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.
Across its lineup, this smallest Ford is now offered in a wide range of models, including standard four-cylinder models, a stronger and more fuel-efficient EcoBoost model, and a 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 this small 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.
Before the 2011 model, the last Ford Fiesta—a subcompact three-door hatchback—was sold in the U.S. from 1978 to 1980. Ford followed that car with the Festiva three-door (1986-1993) and then replaced it with the Aspire three-door (1994-1997).
The car sold since the 2011 model year is an entirely different animal, a fully modern car with enjoyable roadholding, modern design, and a wide range of popular options. The modern-day Fiesta's “expressive” and “vibrant” styling inside and out, along with bright paint colors and a dashboard center stack designed to resemble a mobile-phone keypad, eradicated any trace of those cars' "econobox" roots.
With the Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic, and Nissan Versa all having been launched or renewed for 2012, the current Fiesta is one of the older designs in its segment. The Fiesta starts around $14,000, but a fully decked-out model can stretch to $20,000 or more.
Big changes arrived to the Fiesta lineup for 2014. Ford restyled the front end, and 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 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 includes 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.