2015 Ford Fiesta Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
June 23, 2015

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.

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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.

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2015 Ford Fiesta

Styling

The 2015 Ford Fiesta remains highly stylized, but last year's new nose and revised interior streamlined it a bit.

Inexpensive cars don't need to look bland, something Ford has demonstrated with the latest Fiesta. From the out-of-the-ordinary color options to the taut, spunky looks, the Fiesta is one of the more extroverted small cars available.

With the arched roofline, crisp profile, and wedge-like side view (and the way the rear pillar nips and tucks), there's a lot to like about the Fiesta's proportions. The headlights sweep well back into the fenders, and the wide-mouthed Ford grille, with lower bodywork, helps give it a somewhat more macho look from the front. High-mounted taillights rise into the rear pillars, in a position that's both functional and stylish.

The Fiesta four-door sedan is, to our eyes, a work in progress. The grille revision in 2014 seems to have given the sedan some much-needed gravitas, but the proportions just don't come together in the same way, and the longer body combined with the rather short passenger greenhouse make the car look tall and narrow from either end.

Fiesta ST hatchbacks really make the most of the look, adding a more aggressive air dam and black-honeycomb-mesh grille, along with a cross-patterned rear diffuser and twin chromed exhaust tips. Their lowered stance and chunky wheels add to the visual drama.

Inside, the Fiesta is one of the sharper entries in this class. For 2014, Ford added a soft-touch upper dash across the Fiesta lineup, along with improved dash and door trim, as well as improved seat fabrics and a new steering wheel design. But the most noteworthy 2014 update is front and center in the dash, where Titanium models get the MyFord Touch interface (it's also optional on SE and ST models).

The MyFord Touch system isn't universally appealing, but it declutters the look versus the much-maligned base setup, which uses slanted buttons that are difficult to decipher and use at a glance.

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2015 Ford Fiesta

Performance

The 2015 Ford Fiesta range runs the gamut, from a three-cylinder EcoBoost model that can reach 40 mpg to a Fiesta ST hot-hatch variant.

The 2015 Ford Fiesta offers three different engines, each with its own character and set of goals.

Most models are equipped with a 120-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It comes standard with a five-speed manual, while a six-speed PowerShift automatic is available. The manual is fine, and good for keeping the engine in its powerband, but we haven't been as impressed with the PowerShift automatic, which contributes to excellent gas mileage but doesn't always downshift promptly--or even upshift as smoothly (in the lower gears, especially) as a typical automatic. The problem is that the PowerShift is actually a dual-clutch automatic doing a poor impression of a conventional torque-converter transmission, with clunky and poorly timed shifts as the result.

With the standard four-cylinder engine, if you're willing to keep the revs up, you'll be happy enough with the performance you can extract from the Fiesta. It's plenty to move the 2,600-pound car quite well. It's not quick by any gauge (we're talking about ten seconds to 60 mph), but there's a sense of responsiveness you might not expect considering it's a car that can hit 40 mpg.

The 2014 Fiesta refresh brought with it two new EcoBoost engines featuring the combination of turbocharging and direct injection. One is aimed at saving fuel, while the other is performance-oriented.

The 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine, available in manual-equipped Fiesta SFE models, makes 123 horsepower. That's more power than the base four, and it uses less fuel to boot. The little turbo three has a distinctive engine note that sets it apart from the indistinguishable sounds of all the four-cylinder subcompacts on the market.

The engine sounds slightly irregular, though not disturbingly so. As it spools up, a kind of thrumming sound arises as the engine speed rises. You have to drive it energetically, and shift a lot, to keep up with the fastest traffic. But if you demand maximum power while the engine is at low revs, a different kind of rumbling sound comes from under the hood--along with a noticeable lack of any increased forward motion. Keep the revs up and you'll be fine. In other words, drive the 1.0-liter Fiesta EcoBoost as a European would, and you'll not only keep up with traffic, you'll come to understand why small cars with small engines can be so much fun.

The other new turbo engine, in the Fiesta ST, provides a full-fledged hot hatch. The turbocharged 1.6-liter makes 197 hp--which goes a long way in something so small and light. With its 148 pound-feet of torque made at just 1,400 rpm, this little engine is bound to feel considerably stronger than the base 1.6-liter four. Like the three-cylinder, it is only offered with a manual transmission.

