- Crisp, nicely proportioned exterior
- Excellent steering
- Strong feature set
- ST model is big fun
- Interior design
- Not the most spacious
- Balky PowerShift transmission
- Base audio controls
The 2015 Fiesta lineup is proof that small cars don't have to be feature free, and you can even have a bit of fun while saving fuel.
After five model years, the Ford Fiesta is now an accepted part of the small-car landscape. The 2015 model's expressive, sporty looks and enjoyable driving character set it apart from more prosaic subcompacts. However, buyers who regularly carry four adults may not find the Fiesta their roomiest alternative. But the Fiesta proves that small, relatively inexpensive cars are no longer the stereotypically grim, soulless, appliance-like boxes of the 1990s.
Changes for 2015 are limited after a far more comprehensive refresh for the 2014 model year. This time, there's a new eight-spoke wheel with all-season tires available for SE models. The seat fabric has been revised. And all Fiestas, including the ST model, get a new Magnetic Metallic paint option to replace Storm Gray Metallic. Last year's changes included upgraded looks, with a grille that not only brought the Fiesta's nose into line with Ford's latest styling idiom but cleaned it up and adds a dash of elegant Eurostyle to the small car.
The Fiesta lineup also added two new versions last year: a more frugal SFE version with Ford's first three-cylinder engine, a tiny turbocharged 1.0-liter unit paired with a manual gearbox, and the hot-hatch Fiesta ST, which is not only quite a looker but by far the fastest Fiesta version. Other updates included a less cluttered dashboard design, better interior materials, and the optional MyFordTouch infotainment system on top of its existing Sync.
The high-performance Fiesta ST's 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder puts out 197 horsepower and 214 lb-ft in overboost mode. It's mated only to a six-speed manual gearbox and, with upgrades to braking, suspension, steering, and even tires (summer performance rubber is standard), it's a hoot to drive and hits all the right hot-hatch buttons.
More buyers, however, will choose the base 120-hp, 1.6-liter four, which continues unchanged. At 2,600 pounds, the base car is quick enough, especially if you get the manual transmission and keep the revs up. We're not big fans of the PowerShift automatic transmission, which is a dual-clutch gearbox doing a bad impression of a lazy torque converter-equipped automatic. Shift tuning could and should be much more crisp with this transmission.
Late last year the existing Fiesta models were joined by an EcoBoost 1.0-liter three-cylinder model that's aimed at saving fuel while giving the base four-cylinder a run for its money in enjoyment. Keep the revs up and drive it aggressively, and you'll find this may be the most enjoyable Fiesta of all--and on a 350-mile road test, we got more than 40 mpg, higher than the car's EPA rating of 36 mpg.
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 in any form.
The new grille did a lot to freshen the look of all Fiestas, especially the hatchback versions. Five-door hatchbacks are the sportier and better-looking of the two body styles, but there's a four-door sedan in the lineup for those who prefer a conventional trunk. The five-door looks stylish and even a bit racy, especially in ST form. Those who want the ST's performance will have to go five-door, as there's no ST sedan offered.
With the latest interior upgrades, the Fiesta makes a great first impression. It has well-coordinated colors and textures, with a more-expensive-than-it-is look. Nothing's perfect, of course, and the base front seats tend to be a little flat and unsupportive, the back seats don't fold fully flat for hauling cargo, and the suspension can hop on rough surfaces. A coarse-sounding engine can detract from base models, yet the ST model's Sound Symposer (a tube that pipes intake noise into the cabin for a sportier tone) helps create the mood when you're really on it. 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 comfort.
The entry-level Fiesta S model is quite basic despite its spiced-up look; manual-winding windows and steel wheels with hubcaps betray some cost-cutting--although air conditioning is at least included. Fiesta SE models add a lot more popular equipment, like a perimeter alarm system, an 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 while adding the features most smartphone users expect.