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Americans are gradually getting over the preconception that small cars are inferior to larger ones. In fact, subcompacts like the 2014 Ford Fiesta can be downright charming and sensible. The Fiesta has been at that leading edge of the change in heart, with its flamboyant, sporty look and zippy driving experience. It's shown that small, inexpensive models don't need to be so soulless and appliance-like.
For 2014 it's poised to win many more hearts--with a new face, an improved interior, the tech-forward MyFord Touch system, and two new engines, both offering improved performance.
This year's new grille brings the Fiesta in line with the rest of the Ford lineup, and we think that it gives the hatchback especially a little added punch. Five-door hatchbacks are the sportier and better-looking of the two body styles, to almost all eyes, but there's a four-door sedan in the lineup, too. The five-door looks stylish and even a bit racy, with an urban-runabout element that had been missing from Ford's U.S. lineup, and in this respect you mostly get exactly what you see. With impressive steering and handling and a nimble, maneuverable feel that's better than most softened, numbed appliances its size, the Fiesta is securely on the fun-to-drive side of the ledger.
The 120-hp, 1.6-liter four returns as the base engine. For 2,600 pounds, it's quick enough, especially if you get the manual transmission and keep the revs up; although we're not big fans of the PowerShift automatic transmission. The high-performance FIesta ST is new this year and, in overboost mode, puts out 197 horsepower and 214 lb-ft from its 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine; it's mated only to a six-speed manual gearbox and, with upgrades to braking, suspension, steering, and even tires (summer performance), it's a hoot to drive and hits all the hot-hatch buttons. Later in the year the lineup will be joined by an EcoBoost 1.0-liter three-cylinder model that's perkier than the base four while returning better mileage than it.
Especially considering this year's interior upgrades, the Fiesta makes a great first impression. It has well-coordinated colors and textures inside, and it'll impress as well above its price class at first look. Although it's not quite perfect; the base front seats tend to be a little flat and unsupportive, back seats don't fold fully flat, and the suspension can hop on rough surfaces. A coarse-sounding engine can detract from base models, yet a Sound Symposer in the ST performance model helps give you the right kind of engine sound, when you want it. But the driving position is great no matter what the model, and with the available Recaros in the ST, there's enough support for demanding mountain roads or all-day cruising.
Base Fiesta S models tend to be quite basic, despite the spiced-up look, and their manual-winding windows and steel wheels with hubcaps betray some cost-cutting--although air conditioning is included. But Fiesta SE models add a lot more popular equipment, like a perimeter alarm system, upgraded cloth interior, and ambient lighting, while the Titanium model includes upgraded Sony audio, and a rearview camera system. Standard on the Titanium and available on the Fiesta SE and ST is MyFord Touch, Ford's advanced system for controlling audio, connectivity, and navigation functions via a touch-screen system, as well as voice commands. Although not everyone will love the system, it cleans up the look and raises the ambiance.