2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE 1.0L Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door

Better than expected performance combined with excellent fuel economy...You can't beat that!

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

     • SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide


I'm in a turbocharged 2014 Ford Fiesta hatchback, but it's not an ST. This one is the fuel economy special. In place of naturally-aspirated 1.6-liter 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that is standard equipment in the SE hatch is a 1.0-liter triple. Turbocharging, intercooling, and direct fuel injection bring it equivalent horsepower to the four -- 120 for the 1.6, 123 the the 1.0 turbo -- and notably better torque. The 1.6 four makes 112 lb-ft at 5000 rpm; the 1.0 triple is good for 125 lb-ft -- at an ultra-low 1400 rpm, with plenty through the midrange.

Like the ST, the 1.0 EcoBoost is offered only with a manual transmission, in this case a five speed. Gear ratios are wide, and the final drive ratio is higher (numerically lower) than in other Fiestas. The idea here is to use the engine's copious low-end torque to cruise at the lowest possible engine speed (rpm). Shift up when the indicator icon appears on the instrument panel.




Driven like that, mileage is commendable, and the car is bog-slow. With any sort of grade, the engine may be spinning too slowly, not necessarily good for happy bearings if power is applied without downshifting. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Engines would like to remind you not to lug yours…

On the other hand, it does happily run up to redline, and there is noticeably more horsepower happening up there. Those horses do demand to be fed… although an engine this size won't be all that thirsty, no matter what. Gearing is definitely on the high side -- going for a merge into fast highway traffic, I made it up to 60 mph in second gear. While watching the average fuel economy readout drop…

So shift for yourself, keep the revs down and throttle light most of the time, and often a gear or two higher than you might expect. Use the shift lever when necessary. Doing this, I still managed 33 to 35 mpg in regular driving -- mostly city with some short hops on the highway. A longer highway jaunt saw 45+ -- at real highway speeds, meaning 65 to 70 mph, with hills thrown in to complicate things.

Other than the engine, and reversion to pressed-steel wheels in place of the regular SE's cast alloy, there are no differences between a 1.0 EcoBoost Fiesta SE and a 1.6 SE. It's a well-equipped small car with everything you need and most of what you might want without resorting to options and add-ons. There is more interior space than may be expected from its small footprint, and the five-door hatch body style is hard to beat for multiple duty, transporting both people and things. There is really no drawback to the 1.0 EcoBoost engine, providing you can drive a stick. The engine package is a $995 option, and real-world fuel economy is noticeably better than that of the 1.6 four, so it will pay for itself more quickly than a much more expensive hybrid. Performance is at least as good as the 1.6, and the fun factor is higher. After my week with one, I'm tempted to call it "ST light".




APPEARANCE: All Fiestas got a minor restyle for 2014. Maybe not so minor -- the slightly awkward double-decker grille has been replaced by a single opening, similar in shape to that found on the larger Fusion sedan. And the same as on the Fiesta ST, but with chrome highlights and a less-aggressive front fascia. The hood has the same inline bulge as on a Fusion, too. "Econobox" not spoken here -- cat's-eye headlights, prominent wheelarches, and sculpted lines preclude any boxiness at all, and with the steeply-raked hood and windshield, it's almost more of a one-box than two-box shape. Sculpted sides and a rising shoulder line give a sporty look. The taillights sit high, flanking the hatch. A rear window wiper and heating element add convenience and safety in bad weather.

COMFORT: The Fiesta SE is a luxury car compared to any low-budget hatcback from the `70s or `80s. Seat comfort is good for the class, and if the upholstery is cloth, there is leather on the steering wheel rim. The seats are manually-adjustable, including driver's cushion height, and the steering wheel adjusts manually for both tilt and reach. Windows, mirrors, and locks are power-adjustable, and remote keyless entry adds convenience. The speedometer and tachometer are backlit for easy visibility, and a there is a convenient information display for mileage, distance to empty, and such. The center stack looks right out of a spaceship but the controls for the audio system are self-explanatory. No satellite radio here, but Bluetooth phones can be Sync'd for streaming audio, and of course hands-off phone duty. Because of a large but useful console atop the central tunnel the rear seat is best occupied by two people. A third can fit for a short time if small. A 60/40 split folding rear seatback ensures cargo versatility when needed, and four doors make access to and position of that cargo easy. A space-saver spare is found under the rear load floor. The hatch window has both a heating element and wiper.

SAFETY: A strong unibody makes extensive use of high-strength steel, and is designed and built for maximum occupant protection. A full complement of airbags, including a driver's knee bag, is standard, as are the AdvanceTrac with ESCŪ traction and stability control system and antilock brakes -- four-wheel disc here. Don't worry about unavailability of an electronic blind-spot monitoring system - Ford's outside rearview mirrors have built-in convex sections that allow the driver to see what otherwise would be invisible.

RIDE AND HANDLING: As with other Fiestas, the suspension here is the small-car standard of MacPherson struts in front, with a torsion-beam axle in the rear. The standard tuning is Euro-moderate, supple and comfortable with good damping for control and an enjoyable driving experience. It has a higher ride height than the ST, and softer suspension, but is nearly as much fun on the right road for a large chunk of change less. Yes, the regular disc/drum brake combination won't resist fade in really hard driving as well as the ST's all-disc setup, it works well enough in everyday driving or a spirited but sane romp on the backroads. Steering is among the better of electrically-assisted systems, never too light and never insecure. Who said a car with great fuel economy can't be fun? Nobody who ever drove this!

PERFORMANCE: The 1.0-liter EcoBoost is a fine example of all that is good about the current state of the turbocharging art. Power and economy are usually mutually exclusive, as power is made by fuel plus air and more power means more fuel. You can't get around that -- laws of physics and chemistry and all -- but you can bend those laws to your advantage with good engineering. Torque peaks right off idle, at a low 1400 rpm, and holds strong through the midrange, where horsepower takes over. As the old saying goes, horsepower is what you brag about, torque is what you feel. It's what causes wheels to turn, and the strong torque and light weight of the car mean good performance at low engine revs and fuel demand. When quick acceleration is needed -- and it definitely can be needed for safety -- it's there, at least up to normal highway speeds. Second gear tops out just above 60 mph. Yes, rev drop because of the wide spread of ratios -- but that's a non-issue with the engine's torque. I found regular driving to be good for low- to mid-30s around town and low- to mid-40s on the highway, with gentler use of the throttle improving that.

CONCLUSIONS: The 1.0-liter EcoBoost turbo engine in the 2014 Ford Fiesta SE combines better than expected performance with excellent fuel economy.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 Ford Fiesta 5-Door Hatch SE

Base Price $ 16,080

Price As Tested $ 18,190

Engine Type turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 12-valve inline 3-cylinder with direct fuel injection

Engine Size 1.0 liters / 61 cu. in.

Horsepower 123 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 125 @ 1400 rpm

Transmission 5-speed manual

Wheelbase / Length 98.0 in. / 159.7 in.

Curb Weight est 2600 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 21.1

Fuel Capacity 12.4 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P185/60R15 84H Hankook Optimo m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, antilock standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / semi-independent torsion beam axle

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon

city / highway / observed 32 / 45 / 36

0 to 60 mph est 8.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

SE EcoBoost Fuel Economy Package -- includes 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine, 15" steel wheels, EcoBoost badge, regenerative braking system $ 995

Comfort Package -- includes: heated front seat cushions, heated power outside mirrors, electronic automatic climate control $ 290

Destination Charge $ 825


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