New & Used Ford Fiesta: In Depth
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The Ford Fiesta is the automaker's subcompact offering in the U.S.--its first in a generation. On sale since the 2011 model year, the latest Fiesta is an economical small car that has a little more endearing personality than most other such picks, no matter which body style or drivetrain you choose.
The smallest Ford is now offered in a wide range of models, including standard four-cylinder versions, a stronger and more fuel-efficient EcoBoost model, and the high-performance Fiesta ST.
The Fiesta competes with the likes of the Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio, Honda Fit, Mazda2, Hyundai Accent, and the MINI Cooper.
For more on the current lineup, including pricing with options, see our full review of the 2014 Ford Fiesta. Also check out this Quick Spin in a 2014 Ford Fiesta SE, and our First Drive of the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST.
The Fiesta was Ford's first new entry in this size category since the unloved Aspire faded away more than a decade ago. Adapted for U.S. sales from a model sold in Europe since the 1970s, the North American Fiesta offers better performance and more equipment as standard--not to mention a greater number of safety features—than any of its American predecessors did.
Before the 2011 model, the Fiesta was last 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.
Ford was right to change the name of its subcompact again, as the car it has sold under the Fiesta name since 2011 is wholly different from those economy-focused cars. 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 form its price-minded roots.
Though a very modern subcompact, the Fiesta is one of the older entries in its segment. The Chevrolet Sonic, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris have all been redesigned since the Fiesta was new. Pricing for the Fiesta starts around $14,000, but a fully decked-out model can stretch to $20,000 or more.
Ford gave the Fiesta a mild refresh for 2014, including 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 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 popular SYNC Bluetooth-driven infotainment controller. Unfortunately, not all versions dropped the confusing, slanted-button array of the base audio setup.
The 120-hp, 1.6-liter base engine remains what's under the hood for most Fiesta models. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, but the automatic option is an unusual and technically advanced six-speed “PowerShift” direct-shift gearbox (DSG). We have experienced a few drivability issues with the PowerShift transmission, which wasn'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 two Fiestas on opposite ends of the spectrum each are available only with a manual transmission. On the efficient end, the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost model makes 123 hp and 148 pound-feet of torque. It achieves a 45-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 pound-feet of torque. It also has a near-perfect, stiffer suspension setup, grippy tires, and an all-around fun demeanor.
The Fiesta's narrow body and tight backseat didn't make it 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 the Fiesta steers and handles far better than most of the numb, soft appliance-vehicles in the class.
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. SES Sport and SEL models get upgraded sound, LED driving lamps, and heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, plus big alloy wheels. These features haven't changed all that much since the model's introduction, although for 2013 Ford consolidated the Fiesta lineup into three trims: S, SE, and Titanium.
Options include a power moonroof and Ford Racing wheels, along with several sport appearance packages. Among other novel features, the Fiesta driver can choose among several different colors of LED “mood lighting” to illuminate its cup holders, footwells, and so forth.