The Car Connection Ford Fiesta Overview
The Fiesta is Ford's subcompact offering in the U.S., the first Ford of its size in a generation. On sale since the 2011 model year, the latest Fiesta is an economical small car with a more endearing personality than most of its competitors, no matter which body style or drivetrain you choose.
The Fiesta is offered in a wide range of models, including standard four-cylinder versions, a stronger and more fuel-efficient EcoBoost three-cylinder model, and the high-performance Fiesta ST. There's a choice of a high-back sedan and a five-door hatchback.
The Ford Fiesta competes with the likes of the Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio, Honda Fit, Mazda 2, Hyundai Accent, and in some versions even the MINI Cooper or Fiat 500.
MORE: Read our 2016 Ford Fiesta review
The Fiesta badge was first used in the U.S. on a subcompact three-door hatchback sold from 1978 to 1980. Ford followed that car with the Mazda-designed Festiva three-door (1986-1993) and then replaced it with the related Aspire three-door (1994-1997), which was built by Kia.
Today's Fiesta, which debuted for the 2011 model year, is Ford's first new subcompact entry since the Aspire. It was adapted for U.S. sales from a model already sold in Europe. Ford was right to change the name of its subcompact again, as it offers better performance and more standard equipment—not to mention a greater number of safety features—than any of its American predecessors ever did.
The revived Fiesta is wholly different from the typical economy car. Today's Fiesta is fully modern, with the features, handling, powertrains, and looks to make it a real competitor. The interior's interesting (if not universally loved) styling also helps set it apart from its price-minded roots.
The Fiesta is now one of the older entries in its segment. The Chevrolet Sonic, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris have all are debuted or been redesigned since the Fiesta was new. Pricing for the Fiesta starts around $15,000, but a fully decked-out standard model can approach $24,000, and an ST can add another $2,000.
A mild refresh for the 2014 model year gave the Fiesta revised front-end styling that takes the look from cute to a little more serious. It also added the 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost model, expanding the list of available powertrains. The 2014 model year also brought the outstanding Fiesta ST model, with its peppy turbo 1.6-liter and dialed-in chassis. Ford introduced a softer look inside, complemented by a stripped-down version of MyFord Touch, based on the SYNC Bluetooth-driven infotainment controller. Unfortunately not all versions dropped the confusing, slanted-button array of the base audio setup.
The Fiesta's narrow body and tight backseat keep it from being as useful as some other vehicles in this class, especially compared to the cavernous interior of the Versa sedan or the flexible Fit. In reviews of the Fiesta, though, we noted that it steers and handles far better than most of the numb, soft appliance-like vehicles in the class.
The two Fiestas on opposite ends of the spectrum are both available only with a manual transmission. On the efficient end, the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost model makes 123 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. It achieves a 42-mpg EPA highway rating and is more fun than the standard engine to boot. On the serious performance end, there's the Fiesta ST, which packs a 1.6-liter EcoBoost four making 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque. It also has a near-perfect, stiffer suspension setup, grippy tires, and an all-around fun demeanor.
A 120-hp, 1.6-liter base continues to power most Fiesta models. A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard, but the automatic option is an unusual and technically advanced 6-speed “PowerShift” dual-clutch gearbox. We have experienced a few drivability issues with the PowerShift transmission, which isn't as smooth as we'd hoped. Engine noise in the earlier cars was also an issue, but the later models are a bit better.
The model lineup continues as it has since 2013, with S, SE, and Titanium trims. Features are a strength of the Fiesta. Even the base model includes air conditioning and an aux-in port; while at the SE level you get upgraded trim and lighting, as well as cruise control and power windows. The Titanium model gets leather heated seats, automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, the new Sync 3 infotainment system, Sony premium audio, and other extras that make it feel far better equipped than you might expect in a low-cost small car.
Sync 3 replaces the somewhat controversial MyFord Touch for 2016. It comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and promises to be more intuitive and less buggy than MyFord Touch. Other 2016 changes consist of a new SE Black Package and a few new color choices.
Options include a power moonroof and Ford Racing wheels. Among other novel features, the Fiesta driver can choose from several different colors of LED “mood lighting” to illuminate the cupholders, footwells, and other interior bits.