2016 Ford Fiesta

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
June 21, 2016

Buying tip

The Fiesta's base engine is efficient, but the 3-cylinder offers both more power and better fuel economy. The hot-hatch ST is also just plain fun.

features & specs

4-Door Sedan S
4-Door Sedan SE
4-Door Sedan Titanium
MPG
28 city / 36 hwy
MPG
28 city / 36 hwy
MPG
28 city / 36 hwy
MSRP
$14,580
MSRP
$15,810
MSRP
$18,530

The 2016 Fiesta offers fun and features not expected at these prices, but it lacks interior space compared to top rivals.

After six model years, the Ford Fiesta is now an accepted part of the small-car landscape. The car'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. The Fiesta proves that small, relatively inexpensive cars are no longer the stereotypical grim, soulless, appliance-like boxes of the 1990s.

Changes for 2016 are minimal. The big news is the addition of the Sync 3 infotainment system to replace the somewhat controversial MyFord Touch interface. The Fiesta also gets an SE Black Package and a few new color choices. 

The Fiesta's design is bold and spunky. The grille, added for 2014, fits with Ford's latest styling idiom and cleans up the exterior look. 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. To our eyes, the sedan looks a little ungainly as it can appear skinny and overly tall. Inside, the Fiesta has a bit of elegant "Eurostyle."

Review continues below

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 Fiesta lineup includes three engines. Most buyers will choose the base 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter inline-4. At 2,600 pounds, the base car isn't quick but it feels peppy 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.

A more frugal SFE version comes with Ford's first 3-cylinder engine, a tiny turbocharged 1.0-liter unit paired with a manual. With 123 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, the little 1.0-liter is more enjoyable than the base inline-4. Keep the revs up and drive it aggressively, and you may become a fan of this quirky engine. Plus, it's very frugal. On a 350-mile road test, we got more than 40 mpg, higher than the car's EPA rating of 36 mpg.

The hot-hatch Fiesta ST—which is not only quite a looker but by far the fastest Fiesta—features a 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline-4 that puts out 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque in overboost mode. It's mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual 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.

Inside, 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 windows and steel wheels with hubcaps betray some cost-cutting, though at least air conditioning is 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 the new Sync 3 system for controlling audio, connectivity, and navigation functions via a touchscreen, as well as voice commands. We haven't tested it yet, but it promises to be easier to use than MyFord Touch.

Understandably, the tiny 1.0-liter inline-3 is the efficiency champ of the range. The miserly mill manages 31 mpg city, 43 highway, 36 combined, according to the EPA. In our drives we managed to not only meet those figures, but also beat those figures. Our car's trip computer stayed firmly north of 40 mpg for the entire drive, so we have reason to believe that real-world economy will equal its estimates.

The base 1.6-liter inline-4 is rated at 28/36/31 mpg with the 5-speed, 27/37/31 mpg with the 6-speed auto. The wild child of the bunch, the Fiesta ST is relevant too; it gets 26/33/29 mpg.

8

2016 Ford Fiesta

Styling

Taut and spunky, with a variety of bold colors, the 2016 Ford Fiesta isn't a bland economy car.

Inexpensive cars don't need to look bland, something Ford has demonstrated with the 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, inside and out.

Inside, the Fiesta is one of the sharper entries in this class. The soft-touch upper dash, substantial dash and door trim, and quality seat fabrics give the car a slightly upscale feel. The newly available Sync 3 system, with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, is also a feature you'd expect on a more expensive car.

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 exterior 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 gives it some much-needed gravitas, but the proportions just don't come together in the appealing way that they do on the hatchback. The sedan's longer body and short passenger greenhouse conspire to make the car look tall and narrow from either end.

The Fiesta ST hatchback really makes 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. The lowered stance and chunky wheels add to the visual drama.

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8

2016 Ford Fiesta

Performance

The 2016 Ford Fiesta is responsive and nimble, and the Fiesta ST is a legitimate hot hatch.

