Considering its fashionable exterior, you might expect the 2012 Ford Fiesta to be compromised or flawed in some critical way. But other than being a little tighter inside than many of its rivals (especially the roomiest ones like the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa), it's not; what you get is a fully functional small car that would do just fine for commuters who need to belt the kids in back at times.
With two bucket seats up front and a standard 60-40 split rear seatback, the Fiesta's layout is pretty much par among small sedans and hatchbacks. Cloth is standard, with leather and contrasting piping on higher-end models--a nice MINI-like touch in a car available at almost half the price. But the Fiesta's body is quite narrow, meaning that you won't be able to fit three adults in back and front driver and passenger will find elbows close. The front seats themselves are short and flat--like barstools, almost--and some contouring would be welcome. Headroom and legroom in back is tight for rear passengers, and adults over six feet tall will find the rear seats tight; front and rear passengers may have to negotiate over how far the seats go back.
You definitely get more versatility with the Fiesta five-door hatchback models, with their capacity of up to 26 cubic feet, but the sedan offers a roomy (for this small of a car) 12.8 cubic feet of trunk space in its trunk.
We applaud Ford's work in making the Fiesta's interior a cheerful, stylish place, entirely escaping the dram and grim look that used to scream 'economy car.' You might find better interior materials within this class, but the Fiesta's design details never make it feel downmarket or cut-rate. Ford has made some significant efforts with sound-deadening here, with a laminated windshield and a sound blanket under the hood, as in luxury cars, but at highway speeds or on rough pavement the Fiesta's on-a-budget origins will reveal themselves.
Some typical small-car traits, like a busy, sometimes hoppy ride on expressway expansion joints, are also hard to mask—it's a matter of the Fiesta's short wheelbase. But overall the ride is compliant enough. About the only remaining quibble: You do hear the engine's sometimes coarse, thrashy note at the top of first and second gear in even moderate acceleration.