Fiesta means party, so based on its name there's got to be something exciting about Ford's smallest car, right? After an update for 2014, the answer is finally yes.
The 2014 Ford Fiesta is an improvement, delivering wallet-friendly prices, excellent fuel economy and nimble road manners, though its cramped interior threatens to ruin the party.
Big changes this year include an exterior face-lift, a new sport-tuned ST model and a fuel-thrifty engine — a 123-horsepower, turbocharged 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder, which will join the lineup later in the year. The MyFord Touch multimedia system is also now available.
The tiny Fiesta still comes as a hatchback or sedan; we tested a hatchback model in a midlevel SE trim. Compare the 2014 and 2013 models here.
The Fiesta goes up against several hatchbacks that offer more cargo room for a similar price, namely the Chevrolet Sonic, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa Note. See all four compared here.
Exterior & styling
Both body styles get a dose of styling sophistication for 2014, courtesy of the Fiesta's big brother, the Fusion. The new Fiesta wears a version of the larger sedan's wide trapezoidal grille, and angular hood lines replace the previous model's frumpy, rounded nose.
Hot-hatchback fans should get excited about the Fiesta ST: The sport-oriented trim offers more horsepower and the looks to match. A gaping mesh grille dominates its face, complemented by smoky headlights and an aggressive front lip spoiler. Out back there's matching mesh trim above the twin exhaust outlets and a large liftgate-mounted spoiler.
How it drives
Nothing in the subcompact class is truly quick, but the Fiesta can add "fun-to-drive" to its list of skills thanks to an engaging manual transmission and nimble handling. The standard 120-hp, 1.6-liter engine doesn't have much gusto; you've got to hold the gears for a while to wring anything out of it. The five-speed manual gearbox, however, is a delight compared with the unpredictable, unruly six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Click here for my impressions of that atrocity.
The five-speed's shifter action is smooth and precise, though shorter throws would be nice, as would a 6th gear. Topping out at five gears means the little engine revs pretty high at highway cruising speeds, increasing engine noise.
The S, SE and Titanium trim levels use the 1.6-liter four-cylinder, flanked by two optional newbies. In the fuel economy corner is a 123-hp, turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine; Ford estimates it will deliver more than 40 mpg, but official numbers aren't out yet. Far to the other side is the Fiesta ST's turbocharged 1.6-liter mill, good for 197 hp.
Most Fiestas, including my test SE, are EPA rated at 29/39/33 mpg city/highway/combined, and those numbers proved easily attainable: During a 400-plus-mile, mostly highway drive I averaged 40.2 mpg. The Fiesta's fuel-sipping skills put it well above base versions of the Fit (27/33/29), Versa Note (27/36/30) and Sonic (26/35/30).
It's also ahead of the pack in terms of ride comfort. Though the ride is firm-ish, it feels compliant compared with the super-stiff Fit. Its bump absorption is also better than the Fit's or Versa's.
Maneuverability is also a high point. The hatchback is agile, fun to sling through corners and has reactive, natural-feeling steering. A true city car, it negotiates narrow streets well and squeezes into parking spots with ease.
Both performance and handling are amped up in the small-but-mighty Fiesta ST; the sport-tuned model takes power from adequate to entertaining. The turbocharged 1.6-liter is eager from a stop with no turbo lag. The ST is far more engaging to drive than regular versions, but again missing is a short-throw shifter for the six-speed manual.
On the road, corners are flat and controlled, and the ST's steering direct and responsive. Its handling scores are high, but ride quality suffers from the taut suspension. Even on seemingly unbroken pavement the car hops around and feels jittery.
Overall, the Fiesta ST delivers a lot of fun at a relatively low price; it starts at $22,195, including a $795 destination fee. Hot-hatch enthusiasts should find the ST fun and affordable compared to the more expensive Fiat 500 Abarth and Mini Cooper S, and more potent than the Chevrolet Sonic RS. Click here for more impressions of the ST model.
Although this is an entry-level car, the interior conveys more of an upscale vibe. The cabin is pleasant overall and is dressed in some of the nicer materials in the class. An interesting winged vent design and glossy black trim are the highs. The painted, cardboard-like dash and door panels don't impress, however. Large sun visors are another nice touch, but they don't expand or extend.
There's a comfortable amount of headroom and legroom for front-seat occupants, but achieving comfort is the hard part. My biggest beef is with the seats: They're flat and hard, and after a couple of hours on the road unshakable butt-fatigue sets in. The side bolsters don't help — they're set too narrow and hit at an awkward place. Available heated cloth seats are nice, however, and leather is standard on the top-of-the-line Titanium trim.
The cabin's design and finishes may be competitive, but the backseat is far from it. Adults will find accommodations tight with just 31.2 inches of rear legroom — the Fit offers 34.5, the Sonic hatch has 34.6 and the Versa Note boasts a generous 38.3 inches. The Fiesta's a slouch in rear headroom dimensions, too, offering just 37.2 inches of space — again an inch or two shy of competitors.
Ergonomics & electronics
Model-year 2014 marks the first time the much-maligned and frustrating MyFord Touch multimedia system is optional in the Fiesta — but hold that groan. Ford says it's updated the system and, in the Fiesta, I think MyFord Touch has finally turned a corner.