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.

Our complaints about the dynamics are minor. This is a short car, and noticeable nosedive when stopping quickly is somewhat bothersome. The ride quality is also problematic. The Fiesta tends to hop over more jarring pavement bumps and potholes.

The 2016 Ford Fiesta offers three different engines, each with its own character and set of goals.

The performance leader is the Fiesta ST, which won't disappoint those inclined toward a hot hatch. This is a model with enough performance chops to excite serious enthusiasts on a budget. With the same basic layout as the other Fiesta models, plus a somewhat lowered, stiffer suspension, rear disc brakes, a quicker steering ratio, and a torque vectoring system to help get all the engine's 214 pound-feet 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. It might even win some buyers away from larger fast hatches like the Volkswagen GTI and even the Ford Focus ST.

The Fiesta ST's turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder makes 197 horsepower, which goes a long way in something so small and light. With 148 lb-ft of torque made at just 1,400 rpm, this little engine is bound to feel considerably stronger than the base 1.6-liter inline-4. It is only offered with a manual transmission. That's great for purists but the lack of an automatic will limit sales.

Most models are equipped with a 120-hp, 1.6-liter inline-4. It comes standard with a 5-speed manual, while a 6-speed PowerShift automatic is available. The manual is fine, and good for keeping the engine in its powerband, but we haven't been impressed with the PowerShift automatic—it helps the car with 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 4-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 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine, available in manual-equipped Fiesta SFE models, makes 123 hp. That's more power than the base four, and it uses less fuel to boot. The little turbo-3 has a distinctive engine note that sets it apart from the indistinguishable sounds of all the 4-cylinder subcompacts on the market. 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. 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. 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.

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7

2016 Ford Fiesta

Comfort & Quality

The 2016 Ford Fiesta's interior isn't as drab as the price might suggest, but space is tight, even for the class.

The 2016 Ford Fiesta 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.

There's nothing remarkable about the Fiesta's 60/40-split rear seat back, which doesn't fold fully flat. It's usable in a pinch for cargo, but the hatchback's cargo area doesn't offer anywhere near the space of the segment-leading Honda Fit. Five-door models offer a capacity of up to 26 cubic feet (compared to 52.7 cubic feet for the Fit with its seats folded). The sedan has a fairly roomy 12.8 cubic-foot trunk.

We appreciate Ford's effort to keep the Fiesta's interior from being drab. Interior trims and materials are a strong point and it's all very well-coordinated. The cupholders are well placed, there are plenty of small storage bins, and the driving position is excellent. The dash also features soft-touch surfaces, while up-level models include the new Sync 3 interface, which is expected to simplify some controls versus the outgoing MyFord Touch system. Ford has also done a reasonably good job with sound deadening, including a laminated windshield and a sound blanket under the hood.

The base front seats in the Fiesta look nicely contoured, yet they're short and flat, lacking some support—a bit like bar stools—so they won't provide long trip comfort. Head room and leg room are tight for rear passengers, and adults over 6 feet tall won't be especially uncomfortable back there. 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 occasionally rub elbows.

High-performance Fiesta ST models get superior (though tighter) 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 leg room somewhat. The ST also has a lot more engine noise, though it's welcome in this car. The sound is even amplified by a so-called Sound Symposer that pipes the natural intake sounds into the cabin. It's a good go-fast soundtrack, but not too fast-and-furious.

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6

2016 Ford Fiesta

Safety

The 2016 Ford Fiesta has a healthy dose of safety features, but the crash test ratings aren't impressive.

The 2016 Ford Fiesta isn't at the head of the class in terms of crash-test ratings, but it comes with plenty of safety features to supplement.

In testing conducted by federal regulators, the Fiesta earned four out of five stars in the frontal and rollover crash tests. The Fiesta earned five stars on its side-impact crash rating, however the federal agency noted that intrusions, and the resultant dummy accelerations, it observed could lead to a higher risk of thoracic injury.

