Can a subcompact be fun to drive, attractive, fuel efficient, geek-friendly and affordable? It seems like Ford is trying to combine all those traits into one tiny package, and while the Ford Fiesta was a fun to drive subcompact in the past, too many issues have kept it from being at the top of the class. However, powertrain refinements and a few extra updates have come for the 2014 model year, and Ford now has the opportunity to take back some lost ground in the small car market.
|1. In addition to an updated look and improved interior, new for 2014 is an optional MyFord Touch infotainment system.
2. The 2014 Fiesta’s 1.6L 4-cylinder makes 120 hp and 112 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
3. Fuel economy ratings are 29 MPG city, 39 MPG highway and 31 MPG combined for the five-speed manual while powershift automatics get 1 more MPG combined.
4. Fiesta sedans start at $14,000, while hatchbacks cost an extra $600.
5. New models include a fuel-efficient EcoBoost 1.0L 3-cylinder and a hot Focus ST with 197 hp.
EVEN SMALL CARS CAN GET LUXURIES
Hard to miss, the Fiesta is rarely seen in a pedestrian paint job, a good thing too, since the car is so attractive. A lot full of Fiestas looks like a bowl full of Skittles, and the Fiesta is just as smile inducing as the sweet candies. For 2014, the subcompact gets the Ford corporate grille which some say is borrowed from Aston Martin, while others see a cheese-grater stuck to the front end. Regardless of the origin or inspiration, the Fiesta is undeniably hot and receives a mild exterior tweak.
Inside the Fiesta gets similar upgrades. It’s been spit-shined, rather than radically redone.
Sharing the interior style from the Focus, C-Max and Escape, the Fiesta looks and feels incredibly familiar, an advantage since the car’s controls are simple and fall to hand comfortably. Buyers can also opt for luxuries, which help make the Fiesta feel cozy, like heated seats or leather upholstery. Although not uncommon for subcompacts, with the Accent and Rio offering similar amenities, it’s nice to see Ford offer the same features as its competition.
New for 2014 is the option to add a 6.5-inch MyFord Touch infotainment system. For those not following the MyFord Touch story, all you need to know is that the system, while intuitive and clever, is vulnerable to freezes and breakdowns. Ford is committed to improving the system, and our quick time with MyFord Touch in the new Fiesta proved positive and uneventful.
NO HIDDEN SPACE
As cozy as the Fiesta is, don’t expect full utility out of it, especially compared to other subcompacts on the market. The Fiesta offers less room for passengers than the Hyundai Accent and Honda Fit, and in some places it doesn’t even come close.
Down at least two inches of legroom in the rear, the Fiesta also has a tiny trunk no matter what body style you choose. At 12.8 cu-ft for the sedan, and 14.9 cu-ft for the hatchback, the Fiesta falls behind the Accent sedan (13.7 cu-ft) and hatchback (21.2 cu-ft) and the Fit, which has a total of 20.6 cu-ft of cargo space with the seats up. It can swallow up your heavier grocery runs, but having two adults in the back of the Fiesta will certainly mean there’s no room left over to pick up anything at Costco.
REFRESHED TRANSMISSION STILL STRUGGLES
The MyFord Touch system is a powerful addition to the subcompact, but the spotlight really belongs on its dry-dual-clutch transmission. Plagued with issues in the past, Ford is boasting smoother operation for 2014.
It’s less prone to low-speed herky-jerk sensations but it’s not perfect and during our even limited time with the car we experienced some less-than-smooth operation.
The automatic is the choice for fuel-misers, however, since it’s rated to net 39 MPG on the highway, 29 MPG in the city and 32 MPG combined. Five-speed manual models have actually received a fuel economy downgrade for 2014 and combined now get 31 MPG.
Those looking to go further should opt for the super-fuel efficiency (SFE) package, which adds more aerodynamic bodywork and is officially rated at 41 highway, 30 in the city and 34 MPG combined.
This is an impressive feat considering the SFE equipped Fiesta gets fuel economy ratings that are nearly as good as the slow, Nissan Versa Note, which has to make do with a boring and whiney CVT transmission as opposed to Ford’s fast-shifting dual-clutch transmission.
SHARP DRIVE DESPITE SMALL DISPLACEMENT
The 1.6L four-cylinder engine is a helpful partner to the company’s refined transmission. Making 120 hp, the Fiesta doesn’t feel as peppy or energetic as the Honda Fit, Kia Rio or Hyundai Accent, but it’s just enough to get the Fiesta up to freeway speeds without too much noise or drama. Throttle response in the PowerShift equipped models is a bit slow, but manual transmission equipped models feel sportier and are more eager to get going. The drawback to choosing the manual transmission is slightly worse fuel economy.
Where the Fiesta really excels is with its fun driving dynamics. The chassis is solid, the suspension is compliant and the steering feel is brilliantly direct. Compared to the mile-wide dead zone in the Hyundai Accent, the Fiesta’s steering doesn’t feel as artificial as other electrically-assisted setups. In fact, a short handling course was all the proof we needed that the Fiesta is inherently fun to drive at its limits, thanks to its quick reaction times and small footprint. Ford’s driving dynamics are solidly ranked at the top of the class.
For those looking for more fun, a turbocharged three-cylinder EcoBoost engine will round out the Fiesta lineup. Available later this year, the 1.0L engine makes slightly more power at 123 hp, though torque jumps significantly to 148 lb-ft, though in early testing we noted significant issues with the low level of engine refinement.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0L Review
With its fun-to-drive dynamics, solid fuel economy returns, updated interior and remapped dual clutch transmission, the whole package comes together successfully. Even with its less-than-perfect transmission the Fiesta is improved enough to stay in the better half of the conversation when it comes to subcompacts.