Much like the original Mazda Miata, the Fiesta does a great job convincing you it has more performance credentials than it really does, and good steering and suspension tuning is key to this. The electric power steering system has just the right amount of weighting and feedback, and the Fiesta feels responsive and nimble, but secure enough for highway trips. the Fiesta feels nimble around town, secure enough on the highway. This is a short car, and noticeable nosedive when stopping quickly is the only bothersome trait.

Opt for the Fiesta ST, and you won't be disappointed. This is a model with enough performance chops to excite serious enthusiasts on a budget. With the same basic layout at the other Fiesta models, plus a somewhat lowered, stiffer suspension, rear disc brakes, and a quicker steering ratio, as well as an eTVC (torque vectoring) system to help get all the engine's 214 lb-ft of torque (in overboost mode) to the road effectively (through grippy summer performance tires), the ST has the goods to challenge the likes of the MINI Cooper S and Hyundai Veloster Turbo--and possibly even win some buyers over from larger fast hatches like the VW GTI and Ford Focus ST.

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7

2015 Ford Fiesta

Comfort & Quality

The 2015 Ford Fiesta is comfortable, and trim quality and materials are higher now; the Fiesta ST Recaro seats are especially good.

The 2015 Ford Fiesta gets only some minor changes to the cloth upholstery and otherwise carries over the updates made to the interior for the 2014 model year.

It lacks some of the practicality and versatility of its competitors (the Honda Fit is still tops there), but the interior is comfortable, nicely styled, and well-equipped. The dash now features soft-touch surfaces, while up-level models include the MyFord Touch interface, which further cleans up the look and simplifies some controls.

We appreciate Ford's effort to keep the Fiesta's interior from being at all drab; interior trims and materials have been a strong point. It's all very well-coordinated, and we appreciate the well-placed cupholders, plenty of small storage bins, and an excellent driving position.

The base front seats in the Fiesta look nicely contoured, yet they're short and flat, lacking some support--a bit like barstools--so give that some consideration if you're considering the Fiesta for a long highway commute. Headroom and legroom is tight for rear passengers, and adults over six feet tall will especially find the rear seats tight. Like many smaller cars, the Fiesta's body is quite narrow, meaning that you won't be able to fit three adults in back, and the driver and front-seat passenger will find elbows close.

There's nothing all that remarkable about the Fiesta's 60-40 split rear seatback, which doesn't fold fully flat--so it's usable in a pinch for cargo than either the segment leading (for utility) Fit or the larger Ford Focus. Five-door models offer a capacity of up to 26 cubic feet, and the sedans have an especially roomy trunk--up to 12.8 cubic feet.

If we have one complaint about, it's ride quality. The Fiesta tends to 'hop' over more jarring pavement bumps and potholes. But Ford has done a reasonably good job with sound deadening here, including a laminated windshield and a sound blanket under the hood.

High-performance Fiesta ST models get superior (although somewhat tight) Recaro seats that hug the sides yet provide taller drivers with more thigh support, and more lateral support in general for fast driving and tight corners. These optional seats may restrict rear-seat legroom somewhat. One other pretty significant difference in ST models is that you'll hear the engine a little more--in a good way--thanks to a so-called Sound Symposer that amplifies natural intake sounds and pipes them into the cabin. It's a good go-fast soundtrack, but not too fast-and-furious.

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6

2015 Ford Fiesta

Safety

The 2015 Ford Fiesta has been downrated for poor side-impact crash-test scores.

The 2015 Ford Fiesta isn't at the head of the class in terms of crash-test ratings, but it comes with plenty of safety features as well as excellent handling, which is an accident-avoidance asset in itself.

Front and side bags for driver and passenger, as well as rear side curtain bags, and a driver knee airbag are all included. And the electric power steering incorporates Pull-Drift Compensation, which keeps the Fiesta tracking properly on crowned roads or in heavy crosswinds.

In the NHTSA's testing, the Fiesta earned four out of five stars overall, including a four-star result for frontal impact. The NHTSA only gives the Fiesta sedan and hatchback two stars in the side-impact test, noting that intrusions, and the resultant dummy accelerations, it observed can lead to a higher risk of thoracic injury.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the Fiesta its top 'good' results in frontal, side, rear, and roof-strength tests. But in the frontal offset test it achieves just a 'marginal' rating, one step above 'poor'.

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2015 Ford Fiesta

Features

The 2015 Ford Fiesta has a wide range of trim levels, from entry-level to leather seats and lavish infotainment features.