The IIHS has given the Fiesta hatchback its top "Good" results in large frontal, side, rear, and roof-strength tests. But in the small frontal offset test it achieves just a "Marginal" rating, one step above "Poor."

Standard safety features include front and side bags for the driver and front passenger, as well as rear side curtain bags, and a driver knee airbag. The electric-assist power steering incorporates Pull-Drift Compensation, which keeps the Fiesta tracking properly on crowned roads or in heavy crosswinds.

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9

2016 Ford Fiesta

Features

The new Sync 3 infotainment system highlights the 2016 changes, and a wide range of trim levels means there is a Fiesta for many types of buyers.

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.

The base 2016 Fiesta S sedan starts just over $15,000 in sedan form and a few hundred dollars more as a hatchback. The S model is a throwback to the spartan economy cars of the past. It comes with steel wheels with hubcaps and manual windows, and it lacks cruise control. Standard features include a rear defroster, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, air conditioning, a six-speaker CD sound system, and Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition. A 5-speed manual is standard, while the 6-speed PowerShift automatic is a $1,095 option. Our advice is to stay with the stick if you know how to drive one.

The Fiesta SE adds such features as cruise control, keyless entry, an alarm, and Ford's MyKey system. An SE Appearance Package includes comes with a lot of equipment for $995, including 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a rear decklid spoiler, the new SYNC 3 infotainment system with 6.5-inch touchscreen, AppLink, 911 Assist, two USB ports, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, unique sport cloth seats, driver's seat adjustable lumbar support, and satellite radio with a six-month subscription. For $495, buyers can get a new SE Black Package that adds black 16-inch eight-spoke wheels, black heated dual power exterior mirrors, a body-color front bumper with black trim, a black grille, and fog lights with carbon black painted bezels.

The SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package, a $995 option on top of a manual-equipped SE, brings the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder and its improved fuel economy. It also downgrades the wheels to 15-inch steelies.

Top-of-the-line Titanium model includes leather heated seats, automatic climate control, heated side mirrors, Sync 3, Sony premium audio, and other extras that make it 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 sporty features, including 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 inline-4. Partial-leather Recaro seats are available as a $1,995 option on the ST; they are heated, as are the exterior mirrors when these seats are chosen.

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8

2016 Ford Fiesta

Fuel Economy

The turbo 3-cylinder delivers a genuine 40 mpg, and other Fiestas are thrifty as well.

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

The fuel-economy champ is the manual-equipped SE with the turbocharged 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine and a 5-speed manual. It's rated at an impressive 31 mpg city, 43 highway, 36 combined. In our experience, that seems realistic. During a 350-mile test drive, which included roughly two-thirds highway and one-third stop-and-go suburban driving, we achieved a striking 41.9 mpg as indicated on the car's display. The display stayed between 40 and 42 mpg the whole time, in fact.

The base engine is a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter inline-4. It is rated at 28/36/31 mpg with the 5-speed manual gearbox and 27/37/31 mpg with the 6-speed Powershift dual-clutch transmission.

Finally, the high-performance Fiesta ST model is actually relatively fuel-efficient, too. It gets 26/33/29 mpg.

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October 25, 2015
2016 Ford Fiesta 5-Door HB SE

Good economy car overall, except for problematic auto transmission design.

  • Overall Rating
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Generally, I really like my Fiesta. It's fine as a little commuter/get-around car. This car would be near-perfect, but for a problem with the automatic transmission design that is hard to get past, so I would... + More »
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July 20, 2015
2016 Ford Fiesta 4-Door Sedan S

Just go and drive one!

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I have several cars; New Golf R, Porsche 911, New SLK. All very good but not as good as my 2016 3 cyl Fiesta Zetec S. The chassis is perfect. Everyone should be made to drive one. I can't see how other cars in... + More »
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7.6
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Styling 8
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 7
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