. Fiesta competes with an ever-growing collection of small, economy-priced models including the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Chevy Sonic, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent. The more sporty Fiesta ST competes with the Fiat 500 Abarth and MINI Cooper S.

Outside, the updated Fiesta has been made bolder and sportier, with a wide-mouthed, split-level grille and air dam, as well as wispy headlamps whose side-swept design recall old-school eyeliner. Big wheel wells make 15-inch wheels -- perfectly respectable in the world of compact cars -- look even more substantial. Character lines add depth and dimension along the subcompact's side panels. Fiesta has either a snipped-rear sedan back end or smart-looking hatchback and edgy redesigned taillamps.

Manufacturer photo: Fiesta is loaded with features and technologies that prove small is smart

The interior isn't big, but it feels comfortable thanks to thoughtful strategy and a bunch of fun technology options. Ford's designers tell us the car was crafted to resemble a smartphone. In the dash is a central wheel for audio controls and an optional touchscreen that sits above the wheel, like you'd see on a typical cell phone. MyFordTouch infotainment system has been enhanced from previous iterations to have better voice recognition, simpler commands, a redesigned navigation system, and improved, simplified pairing with other devices.

The Fiesta can also be customized with almost unlimited graphics' choices; combined with interior ambient lighting selections, it can turn night-time driving experiences into a mini-club.

Fiesta comes with a standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder base engine that delivers 120 horsepower and 112 lb.-ft. of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a six-speed Powershift automatic is available. Also available is the new 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine that makes 123 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to the five-speed manual transmission. A tweaked version of the four-cylinder delivers 197 horsepower and 202 lb.-ft. of torque to motivate the zippy Fiesta ST that is shifted via a six-speed manual.

We drove three versions of the 2014 Fiesta at Ford's Proving Grounds near Detroit, trying out automatic and manual transmissions, as well as the performance-oriented ST, which was our favorite for its eye-appealing exterior and unique interior trim and its crisp, fun-to-motor handling.

While non-ST versions of Fiesta handle well and have decent power, suspension dynamics and brakes, what we really enjoyed was the more sporty steering, upgraded brakes, and performance-tuned suspension of the Fiesta ST that is light on its feet, yet feels substantial enough to throw around corners, as we did on a coned-course during at Ford's track day.

Manufacturer photo: Fiesta is loaded with features and technologies that prove small is smart

Despite its diminutive stature, Fiesta impresses with a solid punch-list of standard safety features, including with anti-lock brakes (front disc, rear drum for non-ST models; four-wheel discs for the ST), traction and stability control, hill launch assist, blind-spot mirrors, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag.

Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 29 mpg city/39 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined with the six-speed auto-manual transmission and 27/38/31 with the five-speed manual. With Ford's special SFE package, estimates grow to 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined.

Specifications

Base price $14,000 (as-tested: 14,795)
Curb weight 2,578 lbs.
Displacement 1.6-liter
Epa mileage rating 29 mpg city, 39 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 12.4 gal.
Horsepower (net) 120 at 6350 rpm
Motor type 16-valve 4-cylinder w/SMPI
Overall length 173.5 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 112 at 5000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD subcompact car
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