Ford offers a number of big-car features and amenities on the Fiesta, which marks a departure from how small cars have traditionally been configured in the past. Choosing some of those options can, however, inflate the price to what you might pay for a Ford Focus, the Fiesta's bigger sibling.

Changes for 2015 are limited. 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.

The base 2015 Fiesta S costs just $15,190 in hatchback form or $14,690 as a sedan. It includes air conditioning, a six-speaker CD sound system, Sync smartphone connectivity with voice recognition, a rear defroster, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. But with hubcaps on steel wheels, and manual-winding windows, there are a few reminders that this is still an 'economy car.' A five-speed manual is standard, while the six-speed PowerShift automatic adds $1095 to the price--we say skip it if you know how to and enjoy driving stick.

Move up to a Fiesta SE, and you get more popular features, such as keyless entry, an alarm, cruise control, and the MyKey system. An SE Appearance Package includes MyFord Touch, plus 16-inch painted alloy wheels, fog lamps, sport cloth seat trim, satellite radio, a leather shift knob, driver's lumbar adjustment, and a matching spare.

The SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package, a $995 option on top of a manual-equipped SE, brings the 1.0-liter three-cylinder and its improved fuel economy. It also comes with a slight downgrade for the wheels, to 15-inch steelies.

Top-of-the-line Titanium models include MyFord Touch, Sony premium audio, leather heated seats, automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, and other extras that make them feel far better equipped than you might expect in a low-cost small car.

The high-performance ST comes equipped like an SE, but with all sorts of exclusive features, like unique ST-logo sport seats, black-painted interior finishes, aluminum sport pedals, black headlamp bezels, the high-mounted rear spoiler, special bodywork, and 17-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires. And then there's the other performance equipment, including a sport suspension, upgraded steering and brakes, and the 197-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. Partial-leather Recaro seats are available as a $1995 option on the ST and include heat for the front seats and for the exterior mirrors.


 

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8

2015 Ford Fiesta

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost with the five-speed manual and turbo three-cylinder delivers a genuine 40 mpg.

Fuel efficiency is definitely a strong selling point for the Fiesta, whether you're looking to reduce your carbon footprint or just keep your motoring budget as low as possible.

For the majority of the model lineup, which is equipped with a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder, EPA ratings are a combined 31 mpg. The city and highway cycles differ slightly: 28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway with the five-speed manual gearbox, or 27 city and 37 highway  with the six-speed Powershift dual-clutch transmission.

Get the $395 Fuel Economy Package on an automatic-equipped SE, and you boost that a bit, to 32 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway) with the base 1.6-liter engine. The additions include aerodynamic improvements, low-rolling-resistance tires, and cruise control. This package is only offered on the SE trim, so you have to forego the Titanium's extra features in the name of saving fuel.

But the real fuel-economy champ is the manual-equipped SE with the 1.0-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder EcoBoost engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. It's rated at an impressive 36 mpg combined (31 mpg city, 43 mpg highway). And that seems to be a realistic number, too. On a 350-mile test drive--roughly two-thirds highway and one-third around-town, stop-and-go suburban traffic at lower speeds--we achieved a striking 41.9 miles per gallon indicated on the car's display. The display stayed between 40 and 42 mpg the whole time, in fact.

Finally, the hgh-performance Fiesta ST models are actually relatively fuel-efficient, too. They get 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway.

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June 10, 2016
For 2015 Ford Fiesta

Great car love it!!!

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I would buy another one!! Great on the road nice ride and handling. Great on fuel
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September 28, 2015
2015 Ford Fiesta 5-Door HB Titanium

Cute economical car

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I just purchased this car a few days ago & I am loving the gas mileage and maneuverability! I traded my 2011 Acura RDX for it. I wanted something more fuel efficient and with us already having my husbands SUV... + More »
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May 13, 2015
2015 Ford Fiesta 5-Door HB S

Agile and comfortable

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The 2015 Fiesta hatchback is a fun to drive, comfortable and quiet small car. The manual transmission shifts very smoothly.
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April 13, 2015
For 2015 Ford Fiesta

Fun to drive, good handling, great gas mileage.

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The Fiesta gets fantastic mileage around town. It runs well at highway speed but mileage goes down quickly as the speed goes up. You really have to keep the revs up to feel it's power but it is there.
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