The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2014 Ford Fiesta Review By Steve Purdy

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Ford Fiesta


By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

First, some history, if you’ll indulge me.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I have fond memories of a Ford Fiesta from my eclectic automotive past. Back in the early 1980s I traded my big Suburban with a 40-gallon fuel tank (I usually filled it more than once a week) for a tinny little orange Fiesta S with 12-inch wheels on skinny tires, a 10-gallon tank that often lasted more than a week, a four-speed manual transmission and no frills. That little car went well over 30 miles on each cheap gallon of gasoline. I had a road job at the time so spent much time behind the wheel and that cheap little Fiesta begged to be driven at full throttle everywhere we went. I happily accommodated.

Fiesta has gone through a few iterations over the intervening years, always at the low end of the market, including one minimalist little car made in Korea. The newest Fiesta hit the market in 2011 and is immeasurably better than anything with that name has ever been. It even flirts with elements of luxury but holds onto its low-end price. Not so long ago subcompact cars were just cheap and tawdry. Now? Not so much. Our Ford Fiesta test car this week is a great example of how “little” and “economical” need not be “cheap” and “tawdry.”

Fiesta’s cabin is fairly quiet and surprisingly comfortable considering its diminutive size. Materials, fit and finish show remarkable attention to detail and an interesting, rather bold design, though not ergonomically ideal. Climate controls peek out from the lower center stack and are a bit hard to read and manage at first. By the end of our week, though, we were well acclimated. Ambient lighting in the foot wells and around the cabin, hint at a more upscale car. The black seat fabric in this one looks and feels high quality.

Big Guy In Small Car

Ingress and egress at the driver’s position for this bigger-than-average reviewer is better than expected. For such a small car the cabin feels fairly roomy as well, though my legs bump the console and door panels – no surprise for a guy my size. Rear seat space will accommodate a couple of good-sized people or maybe three small ones, but not with the front seats fully back. The 60-40 rear seat backs fold nearly flat making for decent cargo space, and even with the backs in place a good amount of boot space is available.

We found the ride and handling to be good, though on some of our busted-up spring potholed and heaved roads in Southern Michigan it got a bit jumpy. This is a small car, after all, so is necessarily stiffly sprung. If the suspension were tuned any more softly we’d be critical of its sloppiness. The crisp steering provides a feel of excellent control and sportiness. While I was not tempted to put my foot in it all the time, like my old Fiesta, it was plenty of fun to drive and will happily reward a spirited driving style.

We’re always thrilled to have anything with a manual transmission for review and this is no exception. The 5-speed manual mated to this 1.6-liter, 120-hp, four-cylinder engine is rated at 38-mpg on the highway, 27 in the city and 31-mpg combined. We managed just over 34-mpg this week with a variety of conditions but perhaps 2/3rds highway miles. Horsepower and torque numbers are nothing the brag about but enough to contribute to a distinctly sporty powertrain. For the more demanding driver a turbo version of the 1.6 making 197 horsepower with a 6-speed manual is available in the Fiesta ST. But that car shows about 22 grand on the sticker as opposed to 17 grand for this one. And, just now available is in the SE trim level is a 1.0-liter EcoBoost turbo three-cylinder that makes 125 pound-feet of torque. That engine comes only with a 5-speed manual and is rated at 27-mpg combined. Performance will probably be very close to the car we’re testing.

In browsing some of our colleagues’ reviews we see comments about the Fiesta’s automatic transmission being a bit quirky and troublesome. I’ve not researched that further and have not driven one. But if you’re thinking about this car with an automatic you should add this to your homework. Personally, I would only want a manual transmission in this car anyway.

The Fiesta has a full compliment of safety features that we don’t often talk about in these reviews since we find little difference from car to car and brand to brand. But worth noting is that Fiesta gets the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick Award and is rated “Good” (highest rating) in all categories of crash testing. For those who worry about the safety of a really small car this might be reason to worry a bit less.

Our test car is the 5-Door Hatchback SE and shows a base price of $16,050. Included is 15-inch aluminum wheels, rear window wiper/washer, ambient lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated controls and tilt/telescopic functions, full audio system, trip computer, two 12-volt power outlets, keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring, rear spoiler and plenty more. We found the Fiesta to be generously contented for a mid-trim range in a sub-compact.

Ford’s new car warranty covers the Fiesta for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week with the Fiesta. Though I did not feel the need to drive it full throttle all the time I had plenty of fun with it. The field of sub-compact cars is flush with competent, high-quality, efficient products, nearly all of which will serve you well. This Fiesta, in my humble view, is one of the more sporting of the bunch and if I were shopping in this segment it would be one of my top contenders.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved